Like we see every year in college basketball, a mid-major squad has busted the BCS in 2012. The Northern Illinois Huskies lost their game of the regular season, 18-17, against an ultimately disappointing Iowa Hawkeyes squad before ripping off 12-straight wins to earn the first-ever BCS Bowl berth for a Mid-American Conference school.
BCS rules stipulate a team from a “nonqualifier” conference earns a bid if it finishes in the top 16 ahead of a major conference champion. Northern Illinois is already assured of finishing ahead of both the Big East (Louisville) and Big Ten (Wisconsin) champions.
Meanwhile, Florida State got a real scare out of a 6-6 Georgia Tech squad, but eventually took care of business in the 21-15 win. The ACC Championship game victory gave the Seminoles their first conference title since 2005.
The Orange Bowl features two members of the nation’s quarterbacking elite. FSU’s EJ Manuel is a fifth-year senior, and while he has won many games throughout his career, he would love to go out on a high note. The 2012 season is one that some will deem as ultimately a disappointment without a BCS National Championship. Yet, should one of the nation’s stingiest defenses manage to contain the nation’s leading rusher, Manuel may indeed ride off into the sunset.
The game will be the last for FSU defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, who recently accepted the head coaching position at Kentucky. He can tie a bow on his defensive unit’s phenomenal season by keeping Jordan Lynch under 100 yards rushing.
No team has been able to corral the star in the program’s previous 11 games, and Lynch has broken the barrier in all but one game all year, a 35-7 win over Tennessee-Martin in which he ran for a solid 60.
The Huskies quarterback has set the NCAA single-season record with 1,771 yards on the ground in 2012. He has emerged as a dark horse Heisman candidate; Stoops’ unit, led by Berlin, Germany native Bjoern Werner, will have its hands full.
Losses by Nebraska, Texas, UCLA and Kent State (whom NIU beat in the MAC Championship game) allowed the Huskies to jump from No. 21 all the way up to No. 16 to earn the automatic bid.
They may have earned the bid, but it remains to be seen whether or not NIU can hang with the big boys, or if, like Cinderella we all love come March Madness, this squad’s fun will be over at Midnight.
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