MIAMI (CBSMiami) – In what could be the biggest mismatch of the bowl season, the Orange Bowl will match up the No. 12 Florida State Seminoles and the No. 15 Northern Illinois Huskies in the 79th Discover Orange Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Florida State earned an automatic Bowl Championship Series bid to the Orange Bowl by winning the Atlantic Coast Conference championship over Georgia Tech on Saturday. The Seminoles rushed out to 21 points and then held on to beat the Yellow Jackets 21-15.
The Huskies made it to the Orange Bowl thanks to a confluence of BCS rules and the downtrodden Big East Conference. By rule, if a team from a non-automatic qualifier conference was ranked in the top 16 of the BCS and no conference champion was ranked higher, that team would get a BCS bid.
Thanks to a victory over the Kent State Golden Flashes, which was ranked 17th at the time, Northern Illinois jumped to 15th in the BCS rankings. Because the Big East Conference champion, Louisville, wasn’t ranked higher, Northern Illinois captured the Orange Bowl berth.
But, make no mistake, Northern Illinois brings with it one of the best offenses in the nation behind junior quarterback Jordan Lynch. The Chicago native put up numbers that would have garnered Heisman Trophy consideration had it been at a major school like Florida State.
For the season, Lynch completed 63 percent of his passes while throwing for 2,962 yards, 24 touchdowns, and five interceptions. But Lynch was just as deadly on the ground, rushing 271 times for 1,771 yards and 19 touchdowns.
In the overtime victory clinching the Mid-American Conference championship, Lyncha ran the ball 36 times for 160 yards and three touchdowns while also throwing for 212 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Northern Illinois comes into the game with an 11-1 record with the only loss coming to Iowa in the opening game of the season. Since then, Northern Illinois has been moving down all of their opponents largely behind Lynch.
But, Lynch hasn’t faced a defense with the speed and talent of Florida State. The only time N. Illinois played a decent team from a BCS Conference school, they lost to Iowa. The Seminoles have lost twice, once to North Carolina State and once to Florida.
The Noles will be making its ninth Orange Bowl appearance and the first since a 2006 classic between FSU and Penn State. Overall, FSU has a 3-5 record in the Orange Bowl, including a national championship victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the 1994 Orange Bowl.
The Orange Bowl berth for Northern Illinois is the first-ever BCS bowl game for a member of the Mid-American Conference (MAC) and is the first-ever bowl matchup between the ACC and the MAC.