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Orange Bowl Pregame: Northern Illinois vs. Florida State

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We're about two and a half hours from the kickoff of the Discover Orange Bowl. Florida State (11-2, ACC Champions) will square off with Northern Illinois (12-1, MAC Champions) in a game that has more than a few interesting storylines heading in.

All week Northern Illinois has answered questions about whether they belong in this game with a brash confidence. They have a chip on their shoulder. Now they'll have the chance to back up the talk and prove to the world that Northern Illinois and the MAC are legitimate. Frankly, the trends and the precedents are on their side. Northern Illinois is designated as the "visiting team" tonight and the team in their road whites have won seven of the last eight Orange Bowls. 

Beyond that, schools from non-AQ conferences are 5-2 all time in BCS games, and 4-1 all-time against schools from BCS conferences. The lone BCS conference win over a non-AQ team was Georgia pounding Hawai'i 41-10 in the 2008 Sugar Bowl. But Pittsburgh, Oklahoma, Alabama and Wisconsin have all fallen victim to non-AQ competition in BCS games.

Typically that comes from complacency. Complacency has been an issue for the Florida State this year. It could be an issue tonight.

But then again, Jordan Lynch also gave Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles a gift last week when he told The Sporting News, "They're fast, they're physical, but they haven't seen anything like our offense... We plan on wearing them down. In the fourth quarter, we plan to have them on their knees and then just keep pounding away."

Florida State may do a better job of media-training their athletes, or Northern Illinois just may not care, but the Seminoles remained diplomatic in their interviews throughout the rest of the leadup to tonight's game. While NIU continued to voice their intention to shock the world, Florida State gave the partyline.

But when the recorders went off and the camera lights dimmed, it wasn't tough to see that Florida State is more than a little angry. We'll find out tonight if that anger translates into a good performance, but if NIU was hoping the Seminoles would sleepwalk, they dramatically diminished those chances with their media presence this week.

Anything can happen tonight. Florida State is the more talented team, Northern Illinois is the hungrier team. The scripted ending might have Northern Illinois pulling an epic, BCS-busting upset. Or possibly a highly-motivated Florida State team punishing NIU for its hubris.

But the beauty of sports though- as Jimbo Fisher reminded everyone on Monday morning- is that they aren't a movie. They're not scripted. In college football once things kick off, it's anyone's game.

Tonight's Orange Bowl- even despite a ton of initial buzz- may wind up being one heck of a showdown.

Kickoff: 8:30 PM

TV: ESPN

Announcers: Joe Tessitore (play-by-play), Matt Millen (color), Maria Taylor (sideline)

Officiating Crew: Southeastern Conference, Matt Moore (Head Referee), Ben Oldham (Replay Official)

 

Keep checking back here at the Herald FSU blog and follow me on Twitter for running updates, news and rapid reactions from tonight's Orange Bowl...

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