- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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Here are three keys for Florida State against Northern Illinois in the Discover Orange Bowl:
1. Don’t forget Mark Stoops. Florida State’s defensive coordinator left to become head coach at Kentucky, but the Seminoles can’t forget everything he taught them. They’ve got to continue to do what has made them so successful all season, and that’s win up front. Unfortunately for FSU, the Noles also have to do that without defensive line coach D.J. Eliot, who followed Stoops to Kentucky as his defensive coordinator. Florida State’s defensive line has got to put pressure on NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch and fluster him into mistakes. Lynch leads the nation in total yards (4,733) and ranks third in total yards per game (364.08).
2. Win the quarterback battle. FSU quarterback EJ Manuel has hardly been a flop this season, but he has been inconsistent. He looked like a Heisman contender against Clemson, but struggled through an emotional game in a loss to rival Florida. The Noles tend to go as Manuel goes, and he is going to have to make good decisions in order to overshadow and outplay Lynch. Lynch has the more impressive numbers, but Manuel has the better supporting cast and big-game experience.
3. Play disciplined. This is not the time for a mistake-laden game filled with turnovers and penalties. One of the reasons NIU won the MAC is because it has been a disciplined team that takes care of the ball. FSU is No. 96 in the country in turnover margin while Northern Illinois is tied for No. 29. FSU has lost the ball 26 times this year -- 16 fumbles and 10 interceptions.