Can Northern Illinois grab Poinsettia Bowl win vs. Utah State?

Can Northern Illinois grab Poinsettia Bowl win vs. Utah State?
December 13, 2013, 12:15 pm
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Vinnie Duber

It's not the game NIU thought it'd be playing in this bowl season, but it's reality.

The Huskies are heading to the Poinsettia Bowl to take on Utah State on Dec. 26 in San Diego. Not as exciting as what could have been.

Had Northern avoided that dreadful 47-27 loss to Bowling Green in the MAC Championship Game, the Huskies would be staring at one of college football's two undefeated records and likely preparing for a BCS bowl, which would have been their second in as many seasons.

But instead, NIU tripped up at the worst possible time, allowing Bowling Green — which has been a good team all season, with one of the nation's best defenses — to pile up the points. Meanwhile, that strong Falcons defense limited the Huskies, who matched their lowest offensive output of the season.

Thus, NIU, after a dream season with a nightmare ending, is waking up in the Poinsettia Bowl.

Of course, the Huskies shouldn't be too disappointed. Their achievements are unparalleled by a team from the MAC, their quarterback is heading to New York as one of six finalists for the Heisman Trophy and the chance to post a 13-1 record still exists.

[MORE: Heisman Trophy finalist Jordan Lynch 'going there to win']

To do that, NIU will have to get by Utah State, a team that has its own defensive prowess to brag about. The Aggies have the seventh-best scoring defense in the country (17.3 points per game) and the 12th-best total defense (332.1 yards per game).

What should really interest the Huskies, however, is the Aggies' 10th-ranked rushing defense, allowing 107.3 yards per game on the ground. Northern posted the country's fifth-best rushing attack this season, rushing for 312.5 yards per game. That was of course led by quarterback Jordan Lynch, that aforementioned Heisman candidate who heads into bowl season as the second most prolific rusher in the country with 1,881 yards on the ground.

But the Aggies' pass defense is not nearly as good, ranking 56th in the nation, allowing 224.8 yards per game. Lynch has excelled through the air this season, as well, averaging more than 205 yards per game. He only had one game this season in which he didn't throw a touchdown pass.

The Poinsettia Bowl will be just the second all-time meeting between Northern and Utah State, with the first coming during the 1995 season (a win for the Aggies). Northern will also be looking to score its first win in the Poinsettia Bowl after losing to TCU in its only previous appearance back in 2006.

So while this isn't the big-time BCS bowl many observers assumed NIU would land in, the Poinsettia Bowl does offer plenty of motivation for the Huskies. It's Lynch's last game, and if sending him out with a win — and maybe a few more records — isn't enough, grabbing a postseason win after last year's Orange Bowl defeat should be.

A consolation prize? Sure, but one the Huskies want to make sure they win.

Check out the video above for a complete bowl breakdown from's JJ Stankevitz and Vinnie Duber, and be sure to look for more bowl-preview videos as the college football postseason marches on.