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College Football
Utah State vs Northern Illinois
When: 9:30 PM ET, Thursday, December 26, 2013
Where: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California

1. Heisman Trophy finalist Jordan Lynch plays the final game of his stellar college career when No. 23 Northern Illinois faces Utah State in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 26. Lynch has passed for 2,676 yards and 23 touchdowns, but it is his running abilities that allowed him to crash the Heisman festivities and finish third in the balloting. Lynch rushed for 1,881 yards and 22 scores and twice ran for more than 300 yards in a game.

2. The Huskies were hoping to play in a BCS bowl for the second straight year but were relegated to the Poinsettia Bowl after losing to Bowling Green in the Mid-American Conference title game. A victory would give Northern Illinois the first 13-win season in school history while Utah State is playing in back-to-back-to-back bowls for the first time ever and is looking for the third bowl victory in school history.

3. The Aggies lost star quarterback Chuckie Keeton at midseason and it was thought their fortunes would spiral downward. But Utah State rebounded to win its final five regular-season games and is brimming with confidence after giving Fresno State a hard battle in the Mountain West title game before succumbing.

TV: 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Northern Illinois -1.5

ABOUT NORTHERN ILLINOIS (12-1, 8-0 Mid-American Conference): The Huskies average 41.6 points and 535.5 total yards with nearly 60 percent of the production (312.5) coming on the ground. Lynch is complemented by running back Cameron Stingily (1,081, nine touchdowns) and his favorite targets are possession receiver Tommylee Lewis (80 catches, 660 yards) and big-play wideout Da’Ron Brown (42 for 689, nine TDs). Northern Illinois allows 25.4 points per game and the defense is led by safety Jimmie Ward (team leader with 89 tackles and six interceptions), outside linebacker Jamaal Bass (81 stops) and middle linebacker Boomer Mayes (77 tackles).

ABOUT UTAH STATE (8-5, 7-1 Mountain West): The Aggies are stout on defense, ranking seventh in scoring defense (17.3), 10th in rushing defense (107.3) and 12th in total defense (332.1) while featuring several standouts. Inside linebackers Jake Doughty (140 tackles, 10.5 for loss) and Zach Vigil (115 tackles, 12.5 for loss) are always around the ball while cornerback Nevin Lawson and safety Brian Suite each have four interceptions. Freshman Darell Garretson (1,325 yards, nine touchdowns) replaced Keeton at quarterback for an offense that also features running back Joey DeMartino (1,078 yards, 12 scores) and three wideouts who caught 50 or more passes in Bruce Natson (56), Travis Reynolds (51) and Travis Van Leeuwen (50).

PREDICTION: Northern Illinois 37, Utah State 31
Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W/L Strk PF PA Home Away Grass Turf Conf
Utah State 8-5 L1 32.6 17.3 4-2 4-3 2-1 0-0 7-2
Northern Illinois 12-1 L1 41.6 25.4 5-1 7-0 1-0 0-0 8-1
Last Meeting
Utah State Northern Illinois
Date Away Home Tot Rus Pas Tot Rus Pas
10/14/95 NIU 7 USU 42 0 0 0 0 0 0
Player Stats
Previous Matchup
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Utah State N/A
Northern Illinois N/A
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Utah State N/A
Northern Illinois N/A
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Utah State N/A
Northern Illinois N/A
Touchdowns Player TD
Utah State N/A
Northern Illinois N/A
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Utah State C. Keeton 69.4 1388 18 2
Northern Illinois J. Lynch 63.1 2676 23 7
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Utah State J. DeMartino 198 1078 5.4 12
Northern Illinois J. Lynch 274 1881 6.9 22
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Utah State T. Reynolds 51 832 16.3 4
Northern Illinois D. Brown 42 689 16.4 9
Touchdowns Player TD
Utah State J. DeMartino 13
Northern Illinois J. Lynch 23
Quickchart Matchup
Utah State Off vs  Northern Illinois Def
420.9 yards
423.9 yards
4.3 yards/rush
3.9 yards/rush
7 yards/attempt
7.3 yards/attempt
Northern Illinois Off vs  Utah State Def
535.5 yards
332.2 yards
6.6 yards/rush
2.8 yards/rush
7.6 yards/attempt
6.5 yards/attempt