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Orange Bowl: Florida State vs. Northern Illinois — Everything You Need to Know

Northern Illinois takes on Florida State in the Orange Bowl.
Dave Reginek/Getty Images

Two of the nation’s top offenses face off, with Northern Illinois looking to prove that it belongs on the big stage and eager to play BCS-buster against one of the nation’s big-name programs. 

DISCOVER ORANGE BOWL: #15 Northern Illinois (12-1) vs. #12 Florida State (11-2)

[Tuesday, January 1, at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN]

How They Got Here

After a midseason upset loss at North Carolina State, Florida State won five straight conference games and, after a non-conference loss to #4 Florida, defeated Georgia Tech 21-15 in the ACC title game to earn the conference’s automatic BCS bid. Northern Illinois is this year’s most unlikely BCS participant, sneaking in by breaking into the top 16 following a double-overtime win over #17 Kent State in the MAC championship game.

When Florida State Has the Ball

The Seminoles have boasted one of the nation’s better offenses over the course of the season, but have struggled a bit down the stretch. Florida State averaged almost 45 points per game during its first nine games of the season, but has been held to 28 or fewer in three of its last four. Quarterback E.J. Manuel threw for 22 touchdowns and over 3,100 yards this year, but has shown a similar late-season downturn, being held to less than 190 yards passing in his last three games after averaging 302.3 yards in his previous seven.

When Northern Illinois Has the Ball

The Huskies offense starts and ends with quarterback Jordan Lynch. The junior was a second-team All-American this year after passing for 2,962 yards and 24 touchdowns while also rushing for 1,771 yards (an FBS record for a quarterback) and 19 scores. He leads a squad that averaged over 485 yards per game and ranked ninth nationally in scoring offense at 40.8 points per game. His 4,733 total yards led the nation and he set another FBS quarterback record with 11 consecutive 100-yard rushing games. However, he’ll face the toughest test of his career against a Seminoles defense that ranks second nationally in total defense and sixth in scoring defense. The Huskies offensive line will have a tough job protecting Lynch from All-American defensive end Bjoern Werner, who led the ACC in sacks (13) and was second in tackles for loss (18).

What to Know

Northern Illinois has won 21 of its last 22 games and is riding a school-record 12-game winning streak. Non-BCS conference schools are 5-2 all-time in BCS games, and have won their last three. The Huskies will be led by new head coach Rod Carey, who was promoted from offensive coordinator after Dave Doeren accepted the head job at North Carolina State. Florida State will be without defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, who recently left to take the head coaching job at Kentucky.

What to Watch For

Both teams have shown they can put of plenty points, so the key matchup in this one could be the ability of Jordan Lynch and the Huskies offense to score against a Florida State defense that ranks sixth nationally in scoring defense.

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