MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Discover Orange Bowl is set for Tuesday evening with a highly anticipated matchup between the Florida State Seminoles and the Bowl Championship Series busters, the Northern Illinois Huskies.
The Seminoles got to the Orange Bowl by winning the Atlantic Coast Conference championship while the Huskies got to Miami thanks to a very specific rule in the Bowl Championship Series bylaws.
Northern Illinois is a member of the Mid-American Conference, one of several conferences without an automatic bid in the Bowl Championship Series.
The BCS rules state that if a team from one of those conferences is ranked 16th or higher in the final BCS rankings, and a champion from an automatic qualifying conference is not ranked higher, then the non-automatic qualifying team gets into the BCS.
The game has all the makings of either a massive blowout by Florida State, which will have BCS haters saying the game should have never been played because NIU didn’t deserve to be there; or an epic upset by NIU that puts the school on the map, a la Boise State University.
Northern Illinois may have snuck into the BCS, but the Huskies are not expected to just become a pushover for the Seminoles, primarily thanks to the team’s do-everything quarterback, Jordan Lynch.
Lynch would have been a Heisman Trophy finalist if he had put up the numbers he put up in 2012 for a major team like FSU. Lynch passed for 2,962 yards, 24 touchdowns and five interceptions while completing 62.9 percent of his passes.
Those numbers alone are impressive, but Lynch wasn’t finished. He also ran the ball 271 times for 1,771 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also added a punt this year which went for 63 yards.
Lynch ranked third overall in the country in total offense this year, totaling 4,733 yards, which was more than Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel totaled in 2012. Lynch averaged 364.1 yards per game this year, which was just 19 yards less than Manziel put up.
But Lynch is going to be facing his toughest challenge this season with Florida State’s defense. The Noles’ defense is ranked sixth in the country in scoring defense, allowing just 15.1 points per game and ranked fifth in rushing defense, allowing a total of 92.62 yards per game on the ground.
That said, the University of Florida ran right through the Seminoles’ vaunted defense in the final regular season game for the Noles. UF totaled 244 rushing yards in the game and rushed for roughly 5.2 yards per attempt in the game.
The Noles will be keyed on stopping Lynch, which if FSU can do, Northern Illinois likely has no answer for the FSU offense.
FSU will be sending off quarterback E.J. Manuel in his final game with the team and the offense has hummed along all season with Manuel at the helm. FSU is averaging just fewer than 40 points per game heading into the Orange Bowl and converts 91.2 percent of the time in the red zone.
Looking at Northern Illinois’ schedule, the team’s lone loss came in the season opener against the Iowa Hawkeyes of the Big Ten Conference. The game was Lynch’s first as a starter and one of the Huskies’ only two games against teams from a BCS Conference.
NIU beat Kansas 30-23 in the fourth game of the season. But, both Kansas and Iowa were abysmal this year. Iowa finished the season 4-8, while Kansas finished 1-11 for a combined record of 5-19 this year.
FSU and Northern Illinois are set to kick off on January 1 at 8:30 p.m. from Sun Life Stadium. The game can be seen exclusively on ESPN.