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Northwestern, NIU Aim For New Year's Day Bowl Glory

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jan 1, 2013 6:30PM


New Year's Day is a high holy day for college football fans-cum-couch potatoes with a litany of games on tap throughout the day. Two games hold particular interest for alumni and fans of area colleges.

As of post time, Northwestern has a 13-10 lead over Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla. Quentin Williams returned a Tyler Russell interception 29 yards for a score and Jeff Budzien added a two field goals.

The Wildcats have a lot of pressure on them to win today. NU has lost nine consecutive bowl games going back to the 1949 Rose Bowl and a victory today will allow coach Pat Fitzgerald and his squad to crash a 64-year glass ceiling; the Wildcats have made five consecutive bowl appearances only to come up short every year.. ChicagoSide's Ben Strauss has an entertaining profile on NU's quest for a bowl win in the New York Times that's worth a good read.

Later tonight Northern Illinois will look to prove they're worthy of BCS bowl consideration when they take on Florida State in the Orange Bowl in Miami. Many college football analysts—notably ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit—have criticized the Huskies' Orange Bowl berth. Herbstreit called NIU's presence in the game a "joke" and that it was a "sad state for college football."

Huskies players have used Herbstreit's criticism as further motivation. For fans of the college game across the country this will be their first extended exposure to Huskies quarterback Jordan Lynch, a one man wrecking crew who is dangerous passing and rushing. Lynch's performance this season—he broke Denard Robinson’s NCAA record for rushing yards by a quarterback—made him a dark horse Heisman trophy candidate and could put the returning senior in the running for the award next season. Lynch may be a human highlight reel, but he has complementary teammates around him in running back Akeem Daniels and wide receiver Martell Moore. NIU needs to be on the lookout for All-American defensive end Bjoern Werner and the tough Seminoles defense, which allowed only 253.4 total yards and 15.1 points per game. The Huskies defense must come ready to stop quarterback E.J. Manuel, who set set career highs of 3,101 passing yards, 22 TDs and 284 rushing yards to lead an offense that averages 39.9 points.

A shootout is not in NIU's best interests but they could be catching Florida State at the right time. The Seminoles looked unconvincing in the ACC title game and will be without defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, who was hired last month to helm the football program at Kentucky.