by David Kososki
How can one of the most surprising teams this bowl season, remain one of the most under the radar teams as well? Northern Illinois University is making its first Orange Bowl appearance in its 114 year history and unlike BCS busters of years past, not much fanfare is given to the Mid-American Conference champions. Maybe it’s because unlike past party crashers like TCU, and Boise State, there was no preseason hype leading up to the season. No, more likely it’s because while this is a team that can boast a heavyweight record of 12-1, but has no signature victory which to hang their hat on.
Their sole loss was a one point, come from behind, heart breaker to Iowa, a team who will be watching all bowl games like the rest of us- at home, hung-over, debating the edibility of last night’s pizza sitting on the coffee table.
Further complicating matters for NIU is the fact that the head coach, Dave Doeren, pulled a Nick Saban and decided not to finish the job he started, and ran for greener (see $$$) pastures. Former co-offensive coordinator Rod Carey will take the reins for the game. Side note to this story- Coach Carey, born in Madison, WI was undoubtedly sitting at the edge of his seat for the Big 10 title game. Due to the rules in place by the NCAA allowing mid major conferences into BCS games, NIU needed Wisconsin to beat Nebraska ensuring their place in Miami.
Florida State enters this game as 14 point favorites, the winners of the ACC, and possibly a bit of a chip on their shoulders as they had larger goals of a National Championship. Alas, the Seminoles losses to NC State, and Florida derailed those ambitions and will now have to settle for the $17mil payout the Orange Bowl guarantees.
FSU will face a team not nearly as talented as itself. They will be bigger, faster, meaner, and have much better coaching in this game. NIU’s only chance is if Jordan Lynch, he of the 3000 yards passing and 1700 yards rushing, can somehow play QB, wide receiver, half back, scat back, holla back, and lean back. FSU may not have ever played a QB as athletic as Lynch since Tebow back in 2009, and I don’t think there are many defenders leftover from that year. Ultimately it won’t matter much. Lynch hasn’t faced a defense this fast and athletic ever.
Bottom line? This is shaping up to be the turd in the punch bowl for the Bowl season. Final score will probably be something like 48-21, only because Jordan Lynch will do just enough to raise his stock for the Heisman next year. When you play in the south though, the only winners are the ones raising the Tiffany crystal football at the end of the year. Congratulations Florida State, and Northern Illinois, we haven’t even gotten to kickoff, and you’re both already losers. The real winners? The MAC, who will be able to advertise the shit out of their conference during the game, and will be able to divvy up a sizable payout to the rest of the teams who laid down just enough to let one of their own into the big dance.