BCS Bowl Preview – Orange Bowl

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Key Matchups

Jordan Lynch vs Seminoles Defensive Line

Nov 30, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Northern Illinois Huskies quarterback Jordan Lynch (6) throws a pass in the first quarter of the 2012 MAC Championship against the Kent State Golden Flashes at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Jordan Lynch has been giving opposing defenses fits all season long.  His mobility and his arm strength have been difficult for defensive coordinators to gameplan for.  As he enters the Orange Bowl, Lynch sits fourth overall in the country but the leading quarterback in rushing yards per game with 136.23 yards per game.  Lynch also scored 19 TDs which was third best in the country for quarterbacks.  He sits a mere 38 yards short of passing for 3000 yards.

There’s no question Lynch is a special player that Florida State will need to focus on stopping.  To that end, the Northern Illinois offensive tackles have not faced a pass rush like they are going to see from Florida State’s much-heralded defensive ends, Bjoern Werner and Cornellius Carradine.  They finished 1-2 in the ACC in sacks with a total of 24 between them, in fact, Werner was tied for the most sacks in the country.  Florida State possesses speed and quickness to get up field very quickly.  Werner, only a junior, looks like he is a man-among-boys.  He saved some of his best performances for the biggest games like his 3.5 sack, 6 tackle day against Florida or his 4 tackles effort against Clemson.  While team plot to keep Werner blocked, Cornellius Carradine has also been a force on the opposite end.  Carradine, who is a senior, posted two 11-tackle games, one against Florida and the other against Virginia Tech.  These two players have the ablity to wreak havoc on the NIU offensive line and force Lynch to alter his play.  NIU will have to make adjustments and perhaps double-tem the ends to keep Lynch upright.  Chances are good, when the pocket breaks down and Lynch is forced to scramble that the Seminoles LBs, especially Chrisitan Jones and Telvin Smith will be waiting for him.

Devonta Freeman and James Wilder, Jr  vs NIU Run Defense

In order for Florida State to be successful for the long term, they are going to need to be able to run the football effectively.  Since senior Chris Thompson went down midway through the year with a knee injury, Devonta Freeman and James Wilder, Jr have had to shoulder the load.  Freeman has rushed for 620 yards and 8 scores on the season, but he only managed 96 yards and 1 score in his last two games.  James Wilder, Jr is the bruising, punishing back that the Seminoles lean on to get the tough yards and score close to the goal line.  He has 11 TDs on the season to go along with his 19 pass receptions, 136 yards, and 2 scores through the air.  Both of these running backs, along with the running prowess of quarterback EJ Manuel will be used to try and wear down the NIU defensive line.

Oct 13, 2012; Tallahassee, Florida, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back James Wilder Jr. (32) dives for a touchdown during the first half of the game against the Boston College Eagles at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

While Florida State sings the praises of their two behemoth defensive ends in Werner and Carradine, Northern Illinois also touts some pretty impressive defensive linemen in Alan Baxter, Sean Progar, and Joe Windsor.  These three individuals all ranked in the top-6  in the MAC in sacks.  They combined for 24.5 sacks on the season.  While they are all able to generate a significant pass rush, it might be their ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage that has opposing offenses continually worries about them.  Baxter led the Huskies with 11 tackles for loss while Windsor contributed 10.5 TFL and Progar pitched in 10 TFLs.  This is where NIU can turn the tide of the game.  If NIU’s defensive front can penetrate the Seminoles backfield and blow up any running that Florida State may do, they then can then start to pin their ears back and go after Manuel.  NIU gave up the second least amount of rushing yards in the MAC at only 139 yards rushing per game.

Keep your eye on this chess match throughout the night.  If Florida State can gain ground yards early, then they could wear down NIU by the second half, paving the way for the Seminoles to control the ball and the game.

Prediction

Its hard to imagine how Northern Illinois doesn’t come out with guns a blazing.  How many BCS opportunities are they ever going to get, especially the chance to show the country that they belong in the conversation with some of the better teams of 2012.  I won’t be surprised at all to see the Huskies start the game by trying to run the ball since that is their forte.  Lynch and Akeem Daniels are a dynamic running duo that will look to get outside of Florida State’s very good DEs.  I think they will have some success early, but as the game wears on, those plays that were there early in the contest won’t be there later.  If NIU gets behind early and has to abandon their running game, they could be in for a long evening.  The Seminoles defensive front will be a tall order to stop for NIU’s offensive line.

On the other side of the ball, look for Florida State to continue to poke holes into the NIU defense to try and see what works.  The Seminoles running game may find it difficult to find traction against the stout run defense of NIU.  That puts the pressure squarely on EJ Manuel and the Seminoles passing game.  This is where I expect Florida State to find their most success with receivers Rashad Greene and Rodney Smith and TE Nick O’Leary.  Consider it a major win for NIU if they can shut down the Seminoles passing game.  The Seminoles rank 43rd nationally in passing yards per game with 262.9 while NIU gives up an average of only 217.7 yards per game.

In the end though, I think Florida State will wear down Northern Illinois and force them into turnovers.  I think Florida State is able to pull away in the second half and win this game comfortably.

Northern Illinois – 17

Florida State – 38

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Tags: Bjoern Werner Cornellius Carradine Devonta Freeman EJ Manuel Florida State Seminoles Football James Wilder Jordan Lynch Jr Northern Illinois Huskies Football Orange Bowl