The MAC gets a rare crack at a BCS bowl when the 12-1 Huskies of Northern Illinois challenge the 11-2 Seminoles of Florida State in the Orange Bowl New Year's Day night down in suburban Miami.
The early Orange Bowl betting odds listed the 'Noles as 14-point favorites over the Huskies, but that number has since been bet down to -13 at most outlets. Also, the total on the Orange Bowl started at 58, and had held steady in the early betting.
The spread poses a challenge for FSU, which has romped to a 8-0-1 ATS mark in its past nine bowl games. Of note, underdogs are 7-2 ATS in the past nine Orange Bowls.
Northern Illinois won the MAC championship last year, and was expected to contend for it again this season. The Huskies then opened with an 18-17 loss to Iowa, but have won every game since. However, as you might expect, NIU did not exactly play a Murderer's Row of a schedule.
The Huskies beat Tennessee-Martin, Army and Kansas in non-conference play, then rolled through the MAC unscathed, outlasting Kent State in the conference championship game 44-37 in overtime. Led by fringe Heisman candidate QB Jordan Lynch, who rang up a 24/5 TD/INT ratio passing and ran for 1,770 yards and 19 more scores, NIU averaged 486 YPG on offense, 250 of those on the ground, and 41 PPG.
But as will happen in this college football world, the Huskies became victims of their own success when, on the day before it was announced they would be playing in the Orange Bowl, head coach Dave Doeren left the program to take over at North Carolina State. So NIU is now being led by Rod Carey, who began this season as the Huskies' offensive line coach.
Florida State, meanwhile, was supposed to win the ACC this season and contend for a spot in the BCS title game. And while the 'Noles came through on winning the conference title, they came up short in playing for all the marbles. FSU shot out of the gate this year, with five straight wins, putting up some huge offensive numbers. But the Seminoles then went to Raleigh, coughed up a late lead and lost to N.C. State, 17-16.
Florida State then won its next five games to win the ACC's Atlantic Division, but ended its regular season with a 37-26 upset loss at home to in-state rival Florida. The Seminoles then defeated Georgia Tech in underwhelming fashion in the ACC championship game, 21-15.
Paced by senior quarterback E.J. Manuel and a balanced running attack, Florida State averaged 466 YPG on offense and 40 PPG this year.
Playing against the weekly expectations on the college football betting boards, Northern Illinois is 9-2-2 ATS this season, while Florida State is just 3-9 vs. the numbers.
The Huskies are playing in a bowl for the fifth-straight season. Last year NIU beat Arkansas State in the GoDaddy Bowl, 38-20. The Seminoles have won their last four bowl games. Last year they beat Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl, 18-14.
Orange Bowl Pick: Northern Illinois is a nice story, with a talented quarterback, but the Huskies just don't have enough to contend with FSU's talent and athleticism. We'll give the points and take the Seminoles. (courtesy of PickShark.com)
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