Jan. 1, 2013
Florida State (11-2, ACC) vs. Northern Illinois (12-1, at-large)
Florida State's key player: QB E.J. Manuel
Even though Florida State is built around its tough defense, the Seminoles usually seem to go however quarterback. E.J. Manuel goes. If Manuel gets into trouble, Florida State usually finds itself backed into a corner. Such was the case against Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship when Manuel threw a key interception late in the contest that allowed the Yellow Jackets an opportunity to tie the game. Luckily for Manuel, the Seminoles' defense bailed him out with a game-winning interception. Manuel is having his best season statistically with 3,106 yards and 22 touchdowns, but he's also thrown 10 interceptions, six of which have come in the last four games.
Northern Illinois' key player: QB Jordan Lynch
Lynch is the best quarterback you probably know very little about and Northern Illinois is trying to change that. During the Mid-American Conference Championship game, he broke the NCAA record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a single season. This year, he set the NCAA record for consecutive 100-yard rushing games by a quarterback and became the first quarterback to pass for 400 yards and rush for 150 in the same game when he threw for 407 and rushed for 166 in a 31-24 win over Toledo. Lynch is built in the mold of Kansas State's Collin Klein and it will be interesting to see how he does against the nation's No. 2 total defense.
An early look at the matchup: On paper, this matchup doesn't look all that great and the pundits have been all over it as being one of the worst matchups in BCS bowl history. Northern Illinois has a pretty spotty resume — it lost to lowly Iowa — and its best wins all come against teams in the Mid-American Conference. It doesn't deserve to be in a BCS bowl game compared to the other non-AQ teams that have achieved the feat before them. But perhaps that's the motivation the Huskies need to pull off what would be a monumental upset. The question will be whether Florida State can get up for this game? Remember, this is a team that many thought would at least have a shot at the national title. However, a slip against N.C. State and a loss to Florida knocked the Seminoles out of contention and created yet another disappointing season. And, just for reference, teams from non-automatic qualifying conferences are 5-2 in BCS bowl games and one of those losses occurred when TCU and Boise State met in the Fiesta Bowl.
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