Five Reasons Northern Illinois Huskies Will Be Better in BCS Bowl in 2013

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Five Reasons Northern Illinois Huskies Will Be Better in BCS Bowl

niu
Ron Chenoy - USA TODAY Sports

Last season, the Northern Illinois Huskies busted the BCS and went to the Orange Bowl for the first time in program history. It was a great run that put NIU onto the national stage in a major bowl game where they ran into a formidable Florida State Seminoles’ squad who out-muscled the Huskies late in the game to pull away and win convincingly, 31-10.

It was far from the best performance of the season for the Huskies. The offense that had been so good all season long was man-handled and the defense which had held teams to less than 20 points per game all season simply got run over. NIU was out-gained on the day 534-259 as they were held to just 83 yards on the ground, well below their usual rushing output of 238.21 yards per game. Meanwhile, FSU’s Lonnie Pryor had a career day rushing the football, gaining 134 yards and scoring a pair of touchdowns on just five carries.

Most surprisingly, though, was the performance of quarterback Jordan Lynch. The NIU signal-caller had burst onto the national scene in 2012 with his dynamic ability to make plays through the air and on the ground and had built up quite a grass-roots campaign to get him the Heisman Trophy (which ultimately fell short). He was expected to be the X-factor for the Huskies but the Noles’ defense took him almost completely out of the game. He finished the day completing just 15-of-41 passes for 176 yards with a touchdown and an interception and managed just 1.9 yards per carry on the ground as he gained 44 yards on 23 attempts.

In all, it was a disappointing end to the Huskies’ great 2012 run. While they achieved something great by reaching the BCS, they didn’t get the kind of performance they were hoping for from themselves. This season, however, they’ve put themselves into position to get back into the BCS as the No. 14 team in the BCS standings ahead of the projected champion from an automatic qualifier conference (thanks, AAC). If they can handle business in the MAC Championship game against the Bowling Green Falcons, they’ll more than likely punch their ticket back to the BCS.

This time, however, they’re looking to make a better impression. Here are five reasons Northern Illinois will be better in the BCS this time around.

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5. Better Offense in 2013

jordan lynch and tommylee lewis
David Butler II - USA TODAY Sports

While the NIU offensive attack was a major reason they made it to the BCS last season, they have been even better in 2013. Last season, the Huskies averaged 38.6 points per game thanks in part to their 238.21 yards per game rushing. This season, they’ve bumped up their offensive production, averaging 42.8 points per game and rushing for 318.92 yards per game. They have tightened things up and gotten their offensive machine humming at an even better clip this season, making it that much harder to stop for whomever the match up against.

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4. Jordan Lynch Being Jordan Lynch

lynch for heisman
Raj Mehta - USA TODAY Sports

If 2012 was the coming out party for Jordan Lynch, 2013 has been his victory lap. He’s been every bit as explosive and dynamic as he was last year, throwing for 2,457 yards while rushing for 1,755 yards and accounting for 43 touchdowns in 12 games this season (including one receiving TD). He has bounced back from his rough trip to the Orange Bowl last season to put himself once again into the Heisman conversation and can truly achieve redemption from last season's bowl game with a strong showing in a BCS bowl this season.

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3. Coaching Continuity

rod carey
Raj Mehta - USA TODAY Sports

Before they had even found out for sure if they had qualified for a BCS bowl game, NIU had to work on finding a new head coach. Dave Doeren accepted a position as the head coach for the NC State Wolfpack, leaving Rod Carey to move up from offensive coordinator to head coach and learn on the job with just about a month before facing off with one of the best teams in the country. That’s not an easy thing to do but Carey did his best. This season, Carey is firmly entrenched at the head coach position and has put his stamp on this team while maintaining their incredible level of success. Having that continuity should give the Huskies a little momentum for a BCS game this season.

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2. Better Matchup

jordan lynch hit
Ron Chenoy - USA TODAY Sports

As we have seen this season, Florida State has a very good team in Tallahassee. Most of that team was on the field against NIU in the Orange Bowl last year when the Noles were an upset loss to NC State away from playing for BCS National Championship. At this point, NIU is projected to go to the Fiesta Bowl against whoever ends up winning the Big 12 title this weekend. While the Oklahoma State Cowboys, Baylor Bears, and Texas Longhorns are all good teams that will present major challenges to NIU, they are not quite at the same level as Florida State right now and should provide some opportunity for the Huskies to find success.

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1. Confidence from Experience

northern illinois
Matt Marton - USA TODAY Sports

Last year, NIU was the first MAC team in history to qualify for the BCS. That can create some wide-eyes in players as they experience a major accomplishment that is completely new to them. This season, they would join some rare company as just the fourth team from a non-AQ conference to reach multiple BCS bowls and just the second to do it in back-to-back years after the TCU Horned Frogs did it in 2009 and 2010. Having that “been there, done that” attitude about simply qualifying for the BCS gives NIU a bit of confidence and swagger heading into the game. They’re not so impressed just by getting invited this time around. Now, they’re out to win. That added edge to their preparation could make a world of difference.





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