Florida State Seminoles: Rod Carey

Discover Orange Bowl

December, 6, 2012
Northern Illinois Huskies (12-1) vs. Florida State Seminoles (11-2)

Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m. ET, Miami (ESPN)

Northern Illinois take from ACC blogger Heather Dinich: In a matter of hours Sunday, Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey was named head coach and found out by watching ESPN that his first game in that capacity would be against No. 12 Florida State in the Discover Orange Bowl. Carey was hired to replace Dave Doeren, who left to become head coach at NC State.

Carey, who was previously the team’s offensive coordinator, said he had no idea the program would be this year’s BCS buster. Northern Illinois earned its 12th straight win with a 44-37 double overtime victory against No. 17 Kent State in the MAC championship game in Detroit on Friday. The win catapulted the program into BCS consideration for the first time in school history.

“Things happen for a reason, and here we are,” said Carey, a first-time head coach. “It’s a tribute to our kids and our players.”

The Huskies’ offense is led by quarterback Jordan Lynch, who leads the country in rushing yards (1,771) and total offense yards (4,733).

Northern Illinois enters the Orange Bowl riding a school-record 12-game winning streak. The program’s first BCS bid comes on the heels of back-to-back 11-win seasons in 2010 and 2011. NIU is the only program in the country to win 21 of its past 22 games and joins Oregon as the only two schools with three straight 11-win seasons. The seniors are the winningest class in school history with 41 victories. The Huskies haven’t lost since their season opener against Iowa.

“It’s the biggest game NIU has been in because it’s the biggest stage,” Carey said. “It’s an earned thing, too.”

Florida State take from NoleNation's David Hale: After 11 wins, a conference championship and a bevy of dominant performances, Florida State has made its case to be lumped in with the best teams in the country. But as the Seminoles look for only the second BCS bowl win in their history, the reviews from fans are definitively mixed.

Has FSU turned a corner, marching back to national relevance after its first ACC championship in seven years? Or have the Seminoles padded their résumé in a weak conference without the weekly challenges faced by teams in the SEC or Big 12?

Is this the offense that hit 50 with ease early in the season behind what looked like a Heisman-caliber quarterback or is it the unit that couldn't crack 30 in three of its past four games as EJ Manuel struggled through mistakes?

Is this the dominant defense that ranked among the best in the country or is it a unit in turmoil after losing one of its leading tacklers (Tank Carradine) and its defensive coordinator (Mark Stoops)?

The Orange Bowl may not answer all or, perhaps, any of these questions, but that seems to be of little concern for Jimbo Fisher and his Seminoles, who are far happier to simply paint an optimistic portrait of 2012 rather than worry about any perceived shortcomings.

After all, when was the last time a Florida State team came close to such heights -- even during some other dismal years for the ACC? Sure, the season began with hopes of a national championship -- hopes that were derailed by losses to NC State and Florida -- but FSU has moved on.

"We've been trying to get here for a long time," defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan said. "Get back into the national title conversations, winning ACC championships and Orange Bowls and those types of games. We're Florida State. That's what we're supposed to do."

For these Seminoles, it was about reestablishing those standards and putting a decade of mediocrity behind them by any means necessary. Some weeks, that meant Manuel and an explosive running game carried the load. Some weeks, Bjoern Werner, Lamarcus Joyner and a stout defense were at the forefront. And with 11 wins already secured, the final piece to the puzzle will be burying that 1-5 BCS bowl record, too, with an Orange Bowl victory that FSU hasn't enjoyed since the 1995 season.
As far as Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher is concerned, it doesn’t matter that the Seminoles will line up against a MAC team in the Discover Orange Bowl.

A BCS bowl win counts, no matter who it is against.

Florida State took a major step forward in its climb back to national relevance this past weekend when it beat Georgia Tech to win the school’s first ACC title since 2005. A win over Northern Illinois in the Discover Orange Bowl would mean a 12-2 season that included an ACC title and BCS win – a sign that Florida State is relevant again at the BCS bowl level, if not the national title game.

[+] EnlargeFlorida State
Rob Kinnan/US PresswireFSU coach Jimbo Fisher knows that his team can't take Northern Illinois lightly during Orange Bowl preparations.
“I think it would be huge,” Fisher said. “You get your kids used to those situations and that atmosphere and environment, and the things it takes to do that. Northern Illinois is going to be a great game. It’s very important for us to play well in my opinion. I think it establishes some of the tradition and winning culture we want to establish at Florida State. It’s a great opportunity for us and we need to do it.”

Florida State is making its ninth Orange Bowl appearance and its first since the 2006 instant classic against Penn State. The Seminoles have a 3-5 record in their previous Orange Bowl games, including a national championship victory in 1994. Many critics of this season's game have deemed it a lose-lose situation for the Seminoles: A win is what they’re supposed to do against an unheralded team that busted the BCS with its No. 15 ranking. A loss, however, would be devastating to both the program and the ACC’s image.

Rod Carey, the Huskies’ former offensive coordinator who was named the team’s head coach on the same day the Orange Bowl matchup was announced, downplayed the negativity surrounding NIU’s selection.

“Every opinion deserves its time, and that’s fine,” he said. “We’re in the opinion business right now. All I know is we are really excited to be in this game and such a tradition-rich bowl and against Florida State, an unbelievable program. It’s great exposure for our university.”

Northern Illinois (12-1, 8-0 MAC) is making its first BCS bowl game appearance. The Huskies beat Kent State 44-37 in double overtime in the MAC championship game. This will be the first meeting between FSU and NIU, and the first BCS bowl game for a member of the MAC. It is also the first bowl meeting between the ACC and MAC.

Fisher said he expects Northern Illinois to be playing with a chip on its shoulder, but the bigger concern is the MAC champions are better than many give them credit for.

“They’re going to be motivated, but here’s more importantly: You don’t get in this game unless you’re a good football team,” Fisher said. They’re a great football team. It’s easy for talking heads to say that. They’ve earned the right to be here. They’ve earned the right to this opportunity. They’re going to try to maximize it and make the best of it. What we’ve got to do is control what we can control and how we play, but we know we’re going to get an inspired opponent, an opponent who is going to be trying to prove something. But more importantly, we’re going to play a very good opponent. That’s what we have to look at and understand. I think when they see the film, we’ll see that.”


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