#15 Northern Illinois will meet #12 Florida State in this year’s Discover Orange Bowl. For some the entrance of Northern Illinois is a surprise but the Huskies have worked hard to get here going 8-0 in the MAC conference (12-1 on the season). If they win this bowl game the Huskies will be the 6th team from a non-automatic conference to win a BCS bowl game. They will, however, have quite a challenge to overcome if they want to beat the Seminoles who can big score points and are tight on defense.
Northern Illinois has strong stats this season but many will be concerned that they come from a generally weaker conference. The Huskies are ranked 9th in the nation in points scored per game at 40.8 points. Their defense they are ranked 19th in the nation allowing the average 19 points allowed per game. Even if they are from a weaker conference those are solid numbers, in essence they are playing beyond their conference’s level. The only ranked team they played was Kent State who finished the season in the BCS #25 and the final score was 44-37OT.
But will that be enough to beat the Seminoles who come from a more prestigious conference and have played some slightly better teams. The Seminoles are 13th in the nation for points scored per game at 39.9 points. They allow an average of 15.1 points per game which is 6th in the nation. Florida State beat Clemson 49-37, Clemson finished the season in the BCS #14 position. They also played Florida (#3) and lost 37-26; that is not a bad performance against the #3 team in the nation.
The Seminoles also have an outstanding defense. The Florida State defense is 2nd in the nation for yards allowed per game. They also have All-American DE Bjoern Werner who has 13 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. But their defensive coordinator has left the team to go coach at Kentucky. This could make some of a difference to their performance. What is really concerning is that during the ACC championship game the Seminoles nearly lost to Georgia Tech after the offense did not score any points in the second half. The final score was 21-15.
The odds suggest a score of about 36-23 for Florida State. That is basically saying that Florida State will hit its average and Northern Illinois will be held to just above Florida State’s average points allowed. Is Florida State focused enough to take on a motivated Northern Illinois? Well maybe focus doesn’t really matter rather offensive schemes do. Northern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch claimed to reporters that Florida State has not seen anything like the Huskies’ offense. One factor that characterizes the Huskies offense is that Lynch will run the ball a lot. He has passed the ball for 24 TDs this season and run the ball in for 19 TDs. However, the Seminoles have seen this sort of offense; Georgia Tech and, to a lesser degree, Florida both have mobile QBs who run the ball often. But given how Florida State struggled against both these teams there is good reason to think that Florida can win the Discover Orange Bowl but not cover the 13 point spread. If that is the case then probably the game can go over 58.5 points.
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