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College football: BCS buster Northern Illinois faces Florida State in Orange Bowl
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Miami • Florida State's biggest weakness heading into its Orange Bowl game against Northern Illinois might be Midwestern geography.

The Seminoles concede they'd be hard-pressed to locate their opponent in an atlas.

"I could probably find Illinois," receiver Rashad Greene said. "I don't really know where the town is. Actually I don't even know the town."

It's DeKalb.

"DeKalb?" Seminoles kicker Dustin Hopkins said. "Hey, next time I'll know."

"I thought it was in Chicago," quarterback E.J. Manuel said.

Cue the cliche: A victory Tuesday night would put Northern Illinois on the map. The No. 16-ranked Huskies have been widely derided as unworthy of a BCS bowl berth, which makes them eager for validation when they face No. 13 Florida State.

"We're playing a team that is going to be willing to bloody their noses and get after you," Seminoles offensive coordinator James Coley warned.

Northern Illinois (12-1) is the first Mid-American Conference team to play in the Bowl Championship Series. The Huskies made it when they cracked the top 16 in the final standings by 0.0404 points, setting off a celebration in DeKalb and a backlash everywhere else.

The BCS busters arrived in south Florida without apology.

"There are a lot of angry people out there," NIU offensive coordinator Bob Cole said. "But there are probably 120 of us in the hotel that are really happy about the whole deal. We don't really care what everybody else thinks."

The bowl berth meant 17 Huskies would see the ocean for the first time. One story about the team used the phrase "bowl bumpkins."

"We laugh at it, whatever that's supposed to mean," linebacker Tyrone Clark said. "We take this as an amazing opportunity for the MAC, the school and the players."

Actually, success is nothing new to the Huskies, who are playing in a bowl for the fifth consecutive season. Since October 2011 they have the best record in the country at 21-1.

They've won 12 games in a row, matching Ohio State and Notre Dame for the longest active winning streak. Quarterback Jordan Lynch leads the nation in rushing and total offense, and he finished seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting.

But the Huskies barely beat Army, Toledo and Kansas. They lost to Iowa, which won only three other games. They've never beaten an opponent ranked higher than 15th. —

Orange Bowl

O Florida State vs. Northern Illinois

Tuesday, 6:37 p.m., ESPN

BCS • Huskies look to validate their selection.
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