It was only a matter of time until a mid-major program slammed its foot in the door and wedged into a BCS bowl game, and it’s fitting that the Northern Illinois Huskies are the ones to finally break the seal. With their MAC Championship Game win over Kent State, NIU (12-1) muscled their way to No. 15 in the in the nation and booked their flight to the 77th annual Orange Bowl to take on the ACC champion No. 12 Florida State Seminoles (12-2). Northern is the first squad from a non-automatic qualifying conference to play in the Orange Bowl as an at-large, eeking in by 0.0404 points, and many are crying foul that a college football David leapt a perennial Goliath like Wisconsin to play in one of the biggest games of the year. But if you take a glimpse at their resume, it’s inarguable that the Huskies are due for the big stage.
Talk about consistency. NIU is currently riding a 12-game winning streak, which puts them in a tie with undefeated Notre Dame and Ohio State for the longest in the country. And dating back to October 2nd, the Huskies' overall record is a stout 21-1. That streak stands as the best in the nation, and the lone blemish on their resume is a heartbreaking, one-point loss against Iowa in the opening game of the season. When it's all said and done, the Huskies finished ahead of the Big East champion Louisville Cardinals and Big Ten champion Wisconsin Badgers, and they deserve to play in the game based on that alone. Then you look at who’s led them to ninth in scoring offense and 15th in total offense, and the nation deserves to see the Huskies as much as the Huskies deserve a shot at BCS glory.
His name isn't familiar with most people, but that won’t be true very long. Jordan Lynch, the MAC regular-season MVP, is the Huskies’ starting quarterback, and those in the know already recognize his skills. Lynch, a junior, is third in the country in total offense, stacking up a hefty at 364.1 yards per game. He leads the country in rushing with 1,771 yards and 19 touchdowns, and set an NCAA record for rushing yards by a quarterback. Also, he's currently streaking with an NCAA-record eleven 100 yard games in a row. The Manning Award finalist notched 43 touchdowns and threw for 2,962 yards this season, but luckily for NIU he isn’t a solo act. Huskies' running back Akeem Daniels has his back, and in his past two outings Daniels has rushed 29 times for 240 yards and five touchdowns. NIU will need Daniels to have a huge game for them to pull off the upset.
While Lynch and the Huskies are primed on offense, Florida State is a monster on the other side. They rank second in the nation in total defense and seventh in scoring defense, in addition to their undeniable skills on offense and big game experience. Though they come in hot, having won the Humanitarian Bowl and the GoDaddy.com Bowl the last two seasons, this is only the eighth bowl game for NIU overall. Just counting Orange Bowls alone, the Seminoles have been in more than the Huskies have been in any bowl game whatsoever. Florida State is coming into the Orange Bowl with three previous victories under their belts in eight overall appearances (1993, 1994, and 1996), and with a quality win over Clemson earlier this season, they’ve shown to be a Goliath to topple. NIU will have to combat a resurgent FSU program and the winning tradition that has made them a national powerhouse for decades, so it'll certainly be a dogfight.
Whoever wins, January 1st. will be a watershed moment in college football history, and may turn out to be the tear mid-major programs need to break through with public consciousness to consistently play in the biggest bowl games. Kickoff is set for 8:30 p.m. EST at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida, and we’ve got plenty of premium 2013 Orange Bowl tickets for you to get inside and enjoy the incredible atmosphere. Sun Life Stadium can hold over 75,000 booming fans and this is always one of the highlight games on the postseason schedule, so claim your seats now to ensure your spot to witness BCS history live in Miami on New Year’s Day.