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Can NIU Bust the BCS?

One of the biggest surprises of this year’s bowl season has come out of the rarely talked about MAC Conference, as the 12-1 Northern Illinois Huskies have reached their first ever BCS bowl. Surprisingly (at least to me), the Huskies got the nod to the Orange Bowl over the 11th ranked Oklahoma Sooners and now have the chance to make history for the MAC. Their challenge is to take down ACC champion Florida State in the biggest game in their school’s history, and although the game is still nearly a month away, everyone is wondering  does Northern Illinois have what it takes to be this year’s BCS buster?

When looking at the season numbers, NIU certainly stacks up with its heavily favored competition. The Huskies averaged 40.8 points per game, compared to FSU’s 39.9 and averaged 485.8 yards of total offense to the Noles’ 465.9. Of course, NIU’s schedule was a far cry from the perils that FSU faced each and every week. The Huskies’ toughest opponent all season was likely Iowa, which handed NIU its only loss of the season. Meanwhile, FSU tackled two of the teams currently ranked in the top ten and toppled one of them (Clemson).

Lynch has been an absolute offensive machine this season

What Northern Illinois does have on its side is an amazing dual threat quarterback. In fact, starting QB Jordan Lynch is reminiscent of Heisman finalist Collin Klein in many ways, mostly with how he provides his team with not only exceptional leadership in pressure-filled situations, but also how he attacks the defense with an equal potency with the run or the pass. Lynch has been an incredibly effective passer this season, throwing for nearly 3,000 yards with 24 touchdowns to just five interceptions, but he has been just as dangerous to opposing defenses with his legs, rushing nearly 1,800 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Lynch will be going against what is easily the toughest defense he has faced all year in FSU. The Seminoles allowed just 15.1 points per game, which ranks them at 7th best in the country. Although the Noles struggled more later in the season against tougher offenses, they were downright impossible to score on earlier in the season.

Can NIU contain FSU's explosive attack?

However, the biggest challenge for NIU will likely not be scoring, which is something it is quite good at, but rather defending the versatile and explosive offense of the Noles. Florida State ranks 43rd in passing offense and 25th in rushing offense, while ranking 14th in scoring, so for NIU to pull the upset, it will need to find a way to stop all the weapons FSU will certainly launch its way. What most don’t realize is that NIU does have that capability with the 18th ranked scoring defense, which allows just 19 points per contest.

The tale of the tape suggests that this will be a very close game and I have to agree. Although the lines aren’t available yet, I would guess that FSU will have somewhere between a 7-14 point edge, a spread that I believe the Huskies can cover. I’m not entirely convinced the NIU will make history this season, but after looking at the numbers and their record, let’s just say I wouldn’t be too surprised


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