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Orange Bowl Letdown

If you have turned on sports TV over the past several months, you’ve doubtlessly been bludgeoned to death with information and opinions about the 2013 Orange Bowl. The consensus was, of course, that the No. 15-ranked Northern Illinois Huskies had no business going up against the No. 12-ranked Florida State Seminoles in a BCS bowl game. How could a MAC champion who had never been to a BCS bowl possibly contend with a battle-tested ACC squad?

ESPN analyst Krik Herbstreit was particularly damming of the Huskies’ inclusion in the bowl game, saying the following in an angry rant on air:

“The fact that Northern Illinois is in the BCS in 2012 is really a sad state for college football and where we are with the current system,” Herbstreit said. “Thank goodness we’re moving toward a new system in 2014. They don’t deserve to be in the BCS this year. Are you kidding me with Northern Illinois playing in the BCS? There are two things here that stand out. Northern Illinois — no one knew they were playing until the Toledo game a few weeks ago. … You’re going to leave Oklahoma out to put Northern Illinois into a BCS bowl game? Are you kidding me? To put them in the BCS is an absolute joke to the rest of these teams who are more deserving.  Iowa’s the worst team in the Big Ten. They lost to Iowa.”

Yet, at the same time these opinions were being thrown this way and that, there was a secret hope bubbling right under the surface that the underdog Huskies could shock the college football world and strike a win for mid-major teams everywhere struggling in obscurity.

Of course, that didn’t happen. The narrative instead played out exactly how the cynics expected it would: the Seminoles won 31-10 in a game that wasn’t even as close as the three-touchdown differential indicates. To say the game was lopsided would be an understatement: Florida State outgained Northern Illinois in total yardage to the tune of 534 to 259. Jordan Lynch, the much-ballyhooed Huskies quarterback, completed a dismal 15 of 41(!) passes for 176 yards, a touchdown and an interception. That’s a 4.3 yard per attempt average, for those of you keeping track at home, and the prolific rushing quarterback didn’t fare any better on the ground, picking up just 44 yards on 23 carries, good for 1.9 yards per rushing attempt.

Before the game even began, the jaw-jacking started. Lynch told The Sporting News that: “They’re fast, they’re physical. But they haven’t seen anything like our offense. … We plan on wearing them down. In the fourth quarter, we plan to have them on their knees – and then just keep pounding away.” Of course, Florida State didn’t take too kindly to those comments. However, Lynch might’ve known that he had to do or say something drastic to rally his team in the face of such an overwhelmingly superior squad; the Seminoles averaged 6.6 yards per rush against the Huskies. As a team. There was no way the Huskies were ever going to win this game; they were outclassed athletically at every position. Florida State entered the game as two touchdown favorites, and despite a sluggish start, they easily covered the spread. However, despite the fact that they did ultimately win, the Seminoles should not necessarily be let off the hook for their performance either.

Was this really a victory for Florida State? Afterward, wearing t-shirts that read “Florida Statement,” they acted like it was. But they beat Northern Illinois in the Seminoles’ first BCS bowl since 2000. For a program laden with future NFL draft picks, that can’t be considered anything other than what it is: a glaring disappointment. They should be embarrassed they didn’t win by four or five touchdowns.

All in all, it was an ugly game, and perhaps worst of all, it proved the cynics right. However, if you took the no-brainer bet of Florida State at -14, I’m happy for you. That was essentially free money.

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