ACC Champion Florida State (11-2) faces MAC Champion Northern Illinois (12-1) in the Orange Bowl on New Year's Day at 8:00 p.m. EST. The most intriguing matchup of the 2012 BCS bowls features the first MAC team to ever play in a BCS game, but the Huskies won't have the head coach who got them here on their sideline.
Dave Doeren was announced as the new head coaching hire by N.C. State on December 1, the day after leading Northern Illinois to its second MAC Championship in his only two seasons at the school. He compiled records of 23-4 overall and 17-1 vs. MAC schools, including the two conference championship game wins.
Offensive line coach Rod Carey was named as Doeren's successor on December 2 and will coach the Huskies (12-1) in the historic appearance.
Florida State quarterback E. J. Manuel is the Seminoles’ career-leader in completion percentage (66.8 percent) and is looking to become just the second quarterback to win four consecutive bowl games. With a 24-6 record as a starter, the redshirt senior guided the Seminoles to their first ACC title and BCS appearance since 2005. Manuel passed for 3,101 yards and 22 touchdowns this season — including 284 rushing yards. Currently seventh in FSU’s single season passing record, Manuel could move into second place if he throws for 217 yards against Northern Illinois on Jan. 1.
Manuel's favorite target this season has been sophomore Rashad Greene. Greene leads the Seminoles with 52 receptions for 696 yards and five touchdowns. With two touchdowns on punt returns and one on a rush, Greene became the first FSU player since Peter Warrick in 1999 to score three different ways in a season. Three other receivers have over 400 receiving yards, including — senior Rodney Smith (35 catches for 483 yards and three touchdowns), freshman Kelvin Benjamin (29 receptions for 482 reception yards and four scores) and junior Kenny Shaw (27 catches for 471 and three touchdowns).
Jordan Lynch is the best quarterback in the nation that you may not have seen. He ranks third in total offense with 2,962 passing yards, 1,771 rushing yards and 43 touchdowns. Lynch is the first quarterback in FBS history to rush for the most yards in a single season (1,771 yards) and set the NCAA record for most consecutive 100-yard rushing games by a quarterback with 11. He is 38 passing yards away from becoming the first player to amass 3,000 passing yards and 1,500 rushing in the same season in NCAA FBS history.
Senior Martel Moore leads the Huskie receiving corps with 71 receptions for 1,054 yards and 12 scores. Moore became the fifth NIU player to record a 1,000 yards receiving in a single season. He is averaging 81.1 yards per game and ranks 24th in the country in total receiving yards. Moore was named to the All-MAC first team. Also in the mix is sophomore Tommylee Lewis with 43 catches for 478 and five touchdowns. Senior Perez Ashford has 354 yards on 30 receptions.
Florida State lost senior running back Chris Thompson for the season to a torn ACL injury, but sophomores Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. have picked up the load in the backfield. They have combined for 1,213 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns. Freeman needs 58 yards to pass Thompson for the lead in rushing this season. Wilder was named the ACC Championship Game MVP after rushing for 69 yards and two touchdowns.
The Huskies run-game is ranked ninth in the nation (250.2 yards per game). In addition to Lynch, junior running backs Leighto Settle and Akeem Daniels have combined to rush for 885 yards and 14 touchdowns on 166 attempts. In the Mid-American Championship Game, Daniels rushed for 128 yards and two touchdowns.
Jimbo Fisher is 30-10 in three seasons as the head coach at Florida State. This season he has guided the Seminoles to their first ACC title and BCS appearance since 2005. In 2010, he won the most games (10) by a first-year coach in FSU history. Fisher put together back-to-back top five recruiting classes in 2011 and 2012.
Though Carey just became the head coach, he was instrumental in leading the nation's 15th-ranked total offense (485.8 yards per game).
The Florida State defensive line ranks fifth against the run (93.0 yards per game), the FSU defense is led by junior defensive end Bjoern Werner. Werner leads the Seminoles and the ACC with 13 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. For his efforts, Werner was named the 2012 ACC Defensive Player of the Year and a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski, Ted Hendricks, Lombardi and Bednarik awards. Cornelius “Tank” Carradine had been providing some serious pressure opposite Werner during the season with 11 sacks and 13 tackles for loss of his own, but was lost for the season in the Seminoles loss to Florida. Filling in is freshman Mario Edwards Jr., the top-rated prospect in Florida State’s 2012 recruiting class, who tallied seven tackles and a sack in his lone start this season.
The Huskies' defensive front held Kent State to 70 yards rushing in the MAC Championship Game and is ranked 33rd in the country against the run. Defensive end Alan Baxter leads the line with 58 tackles and 9.5 sacks. Both Baxter and fellow end Sean Progar were named to the All-MAC first team. Progar was second on the team with 8.5 sacks. Clogging up the middle is a pair of big defensive tackles in Nabal Jefferson and Anthony Wells, who’ve also shown the ability to creak havoc in the backfield with five sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss combined.
At linebacker, Florida State junior Christian Jones leads the Seminoles with 85 tackles, including 47 unassisted. Named to the All-ACC second team, Jones recorded a team-best 14 tackles against NC State. Senior captain Vince Williams brings leadership and exceptional awareness to the position, and is fourth on the team with 49 tackles this season. Junior Telvin Smith rotates in the middle linebacker position with Williams, and ranks third on the team with 60 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss.
Northern Illinois senior Tyrone Clark is second on the team with 82 tackles — including 10 for a loss. In his career at NIU, Clark has recorded 174 tackles and five interceptions. Opposite Clark is redshirt sophomore Jamal Bass, who’s 76 tackles rank third on the Huskies. The South Florida native also has five tackles for loss and an interception this season. Roaming the middle is redshirt senior Victor Jacques, who tallied 44 tackles in just eight games this season.
The Seminoles’ defense ranks third in passing defense, giving up 160.8 yards per game. Anchoring the secondary is three-year starting cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who was named to the All-ACC first team after recording three interceptions and breaking up seven passes this season. Safety Lamarcus Joyner, also named to the All-ACC first team, recorded 45 tackles, five pass breakups and one interception. ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year Ronald Darby is also a major contributor in the defensive backfield, tying Rhodes’ mark of seven pass break ups on the season.
The Huskies' secondary is led by junior Jimmie Ward. Ward led the team with 90 tackles and three interceptions. Cornerback Rashaan Melvin had a team-high 17 pass breakups. With 20 career starts, senior Demetrius Stone has recorded 73 tackles and two interceptions. In all, the Huskies picked off 15 passes this season, tied for 23rd in college football, and allowed just 217.7 passing yards per game.
The Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com project FSU as the winner by 8.69 points.