December 24, 2013

Poinsettia Bowl Pick: Utah State vs. Northern Illinois

Poinsettia Bowl Matchup: Utah State Aggies vs. Northern Illinois Huskies

Date/Time: December 26th, 9:30 ET

Television: ESPN

Poinsettia Bowl Odds from WagerWeb

Point Spread: Northern Illinois -1.5

Total: 58

The second bowl game the day after Christmas takes place in San Diego, where the Northern Illinois Huskies will have to travel quite a long way to get to the Poinsettia Bowl to take on the Utah State Aggies.

Utah State really salvaged what could have been a horrid season this year. The team lost some brutal games this season, but it was able to recover by winning its last five in the regular season before losing in the MWC Championship Game. Worse was the fact that QB Chuckie Keeton, the pride and joy of the program, was lost to a torn ACL in October, and that could have sent the team into a spiral. Instead, the defense bucked up, ultimately allowing just 17.3 point and 332.2 yards per game for the campaign. QB Darell Garretson put together some respectable numbers, but he isn’t anywhere near as good as Keeton. RB Joey DeMartino has a lot of pressure on his back in this game to keep the ball moving on the ground. He had a dozen TDs and 1,078 yards on the season, and at times, he was about all that the offense had to rely upon. He’ll have to have a good game to keep QB Jordan Lynch and the Huskies off of the field as much as possible.

Regardless of what level of football you’re playing, there’s always a bit of a level of disgust when you lose your first game and when you know your dreams are crushed. The Huskies lost out on their place in the BCS because of their loss in the MAC Championship Game, and that kept them from heading to the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Day. Instead, the club will be done playing on December 26th in a far less lucrative and far less appealing Poinsettia Bowl. Lynch though, is still playing in the final game of his excellent collegiate career, and he is sure to put this team on his back as he did for the whole 2013 (and the 2012) season. These Huskies did play some awfully good games this year. The road win against the Iowa Hawkeyes proved to be a darn good victory this year, and there were plenty of teams in the MAC who can certainly ball. We aren’t discounting the MAC as much as most, especially since Lynch had 1,881 rushing yards and 2,676 passing yards this season. We have some concerns with the secondary for NIU, which is allowing 273.8 yards per game this year, 115th in the nation, but when you can run the ball for over 300 yards per game as it did, a lot of those problems are hidden.

The Huskies are back to playing ball against teams on their own level after getting killed last year by Florida State in the Orange Bowl. The team had won a pair of bowl games prior to last year’s Orange Bowl, killing both the Fresno State Bulldogs and the Arkansas State Red Wolves in the Humanitarian Bowl and the GoDaddy.com Bowl respectively. Utah State only won its second bowl game in school history last season when it beat the Toledo Rockets in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, and interestingly enough, it has only beaten MAC schools in its bowl history.

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Adam Markowitz

is a staff writer living in the Orlando area. He has covered NFL, MLB, college football, CFL, AFL, NBA, college basketball, NASCAR, golf, tennis, and the NHL for a number of various outlets in his career, and he has been published by a number of different media outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel and the Wall Street Journal.

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