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About Northern Illinois: The back-to-back MAC champions are led by dual-threat QB Jordan Lynch, who finished seventh in this year's Heisman Trophy voting. He ranks third in the nation in total offense (364.1 yards per game), has accounted for 43 touchdowns and is on the brink of becoming the first player in FBS history to rush for 1,500 yards (1,771) and pass for 3,000 yards (2,962) in a season. WR Martel Moore and RB Akeem Daniels are the other top weapons on offense. NIU's defense, led in tackles by S Jimmie Ward and LB Tyrone Clark, has held five teams below 300 yards total offense and recorded the second most sacks in a season (40) in school history.
About Florida State: After claiming their 13th ACC championship with a win over Georgia Tech 32 days ago, the Seminoles enter the Orange Bowl attempting to finish off one of their best seasons in recent memory. FSU QB E.J. Manuel has completed 67.9 percent of his passes while throwing for 3,101 yards and has 22 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions. Manuel's top target has been Rashad Greene, with Rodney Smith and Kelvin Benjamin boasting the next most catches. Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. are both dangerous in the running game. The Seminoles boast the nation's No. 2 ranked defense. They're third against the pass (160.8 yards allowed per game) and fourth against the run (92.6).
Northern Illinois seeks to validate its bowl bid after becoming the first Mid-American Conference team to reach the Bowl Championship Series. Florida State is looking for its fifth consecutive bowl win, but is trying to break a streak of four consecutive losses in BCS bowls. The Seminoles' EJ Manuel seeks to become only the second quarterback to go 4-0 in bowl games.
• How much havoc will FSU DE Bjoern Werner (13 sacks, 18 tackles for loss) wreak? NIU will use RB Giorgio Bowers to help block him and plans to take him on aggressively?
• Turnovers could help Northern Illinois overcome any disadvantage in size, speed and athleticism. The Seminoles rank 96th nationally in turnover margin (minus-7), giving away the ball 20 times in their past seven games. The Huskies D has intercepted at least one pass in nine straight games.
The exposure comes at a critical time for NIU, which has endured its share of unfavorable publicity, starting with a 2008 campus shooting that left six people dead and continuing through mid-December of 2012, when 22 members of a fraternity were charged in a freshman's alcohol-related death that officials blamed on hazing.
In October, authorities leveled felony charges against eight current workers and one former employee involved in an alleged scheme to sell university scrap materials and deposit the money in a private account. In November, NIU's police chief was placed on administrative leave amid indications his department withheld evidence in a rape case against a campus police officer.
Through all that turmoil, NIU's football success has been a source of pride. Reaching the Orange Bowl is unprecedented.
"We have had a lot of negative stuff happen," NIU senior defensive end Sean Progar said. The Orange Bowl "is huge for everybody. We came here (to Miami) knowing that, and we are going to come out here and represent them well."
Junior QB Jordan Lynch will face a Florida State defense that ranks second in yards allowed at 253.8 per game. Lynch led the nation with 1,771 yards rushing, a record for quarterbacks. The Seminoles allowed only 93.0 yards rushing per game, fifth-best.
FSU has faced mobile quarterbacks like B.J. Daniels, Tajh Boyd, Logan Thomas and Jeff Driskel this year but Lynch presents more challenges than each of them because of the way he is used in NIU's offense.
"The difference between this game is a lot of times with NIU they will call plays specifically for him to run the ball," FSU redshirt senior linebacker Vince Williams said. "They're quarterback-designed runs rather than broken plays or things like that."
What FSU does to limit Lynch could be the most important aspect of the primetime game and it will be defensive ends coach D.J. Eliot's job to have the Seminoles in position to do so. Before joining Stoops in Lexington, Ky. as the Wildcats' new defensive coordinator, Eliot will handle those duties for the 'Noles for the first and only time. He will also be assisted by predecessor Sal Sunseri, who will be on the sidelines after being hired in mid-December.
Tuesday's game not only marks the end of the Eliot era and that of assistant coach Eddie Gran, who is headed to be the offensive coordinator at Cincinnati, but it is also the final game for a host of long-time 'Noles like EJ Manuel, Rodney Smith, Lonnie Pryor, Everett Dawkins and Williams. There are also several underclassmen that will be facing a decision about their immediate future by game's end.
Manuel has the chance to keep his undefeated bowl record in tact and Smith has the chance to tie the school record for consecutive passes caught in a Seminole uniform.
Most importantly, all of FSU's players have a chance to end a winless BCS era, too.
"A lot of people throughout their four-year, five-year career in college don't get to play in a BCS Bowl," FSU sophomore running back James Wilder, Jr. said. "It's a big deal and we are going to do whatever we can to get this last win."
Florida State: Manuel has a career completion percentage of 66.8, best in school history. He leads an offense that averages 7.01 yards per play, which is tied for best in the nation. Senior Dustin Hopkins is the NCAA's career leader in kick scoring with 459 points. This season WR Rashad Greene scored twice on punt returns, five times receiving and once rushing. Junior All-American Bjoern Werner has 23 1/2 career sacks, including 13 this season.
Northern Illinois' lone loss came in its season opener against Iowa, 18-17. ... The Huskies and Oregon are the only teams to win at least 11 games each of the past three seasons. ... Rod Carey will make his debut as a head coach for the Huskies. He replaces Dave Doeren, who was hired as coach at North Carolina State on Dec. 1. ... The Huskies are 2-6 against Atlantic Coast Conference teams, and 5-27 against ranked teams. Florida State would be the highest-ranked team they've ever beaten. ... The Seminoles are playing in a bowl game for the 31st year in a row, the longest active streak. ... Florida State is playing in a BCS bowl for the first time since losing to Penn State in the 2006 Orange Bowl.