Northern Illinois Football: How the Huskies Can Win the Orange Bowl
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The Northern Illinois Huskies have gotten the Rodney Dangerfield treatment from college football experts: no respect.
The team won 12 games in a row and a second straight Mid-American Conference Championship in a double overtime win over Kent State to find themselves facing #12 Florida State (11-2) in the Discover Orange Bowl.
It was an early Christmas gift for a team that only found themselves in the BCS picture one week prior to the MAC title game.
But maybe the lack of respect will start a fire under a team that is hoping to make all the small schools proud in a matchup that pits two of the nation's top quarterbacks against each other.
On the offensive side of the ball, the focus is going to be on junior quarterback Jordan Lynch who now has the attention of the national media.
Lynch leads the nation with a record setting 1,771 rushing yards for a quarterback with 19 touchdowns. When you add that he's thrown for 2,962 yards, 24 touchdowns and only five interceptions, he's been one of the most impressive players this season.
While Lynch will have to play like he has all season to give the Huskies the major upset win, they'll have to utilize more weapons against the Seminole defense.
Expect Florida State to focus their attention on the NIU quarterback that has been the offense for the MAC Champions.
NIU has two running backs that have high yards per carry averages that show they could also be a big part of the rushing attack that is ranked ninth in the nation with 250 yards per game.
Junior running back Leighton Settle rushed for 453 yards and five touchdowns before going down with an undisclosed injury.
But Akeem Daniels, another junior back, has 432 yards and nine touchdowns on the year coming from the bench.
With the variety of backs and Lynch rushing for NIU, the offensive line deserves a lot of credit for the team's success.
Maybe the Huskies can do reverse handoffs and play action draws against the Florida State defense that is ranked fifth in the country in rush defense (2.7 yards per carry).
One of the questions I have is whether the NIU defense can keep the Seminole offense at bay.
Florida State is led by senior quarterback EJ Manuel's passing attack that has totaled 3,101 yards and 22 touchdowns.
While Manuel isn't as mobile as Lynch, the Seminoles have a respectable rushing attack that averages 203 yards per game.
While the Huskies have the 18th ranked scoring defense in the nation, they haven't played the same caliber of teams that Florida State has.
While I believe Lynch will be the main reason Northern Illinois scores a lot of points, the Huskies have to be able to get at least a few stops in the event the game becomes a shootout.
I picked NIU to win in my college bowl picks earlier this month. But it depends on whether the NIU defense can handle the step up in competition and how Lynch performs on a very big stage at Sun Life Stadium.
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