Northern Illinois takes on Utah State in the ninth annual San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. Here’s everything you need to know about the game.
Northern Illinois (12-1, 8-0 in the MAC) wasn’t planning on spending the holidays in San Diego. After an undefeated regular season, they had aspirations of a BCS Bowl. That all went out the window after a humiliating 47-27 loss top Bowling Green in the MAC championship game. Utah State (8-5, 7-1 in the Mountain West) picked up the pieces from an awful start to the season, as well as the loss of starting quarterback Chuckie Keaton to a knee injury midway through the season, winning five of its final six games.
Who to Watch
Utah State: Senior running back Joey DeMartino is a Mt. Carmel High School product. He leads the team in rushing with 1,078 yards and 12 touchdowns this year, including six games with more than 100 yards.
Northern Illinois: Quarterback Jordan Lynch is possibly the most exciting player in the country. The senior from Chicago threw for 2,676 yards and 23 touchdowns and ran for 22 more while finishing third in Heisman Trophy balloting.
It is Northern Illinois’ second appearance in the bowl – they lost to Texas Christian, 37-7, in 2006. The Huskies are 4-4 all-time in bowl games, including a 31-10 loss to Florida State in last year’s Orange Bowl.
Utah State has played in eight bowl games in the school’s history, winning two of them. The Aggies won last year’s Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against Toledo, 41-15, to finish ranked No. 16 in the nation.
Utah State coach Matt Wells: “I got a lot of respect for Joey (DeMartino) because he turned his career around right in the middle of the season last year. Kid sat behind three NFL running backs (Robert Turbin, Michael Smith, and Kerwynn Williams) he sat behind them and bid his time. … The kid stepped up to become a 1,000-yard rusher. He's a grinder, he's a tough kid and he's excited to come back here and play in front of a lot of family and friends and high school teammates and coaches that are going to come out and see him play.
Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey: I took a picture from my hotel room of the marina and the bay there and texted it back to my kids and there was an aircraft carrier out there. My little boy Charlie got on the phone and he's never seen one of them. I know he's fired up! I know our guys are fired up, too. They really are. There are a lot of different venues we have been to on the stretch that we have been, going to bowl games and from my impressions right now this is as good as there is.”
Who Will Win
Northern Illinois is favored by 1.5 points and has a huge advantage at quarterback. But will the Huskies be motivated to play after missing out on a second straight BCS Bowl? As long as they are, Lynch’s playmaking ability should be enough for them to win.