College Football Orange Bowl Picks: #15 Northern Illinois Huskies vs #12 Florida St Seminoles

2013 Discover Orange Bowl
Tuesday, January 1, 2013, 8:30 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
#15 Northern Illinois Huskies vs #12 Florida State Seminoles
Sun Life Stadium – Miami Gardens, Florida

Opening Line: Florida St -15
Current Line: Florida St -14
Opening Total: 56 1/2
Current Total: 59
Opening Money Line: FSU -550 / NIU +450
Current Money Line: FSU -525 / NIU +425

Florida St is a 14 point favorite against Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl Tuesday Night.

You can argue all you want if 12-1  Northern Illinois deserved a spot in a BCS bowl over such teams as Oklahoma or Clemson. Lord knows, college football analysts have been doing  just that in the month since the pairings were announced. However, the bottom line is the Huskies made  the Orange Bowl and will take on the 11-2 Florida St Seminoles. Not only is this the first meeting between the schools, but the first bowl meeting between the MAC and ACC.

Northern Illinois is 4-3 all time in bowl games. The Huskies have won 2 straight bowl games including 38-20 over Arkansas St in the Bowl last season. Florida St is 25-14-2 all-time in bowl games. The Seminoles have qualified for 31 straight bowls, the second longest streak in NCAA history. FSU has won 4 straight bowl games including 18-14 over Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl. This is the ninth trip to the Orange Bowl in history for the Seminoles.

Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren was hired by North Carolina St. Offensive coordinator Rod Carey was named the head coach and will coach in the Orange Bowl. Florida St defensive coordinator Mark Stoops left to become the head coach at Kentucky. Two other assistant coaches left the Seminoles for other positions, including special teams coordinator Eddie Gran and defensive ends coach D.J. Eliot. Eliot and Gran will remain with the team until  after the bowl.

The Huskies have won 12 straight games since a season opening loss to Iowa 18-17 in Chicago. NIU has home wins over Tennessee-Martin 35-7, Kansas 30-23, Central Michigan 55-24, Buffalo 45-3, Massachusetts 63-0 and Toledo 31-24. The Huskies have road wins at Army 41-40, Ball St 35-23, Akron 37-7, Western Michigan 48-34, and against Eastern Michigan 49-7. The Huskies beat Kent State in the MAC championship game in Detroit 44-37 in double overtime. Otherwise Kent St would be in the Orange Bowl. NIU is 9-2-2 ATS and the total is 5-7 this season.

Northern Illinois is averaging 485.8 yards per game on offense, including 235.6 passing yards and 250.2 rushing yards. The Huskies are outscoring teams 41-19 this season. NIU is #14 nationally in total offense, #9 in rushing, #8 in scoring and #18 in points allowed. The Huskies are +8 in turnovers with 18 giveaways. NIU averages 56 penalty yards per game and has allowed 14 sacks. The Huskies are 108/209 on third and fourth down conversions and 55/69 scoring in the red zone with 49 touchdowns. On defense, the Huskies are allowing 356.8 yards per game, including 217.7 passing and 139.2 rushing yards. NIU has forced 40 sacks and 26 turnovers. Husky opponents are 100/243 on third and fourth down conversions and 32/49 scoring in the red zone with 21 touchdowns.

NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch is the leading rusher and passer for the Huskies. He has completed 222 of 353 passes (62.9%) for 2,962 yards with 24 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Lynch also has 271 carries, 1,771 yards and 19 touchdowns. His numbers are actually better than Heisman winner Johnny Manziel from Texas A&M. Of course, Lynch has faced a must lower quality of competition too.

Running back Leighton Settle has 101 carries, 453 yards, and 5 touchdowns, along with 4 catches for 20 yards. He is doubtful with an ankle injury and has missed the last 3 games. Akeem Daniels has 65 carries, 432 yards and 9 touchdowns, along with 18 catches, 192 yards and 2 touchdowns. Keith Harris, Jr. has 55 carries, 226 yards and 4 touchdowns. Harris has also missed the last three games and is doubtful with an ankle injury. Matt McIntosh has 25 carries, 92 yards and 2 touchdowns. Another little used running back Jamal Wobble is suspended indefinitely.

Receiver Martel Moore has 71 catches, 1,054 yards and 12 touchdowns. Tommylee Harris has 43 catches, 478 yards and 5 touchdowns, along with 17 carries, 102 yards and a touchdown. He also has a kick return for a touchdown. Perez Ashford has 30 catches for 354 yards and a touchdown. No other Husky receiver has more than 18 catches. Da’Ron Brown has 2 touchdown catches.

Florida St is coached by Jimbo Fisher. The Seminoles have losses at North Carolina St 17-16 and at home against Florida 37-26. FSU has home wins over Murray St 69-3, Savannah St 55-0, Wake Forest 52-0, Clemson 49-37, Boston College 51-7, and Duke 48-7, along with road wins at South Florida 30-17, Miami 33-20, Virginia Tech 28-22, and Maryland 41-14. Florida St beat Georgia Tech 21-15 in the ACC Championship game in Charlotte. The Seminoles are 3-9 ATS and the total is 6-4-1 this season.

Florida St is averaging 466 yards per game on offense, including 262.9 passing yards and 203.1 rushing yards. The Seminoles are outscoring teams 40-15 this season. FSU is 41st or better in all offensive categories including #12 in scoring. The Seminoles are -7 in turnovers with 26 giveaways. FSU averages 55 penalty yards per game and has allowed 26 sacks this season. The Seminoles are 67/153 on third and fourth down conversions, and 62/68 scoring in the red zone with 48 touchdowns. On defense, FSU is allowing 253.4 yards per game including 160.8 passing yards and 92.6 rushing yards. The Seminoles are 6th or better in all defensive categories, including #2 in total defense. FSU has forced 19 turnovers and 33 sacks this season. Seminole opponents are 70/225 on third and fourth down conversions and 25/29 scoring in the red zone with 15 touchdowns. Florida St has 4 defensive/special teams touchdowns this season including 3 punt returns for touchdowns.

FSU quarterback E.J. Manuel has completed 237 of 349 passes (67.9%) for 3,101 yards with 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, along with 97 carries, 284 yards and 3 touchdowns. Manuel is probable with a head injury. If Manuel can’t go, back-up Clint Trickett will get the start. Trickett has thrown 34 passes this season, mostly in mop-up duty.

Leading rusher Chris Thompson is out for the season with a torn ACL. He had almost a 1,000 combined rushing and receiving yards with 5 rushing touchdowns. Devonta Freeman has 97 carries, 630 yards and 8 touchdowns, along with 7 catches for 43 yards. James Wilder, Jr. has 99 carries, 583 yards and 11 touchdowns, along with 19 catches, 136 yards and 2 touchdowns. Lonnie Pryor has 42 carries, 242 yards, and 6 touchdowns, along with 10 catches for 100 yards. Fullback Debrale Smiley is out indefinitely with an ankle injury. He has 3 rushing touchdowns.

Including the running backs, eight FSU receivers have at least 19 catches. Receiver Rashad Greene has 52 catches, 696 yards and 5 touchdowns. He also has 2 punt returns for touchdowns and a rushing touchdown. Rodney Smith has 35 catches, 483 yards and 3 touchdowns. Kelvin Benjamin has 29 catches, 482 yards, and 4 touchdowns. Kenny Shaw, Greg Dent, and Nick O’Leary will also get significant targets. Shaw and O’Leary have 3 touchdown catches, and Dent has 2. Eighteen Seminoles are listed as questionable or out Tuesday including 10 defensive players.

Northern Illinois is 7-1-2 ATS after a straight up win, and overall, 5-1-1 after rushing for over 200 yards, 4-1-1 against teams with winning records, 12-3-2 after gaining 450 yards or more, 4-1 against ACC teams, 7-2-1 after allowing less than 275 total yards3-1-2 after scoring 40 points or more, 9-3-2 after allowing less than 100 yards, 3-1-1 in non-conference games, 3-8-1 in neutral site games, and 1-6 on grass.

Florida St is 7-0-1 ATS in bowl games, 10-2-1 in neutral site games, 4-1 after passing for less than 170 yards, 11-27-2 after allowing less than 170 passing yards,  2-5 after failing to cover, 1-4 against teams with winning records, 1-5 after allowing less than 20 points. 1-7 after a straight up win, 0-4 overall, and on grass.

Seven previous teams from Non-AQ conferences have played in BCS games. They have a 5-2 record straight up in those games. One of those losses was when TCU beat Boise St in the Fiesta Bowl several years back. The non-AQ teams have been successful mainly because hearing that they don’t belong and will get destroyed for a month is pretty good motivation. Florida St has nothing to gain here, because if they destroy NIU then they were supposed to. However, a loss would be devastating. Even though the running backs are battling injury, NIU still has Lynch and Daniels. I am not saying the Huskies win but they do keep it close against a banged up Seminole defense.

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