While there are a plethora of standouts on both sides of the ball for the Seminoles and the Huskies, there will be a few key matchups that could strongly factor into the end result of the game come New Year’s Day.
FSU defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan vs. NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch:
Timmy Jernigan is one of the leading tacklers from the defensive tackle position for Florida State, racking up 43 on the year with eight of those for a loss. With the ability of Jordan Lynch to run up the gut and the seemingly favorable call for NIU to run plays of that nature, the interior defensive linemen will look to wall up and prevent Lynch from getting his running game going. Lynch has shown the ability to run up the middle effectively seemingly every game, but has not faced an overall defense of this size or caliber. Lynch’s ability to run up the middle out of the empty backfield position early on will show the audience what kind of night this will be.
FSU corner back Xavier Rhodes vs. NIU wide receiver Martel Moore:
Martel Moore has already established himself as one of the top receivers to ever play at NIU historically, and will look to continue that success in the final game of his college career. Xavier Rhodes will match size and speed with Moore all game, with Florida State likely to employ man coverage. The ability for either man to win more battles from snap to snap will have a large effect on the game, as Moore has shown the ability to take over a game from the outside. Rhodes is already known as a lockdown corner, so look for him to press Moore early and not allow him easy releases.
Wildcard: NIU wide receiver Tommylee Lewis
While Florida State possesses a lot of fast and athletic players, NIU has a player who can seemingly do it all. Lewis will return kick-offs and possibly a few punts, in addition to getting involved in the passing game. If Lewis can find angles in the receiving game and break returns to set-up the offense of NIU, he will prove to be a huge factor. His level of play and involvement in the offense and return game will be a crucial component, with the 5’8” sophomore wearing a lot of hats in his native Florida.