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Huskies' New Year's Day resolutions

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
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1. Force multiple turnovers

The Huskie defense’s inability to create turnovers is long in the rear-view mirror as NIU has forced at least one turnover in each of the past nine games. The Seminoles have a penchant for being careless with the football and have committed 26 turnovers on the season, an average of two a game.

2. Handle crowd noise

Tallahassee is just a seven-hour drive from Sun Life Stadium, so Florida State fans are bound to give the Seminoles an unofficial home-field advantage. The offensive line committed only one false start penalty in a similar situation on a neutral field against Iowa and will have to produce similar results tonight because Florida State’s “Tomahawk Chop” will likely make an appearance in Miami.

3. Win the red zone battles

NIU scores touchdowns on 70 percent of its trips into the red zone and will have to continue that trend because settling for field goals won’t get it done against the Seminoles. The Huskies also rank as the nation’s sixth-best team in red zone defense, so NIU will have to keep limiting the Seminoles inside their own 20-yard line.

4. Use a timely trick play

We saw it a few times from NIU during the season when the Huskies used a fake punt and fake field goal against Central Michigan and almost attempted one against Kent State Bowl games often have coaches digging deep into the playbook and visions of Boise State - Oklahoma come to mind.

5. Force Manuel’s hand

E.J. Manuel may be a senior and in his second year as the starter, but he still makes poor decisions from time to time at quarterback. He has thrown 10 interceptions and lost five fumbles, including four turnovers in the Seminoles’ loss to Florida. He also threw an interception in the Seminoles’ loss against North Carolina State.

6. Get to the quarterback

Basically a sub-point of the previous New Year’s Day resolution, NIU’s defensive line has been productive all season, recording 40 sacks. Florida State’s offensive line has been susceptible to good pass-rush teams, yielding two sacks a game. If the Huskies can stop the Seminoles’ run game early on, it will give their pass rush more opportunities to get to Manuel.

7. More second-half magic

NIU’s second-half comebacks have been well-documented as the Huskies fought back from deficits against Kansas, Toledo, Army and Ball State In Florida State’s two losses, Florida rallied from a seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter and North Carolina State came back from 13 points to win in the final minute.

8. Pass protect

The Huskies’ young offensive line has played beyond expectations all season, yielding only 14 sacks in 13 games. They will have their biggest challenge to date, trying to keep All-American DE Bjoern Werner from getting to Jordan Lynch. The junior quarterback does a great job of keeping plays alive with his mobility, but couldn’t avoid a couple of costly sacks against Kent State.

9. Keep being aggressive

Former NIU coach Dave Doeren brought an aggressive mentality to his play calling, showing lots of faith in his offense to convert on fourth down. The Huskies are 18 for 23 on fourth down this year, the second-best percentage in the nation. There likely will be a couple of big opportunities for NIU to keep drives alive on fourth down.

10. Stay out of 3rd-and-long situations

Lynch’s ability to be a dual-threat quarterback has given defenses trouble all season. The Seminoles boast one of the best defenses in the country, allowing opponents to convert only 27 percent of third downs. Getting to shorter third downs will keep Florida State off balance and make NIU’s play calls more unpredictable.

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