- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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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.
“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.”