While Florida State reached the Orange Bowl, just as many expected, there’s also an air of lost potential about the ‘Noles this season. It’s why, despite never playing in a game of this caliber, many think that Northern Illinois has a shot at an upset. So do they? We take a look at how the matchup shakes out.
Bowl Game: Discover Orange Bowl
Location: Miami Gardens, Fla.
First Year: 1935
2012 Participants: Florida State Seminoles (11-2) vs. Northern Illinois Huskies (12-1)
Last Meeting: None
Florida State (previous bowl game: 18-14 win vs. Notre Dame in 2011 Champs Sports Bowl)
On paper, Florida State was one of the country’s most dominant teams. Conference champions, 12th in scoring in the country (39.9 points per game) and sixth in scoring defense (15.1 points allowed per game). Yet, what will stand out most is how they struggled in key moments. Up 16-0 against NC State early in the season, the team began showing its deficiencies on offense. Then in the regular season finale, the defense showed its own issues, letting rival Florida rack up 24 points in the fourth quarter of an FSU loss. The common thread when they struggled most? EJ Manuel‘s consistency, or lack thereof. In four of their closest games, Manuel put up just two scores to five picks — not exactly the type of performances a championship-caliber team wants out of its senior quarterback. While all of their games certainly weren’t against “elite” competition, NIU’s defense did manage to force 15 interceptions and allow just 10 scores (seventh-best in the country), so that’s certainly something the ‘Noles should be prepared for. On defense, Florida State showed some holes without star defensive end Tank Carradine during the ACC title game, and it’s unlikely the team’s front-seven will be as aggressive without him in this matchup either. The Huskies allowed just 14 sacks all season — in part due to an elite offensive line, and also due to quarterback Jordan Lynch‘s elusiveness. It’s not impossible, but FSU will have to crack the code on containing Lynch if they hope to pull out a win.