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Opponent Blogger Q&A: Red and Black Attack

Today we're talkin' Orange Bowl with Mike Breese, manager of SB Nation's Northern Illinois blog, Red and Black Attack. What do the Huskies need to do to pull the upset against Florida State on Tuesday night?


TN: Let's start by getting a feel for what this season and this opportunity means for the Northern Illinois football program. How big is this BCS appearance for NIU? How has the fanbase reacted? To what extent does the outcome of this game matter for the program? Or will the result be overshadowed in the long run by the accomplishment of making it to the Orange Bowl?

RBA: This BCS appearance for the Huskies in the Orange Bowl is the biggest thing ever to happen to the NIU program. The fanbase and alumni are extremely pumped for this game. It really has been a long time coming for this program, which has been knocking on the door of a big game like this ever since the beginning of the past decade.

I truly believe that the outcome of the game really does matter for the program. Non-BCS teams actually have a very good record when they make the big game. This program has had too many close calls in the past and it is finally time to shut the critics up and show nationally what this program is capable of.

TN: Like Florida State, NIU has experienced its share of coaching turnover between its conference title game and the bowl game. What effect do you think the departure of Dave Doeren will have on this Huskies team Tuesday night against the Seminoles? Will other assistants be following him to NC State and are any currently on the NIU staff? Do you think that hiring Rod Carey from within the program will minimize the damage caused by Doeren's exit?

RBA: I don't believe that there will be much of a difference in coaching with Doeren's departure to NC State. There is enough stability in the coaching staff to make the transition extremely smooth. Doeren hired his own offensive and defensive coordinators from BCS programs and only took 4 assistants from NIU. Hiring Rod Carey as head coach is perfect for the program to have some consistency to last a few years.

TN: The talk of the week, thus far, has been the comments of Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch regarding the Florida State defense. While not particularly inflammatory or out of the ordinary, Lynch's statements have added a little flavor to a relatively under-hyped game, at least on our site. What do you think of Lynch's comments? Tell us about him as a player and a leader of the 2012 Huskies.

RBA: I personally enjoy Lynch's comments because they are getting people to start talking about the game. I don't think it's going to affect how Florida State performs in this game any which way though. I'm fine with Lynch making comments like these and having confidence in his team. He's been the leader all year long and this offense wouldn't run without him.

He's taken more shots than anyone on the team running the ball and can say whatever he wants. While he is known for his running exploits, he has developed in his first season as a starter his skill throwing the ball as well.

TN: The NIU offense checks in at 42nd on the year in offensive performance to date. What style of offense do the Huskies favor, and what are their strengths and weaknesses on this side of the ball?

RBA: NIU runs a wide open spread offense with a lot of QB reads and options to give Jordan Lynch a chance to make plays as much as he can. The best part of this offense is it's diversity. When NIU wants to run, they're going to pull everybody in and likely run the QB right at your defense. Or they can spread you out with 4 or 5 wide and throw bubble screens all day long as well.

The offense comes at you non-stop in no-huddle and it really hurts teams in the 3rd and 4th quarters. Numerous NIU games have been somewhat close in first halves, but then the 3rd quarter comes and NIU scores 3 or 4 unanswered touchdowns and the game is over.

This team doesn't start off strong, but usually figures out what defenses are trying to run eventually. The only team that was able to stop us defensively scheme-wise was Iowa with their cover-2, but that was 12 wins ago.

TN: A key matchup on Tuesday will be NIU's offensive line against Florida State's vaunted defensive line. Against FBS opponents with winning records this year, NIU has given up 2.33 sacks/game, good for 72nd in the country. How will the Huskies look to neutralize the FSU d-line, and how successful do you think they'll be in doing so?

RBA: Lynch really doesn't seem to get sacked that often mostly because of how fast he gets rid of the ball. Some of the runs he tries to pull off get stuck pretty early, so the gameplan if that happens will be to spread the defense out and throw to screens to speedy players like RB Akeem Daniels or WR Tommylee Lewis.

TN: On the other side of the ball, Northern Illinois ranks 35th on the season in defensive performance. What is the NIU defensive philosophy and what are your concerns as this group takes the field against the FSU offense, which ranks 32nd to date?

RBA: The defensive line has been the staple of this defense all season long. Lately they've just been living in opponents backfields. It's a result of aggressiveness and also having a secondary that will allow the DL to thrive. The problems I see with FSU is their depth of talented WRs. The secondary is strong at the top, but doesn't have too much depth.

TN: Tell us a bit about the NIU special teams, which rank 26th in the country as of now, as well as about any playmakers that have gone unmentioned thus far that FSU fans should keep their eyes on Tuesday evening.

RBA: Matthew Sims is an extremely solid kicker that has been clutch all season long. In the return game, watch out for Florida native Tommylee Lewis returning kicks as he has been one of most explosive players on this team.

TN: Finally, give us a prediction for the 2012 Orange Bowl. Can the Huskies handle the moment, a stadium largely comprised of ‘Noles fans, and the step up in competition to pull the upset?

RBA: I'm not one for predictions, but I believe that this team will be extremely ready for the Orange Bowl. This team is used to the spotlight, having been to five straight bowl games. NIU will be more motivated in this one and will eek past the Seminoles 24-21. Not turning the ball over or getting behind early will be key.

Thanks to Mike for his answers! Be sure to check out the content over at Red and Black Attack. Our answers to their questions will be up later.