What It Will Take for Northwestern and Northern Illinois to Win Their Bowl Games

Gabe SalgadoCorrespondent IIIDecember 21, 2012

January 3, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; A view of a sign for the Bowl Championship Series for the Sugar Bowl between the Michigan Wolverines and the Virginia Tech Hokies at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.  Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

New Year's Day will be a huge day for the State of Illinois and the Chicagoland area. Both the Northwestern Wildcats and the Northern Illinois Huskies will take the field with a chance to make history.

Both teams will be in high-profile bowl games and will have difficult opponents in front of them.

They will have historical challenges in front of them as well. Here is what these two schools are up against:

Northwestern will take on Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl. It'll be their third Florida bowl game in school history.

History, however, is not in their side. The Wildcats have not won a bowl game in over 50 years, while the Bulldogs have won their last two.

To make matters worse, MSU dominated the last time they played a Big Ten team. Two seasons ago, they slammed Michigan 52-14 in this very same bowl game.

NU does have some momentum on their side, They are 2-1 in their last three games against the Southeastern Conference. They also finished the season winning three of their last four games while Miss State has lost four of their last five.

As for NIU, they will take on the mighty Florida State Seminoles in the Orange Bowl. 

The Huskies will not only be playing in their first ever BCS bowl game, they will also be carrying the weight of the Mid-American Conference on their shoulders.

FSU is licking their chops because they think that the Orange Bowl will be a walk in the park for them.

I guess somebody forgot to tell the Seminoles that they are just 1-5 all-time in BCS games. Two of those losses were national championship games. It also appears that nobody told them that Northern Illinois isn't afraid to mix it up with the bigger schools.

Since 2002, the Huskies have played 25 games against BCS-AQ teams and have averaged 25 points per game against those schools.

So what does each team need to do in order to win?

Northwestern's defense has dramatically improved this year compared to the last few years. If they can keep Mississippi State from scoring, score enough points on their own, and play mistake free football, they will be in good shape.

As for the Huskies, it starts and ends with their offensive line. Florida State has always been a solid pass rushing team.

If they can keep Jordan Lynch upright, create holes for the running game, and neutralize FSU's defensive line, that will be a huge help for them.

As for the rest of the offense, they need to stick to what they know. They shouldn't try anything fancy just because they are playing Florida State.

If the o-line holds up and they stick to their basic offense, everything will fall into place.

They also need a boost from their defense. the 'Noles are not the greatest team when it comes to third and long situations.

If the Northern Illinois defense can force FSU into third down situations it will work in their favor.

The Seminoles are 67-167 on 3rd down conversions this year. The Huskies defense has already proven that they can handle mobile quarterbacks.

If you don't believe me, just ask Kent State's Spencer Keith and Army's Trent Steelman. E.J. Manuel will have his work cut out for him.

So if NU and NIU can stick to these keys to victory, then history will be made. Northwestern will finally snap it's bowl game losing streak, and Northern Illinois will be the first MAC team and only the third "mid-major" team to win a BCS bowl game.