The Northern Illinois Huskies were one win away from making their second straight trip the BCS in 2013 before running into a brick wall in the form of the Bowling Green Falcons in the MAC Championship game. Bowling Green’s top-ten defense contained the high-powered offensive attack of NIU and upset the Huskies to keep them from busting the BCS yet again. Northern Illinois will have to find a way to bounce back offensively in a hurry, however, as they face another tough defensive challenge in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl against the Utah State Aggies.
The MAC title game was the first time all season long that NIU failed to score at least 30 points in a game. Combined with a rough day on defense, the Huskies faced a lopsided upset loss at the hands of the Falcons thanks to their physical defense which were able to keep Heisman Trophy finalist Jordan Lynch somewhat contained and even forced a pair of interceptions out of the offensive leader of the Huskies’ attack.
They will need to figure out what went wrong in a hurry, though, as Utah State brings a similarly stingy defense to the Poinsettia Bowl. The Aggies rank No. 12 nationally in total defense this season and No. 10 against the run. They have a physical defensive front that helped turn around Utah State’s season after a rough 3-3 start to 2013 that ended up in the Moutain West Conference Championship game in their very first year in the conference.
NIU will be challenged by the Aggies when they square off. If they stumble in the same way they did against Bowling Green, Lynch will leave the Huskies with a disappointing and unsatisfying finale to his collegiate career. Can the Huskies fix what failed them in the MAC title game and come out ahead against Utah State?