Northern Illinois, Florida State in the Orange Bowl will be closer than you think

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The Northern Illinois Huskies vs. the Florida St. Seminoles in the Orange Bowl will be a lot closer than the experts are predicting.

I'm a big fan of advanced, unbiased statistics, so I was pretty excited when I saw that stat guru Bill Connelly was writing up the Orange Bowl today. If you want to take a glance at all the fancy numbers, make sure you check out the F/+ rankings here.

Florida State is ranked 12th and they've achieved that record by beating up on really bad teams. The ACC was horrible. It goes Clemson ranked at #25, the Northern Illinois Huskies at #31 and then a huge dropoff occurs with Virginia Tech at #47. The ACC was terrible this past year.

The first point that Bill makes is that the NIU Huskies are much better than N.C. State, which comes in at a paltry #63 on the F/+ rankings.

But before you decide that FSU is too dominant and will beat a smaller MAC team, realize that the Seminoles have only outscored Top 70 opponents in 2012 by an average score of 28.8 to 24.7. NIU is much better than not only N.C. State (which somehow beat FSU on October 6), but also Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, both of whom came awfully close to taking out the 'Noles.

Connelly then goes on to say that NIU should ditch the empty backfield, which is something I completely agree with. In terms of skill players, the Jordan Lynch and Akeem Daniels is a bit of a thunder and lightning combination running inside and outside. Daniels has been the unsung hero over the latter part of the season and is a key component against the Florida St. Seminoles.

He has exploded recently: In the first 11 games, he carried 36 times for 192 yards and four touchdowns and caught 14 passes for 125 yards; in the last two, he has carried 29 times for 240 yards and five scores and caught four passes for 67 yards (almost all of which were yards after catch). He will need to have a lovely game because Lynch alone isn't going to beat Florida State.

The NIU offense likes to spread the ball around. I'm sure Martel Moore and TommyLee Lewis and Perez Ashford will get opportunities to make plays if Jordan Lynch has time to get them the ball. The leading receiver in the MACC was Moore with 4 catches for 39 yds and a TD, but you should look at his regular season stats and highlights to get a real picture. TommyLee can hurt you in any sort of way, whether it be returning kicks, rushing or receiving.

The Huskie defense will be the 3rd best FSU has played this season according to the F/+ rankings at #35, but they are going to tested. The FSU QB actually seems to do better when he's under pressure, so the Huskies may want to time out their blitzes a little more than they usually do.

the problem is that, if they do not bring down the passer on passing downs, they are likely allowing a first down. NIU ranks 32nd in Standard Downs S&P+ but only 88th on passing downs. Whereas senior corner Rashaan Melvin (18 passes defensed) is active and exciting, fellow corners Marlon Moore, Sean Evans and Jhony Faustin perhaps leave something to be desired.

It really could go either way and NIU should not be counted out of this game:

Good FSU, the one that scoffs at physically inferior opponents, wins this game handily and sets the table for another Top 10 preseason ranking next season; Bad FSU, however, the one that falls asleep for at least a while against any semi-decent team, will lose. What say you, 'Noles?

Huskie fans, what do you think a win depends on? Can NIU beat Florida State?

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