This year’s Orange Bowl pits underdog mid-major and BCS buster Northern Illinois against perennial power and ACC Champion Florida State.
8:30 p.m. EST, Jan. 1
When Northern Illinois Has The Ball: The surprising Huskies rank 15th nationally in total offense, as well as ninth in rushing. Quarterback Jordan Lynch has to be the main concern for the Seminoles’ defense. Lynch has a ridiculous 1,771 yards and 19 touchdowns this season- rushing. Overall, the Huskies have a whopping 3,252 yards on the ground this year for an average of just over 250 per game. Most recently, running back Akeem Daniels has been the main ball-carrier other than Lynch, as running back Leighton Settle missed multiple games due to injury. Senior wide receiver Martel Moore is the player to watch in the passing game. One thing to keep in mind is that Northern Illinois’ offensive line doesn’t feature a single starter from last season.Florida State may have lost leading tackler Cornelius Carradine to injury late in the season, but they should still be able to take advantage of the inexperience of the Northern Illinois line. Defensive end Bjoern Werner, a native of Germany, leads the ACC in sacks with 13. Of course, when they pressure, they’ll have to have a Plan B in case Lynch manages to escape and take off. It’s unclear who is even coaching the Noles’ defense at the moment, as defensive coordinator Mark Stoops took the head coaching job at Kentucky, taking with him defensive ends coach D.J. Eliot, and neither will be coaching in the bowl game. Northern Illinois, too, will be overseen by a new coach as Dave Doeren moves on to North Carolina State and offensive coordinator Rod Carey takes over.
When Florida State Has The Ball: Quarterback E.J. Manuel, like his counterpart Lynch, is always a threat to tuck the ball and run, although he hasn’t done so as much this season. The primary runners are sophomores James Wilder Jr., who stepped up after senior Chris Thompson suffered a season-ending injury for the second year in a row, and Devonta Freeman. They’ve combined for 1,213 yards and 19 TDs. Rashad Greene has emerged as the main receiving threat. The ‘Noles rank 13th nationally in points scored, averaging just under 40 per game. Manuel does have 10 interceptions on the season, and he can be pressured into bad decisions. Northern Illinois should be able to bring the pressure as they have a number of defensive players with very respectable sack totals.
Northern Illinois’ defence has been overshadowed by their prolific offence, but they have put up some impressive numbers. Consider that they are 18th in the nation in points against, 34th in total defense, 11th in sacks and 9th in tackles for loss. The NIU front seven has spent much of the season in opponent’s backfields, and will hope to do the same at the Orange Bowl to Florida State. One thing to keep in mind though, this FSU offense is better than any team the Huskies have faced this year, and the dual threat of Manuel may give them issues in Miami. A major key will be containing him in the pocket and forcing him to become a more one dimensional throwing threat.
Prediction: I think this game will be a lot closer than most people are probably expecting, but I do think Florida State will prevail. Seminoles 28, Huskies 24.