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Poinsettia Bowl 2013: Northern Illinois To Play Utah State In San Diego

Northern Illinois' consolation prize for their loss in the MAC Championship Game is a trip to picturesque San Diego and a date with Utah State on the day after Christmas in the Poinsettia Bowl.

USA TODAY Sports

The Northern Illinois Huskies (12-1, 8-0 MAC) and Jordan Lynch will get one more opportunity on a national stage when they face the Utah State Aggies (8-5, 7-1 MWC) in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.  The game will be held at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Calif. on Thursday, December 26th.  The game will be broadcast on ESPN and is scheduled for a 9:30 p.m. kickoff.  It will immediately follow the 2013 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.

The Huskies defeated two Big Ten opponents (Iowa, Purdue) and dominated their way through their MAC schedule as they rolled up a 12-0 regular season record.  They earned their fourth consecutive trip to the MAC Championship Game, and senior quarterback Jordan Lynch was in position to be a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.  However, the Huskies ran into a buzz-saw named Bowling Green in the title game and fell 47-27.  It was their first loss in their last 26 games against conference opponents.

The MAC has a secondary agreement with the Poinsettia Bowl, and Northern Illinois is a replacement for the Army Black Knights.  Army, who would have been automatically invited to the game had they been bowl eligible, is 3-8 and will conclude their season next Saturday in their annual rivalry game with Navy.

Utah State, like NIU, suffered disappointment in their conference championship game.  Despite losing starting quarterback Chuckie Keeton to injury midway through the season, the Aggies were led by freshman signal caller Darell Garretson to a Mountain Division title.  After losing to Boise State at home on October 12th, Utah State won their final five regular season games before falling 24-17 to Fresno State in the Mountain West Championship Game.

The Aggies will be playing in a bowl game for the third consecutive year.  Both previous appearances were in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against MAC teams.  They lost to Ohio 24-23 following the 2011 season, then routed Toledo 41-15 last December.