NCAA Football Northern Illinois Huskies

5 Reasons to Watch the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

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Poinsettia Bowl: Northern Illinois vs. Utah State

Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

The Northern Illinois Huskies had no plans to be in the Poinsettia Bowl, no plans to be looking for redemption. Through an undefeated regular season, the Huskies had dreams of returning to the BCS after falling to Florida State last year in the Orange Bowl.

All of Northern Illinois' plans and dreams fell apart, however, in the MAC Championship Game, when the Huskies were blasted by the Bowling Green Falcons, 47-27, In an instant, everything Northern Illinois had been playing for had vanished. From a BCS buster and likely playing Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl to now facing the Utah State Aggies in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, much of the talk around this game will be whether the Huskies will be ready for a spot that could be considered a letdown. How does a team rise up when many of its dreams for the season are gone?

To only look at that view, however, would be to discredit a good football team in Utah State. This is an Aggies team that won five straight games before losing to the Fresno State Bulldogs in the Mountain West Conference Championship Game. While the Aggies don't have any notable wins in their 8-5 record, Utah State fell to USC Trojans by just three points, and its defeat to Fresno State came by just seven.

There is plenty to watch for in the Poinsettia Bowl, a game which traditionally is one of the more entertaining games each bowl season. here are five reasons to watch the Poinsettia Bowl.

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5. Can Northern Illinois Defense Recover from MAC Championship Beatdown?

5 Defense
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Entering the MAC Championship Game, the Northern Illinois defense had allowed 20 points or less in six of their last seven games. Then, the unit was shredded by Bowling Green for 47 points in the Huskies' most important game of the year. In the Poinsettia Bowl, Northern Illinois faces a Utah State team that has scored 40 points or more five times this season. If the Huskies aren't on their game and put in an effort similar to that seen in the MAC title game, Northern Illinois is going to have a much tighter game with Utah State than many are expecting.

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4. Poinsettia Bowl Often an Offensive Bonanza

Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

In the short history of the Poinsettia Bowl, offense has been the norm and that probably won't be any different with Northern Illinois and Utah State meeting in the 2013 version of the game. In the nine Poinsettia Bowls that have been played (not counting an unrelated bowl game of the same name that was played decades ago), the winner has scored at least 30 points on six occasions. Northern Illinois averages 41.6 points per game in 2013, while Utah State checks in at 32.6.

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3. NIU Running Back Cameron Stingily Also a Threat

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An underrated piece of the Northern Illinois offensive attack and a player to watch in the Poinsettia Bowl is Huskies running back Cameron Stingily. With all the rushing and passing focus on NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch, Stingily has quietly rushed for 1,081 yards this season and nine touchdowns, all while averaging an impressive 5.6 yards per carry. Look for Stingily to have a big day in the Poinsettia Bowl if Utah State's defense focuses too much on Lynch, as most defenses do.

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2. Utah State Rolling with New Quarterback Darell Garretson

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Did you know that there are two quarterbacks who are going to play in the Poinsettia Bowl? While Northern Illinois finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting, Utah State quarterback Darell Garretson quietly stepped in at mid-season and changed the Aggies' fortunes for the better. Garretson, a freshman, debuted against Boise State on Oct. 12, a 34-23 loss for Utah State. From there, however, the Aggies won five straight games with Garretson at quarterback, falling only to Fresno State in the Mountain West title game. Garretson has thrown for 1,325 yards and completed 60 percent of his passes.

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1. NIU Quarterback Jordan Lynch Among Nation's Top Players

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Without fail, the No. 1 reason you should watch the Poinsettia Bowl is Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch. Twice this season, Lynch has run for more than 300 yards in a game. He ran for 1,881 yards this season, while throwing for 2,676 more. He averages 351 yards of offense per game, and needs 443 in this game for 5,000 for the season. Lynch is a must-see player who has thrown or run for 45 touchdowns this season (3.46 per game!).