DISCOVER ORANGE BOWL GAME STORYLINES
1. Northern Illinois gets a chance to prove the pundits wrong when the 16th-ranked Huskies face No. 12 Florida State, which earned its ticket to the Orange Bowl by holding off Georgia Tech 21-15 in the ACC championship game. The BCS-busting Huskies are riding a 12-game winning streak, highlighted by their 44-37 double-overtime victory over Kent State in the MAC title game.
2. Florida State ranks second in the country in total defense while holding opponents to less than 10 points five times this season. They’ll be tested by a Northern Illinois squad that ranks ninth in scoring offense and rushing offense. The teams are meeting for the first time, and it’s also the first bowl meeting between the ACC and MAC.
3. Northern Illinois’ Rod Carey will make his head coaching debut after replacing Dave Doeren, who accepted the top job at North Carolina State after the MAC title game. The 41-year old Carey previously served as the Huskies offensive coordinator. Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, defensive ends coach D.J. Eliot and special teams coordinator Eddie Gran are all leaving for other jobs, and it’s unclear whether they’ll be staying with the Seminoles for the Orange Bowl.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Florida State -12.5
ABOUT FLORIDA STATE (11-2, 7-1 ACC): Quarterback EJ Manuel threw for 3,101 yards and running back James Wilder, Jr. scored two touchdowns in the ACC title game, but the Seminoles are defined by their defense. They’ve given up only 22 touchdowns while allowing 15.1 points per game. Florida State, which is 3-5 all-time in the Orange Bowl, ranked third in the country in pass defense (160.8 yards) and fourth in rushing defense (93 yards). The impressive secondary is led by Xavier Rhodes, Lamarcus Joyner and Ronald Darby, who was named the ACC’s top defensive freshman. Bjoern Werner, a 6-4, 255-pound defensive end, was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year after recording 13 sacks.
ABOUT NORTHERN ILLINOIS (12-1, 8-0 MAC): The Huskies’ only loss came in their season opener when Iowa escaped with an 18-17 victory. Quarterback Jordan Lynch is a dual threat who leads the nation in total yards (4,733) and ranks third in total yards per game (364.08). In his last nine games, he owns a touchdown to interception ratio of 17-to-2, and he rushed for at least 100 yards in 12 games this season. Junior Akeem Daniels became a key part of the offense in the last two games, when he had 29 carries for 240 yards and five touchdowns. Alan Baxter collected a team-high 11 sacks for the Huskies’ defense, which held opponents to 19 points per game.
PREDICTION: Florida State 27, Northern Illinois 24