Florida State not Overlooking NIU
By Carlos Pineda
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Northern Illinois has the full attention of Florida State players and coaches.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — For the better part of the month, Florida State has been questioned about having to play an inferior opponent in the upcoming Orange Bowl on New Years Day.
To their credit, the 12th-ranked Seminoles haven't taken the bait.
"We're in a BCS bowl game and we want to play well," FSU linebacker Christian Jones said. "We haven't been here in a while. People think we're looking at it like 'It's Northern Illinois, we're going to blow them out'; we're going to go out there and play them just like we're playing any other team so our mindset hasn't changed."
Despite being a heavy favorite, FSU (11-2) is making its first BCS appearance since the 2005 season — a triple-overtime loss to Penn State in the Orange Bowl — and last won a BCS game in 1999 — defeating Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl — en route to the program's second national championship title.
If that wasn't bad enough, the ACC's reputation in the big money games is quite laughable. The ACC has a 2-13 record in BCS games since 1998.
One of the challenges facing FSU's stellar defense will be the play of NIU (12-1) quarterback Jordan Lynch. Considered one of the nation's top dual-threat players this season, Lynch guided the 15th-ranked Huskies to 12 consecutive wins after a season-opening loss to Iowa in only his first season as a starter. Lynch had 372 offensive yards and four touchdowns in the MAC title game, clinching the program's first BCS bowl appearance.
Lynch ranks in the Top 25 nationally in total offense (3rd), rushing (4th) and passing efficiency (25th).
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher praised Lynch's performance this season, who placed seventh in the Heisman voting.
"He's very unique to himself," Fisher said. "He's very tough and rugged. We try to compare players all the time, but to carry the ball that many times on a leg and not be injured, to create the inside runs that he does and still create the passes. He's very unique to himself."
The Noles defense ranks in the Top 10 in rushing defense (3rd), scoring defense (7th) and pass defense (3rd).
Tuesday at Sun Life Stadium will be an intriguing matchup as FSU looks to avoid an upset bid and build on its success in 2012.
"To be able to win a conference championship and have an opportunity to win our first BCS game in 12 years," Fisher said, "I think it's a huge step and I think we've taken a lot of steps this year to get back in that national promise."