Two of the best non-power conference teams in the country will square off in an early bowl game as Northern Illinois and Utah State will play in this year's Poinsettia Bowl. Television coverage begins at 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
The Huskies looked on track for a BCS-busting bowl bid, with a Heisman candidate in Jordan Lynch and a perfect 12-0 record in regular season play. In the MAC Championship Game they faced a solid Bowling Green team that many predicted they could handle. Then Matt Johnson happened, leading the Falcons to an upset victory and leaving the Huskies to play in this game.
Utah State's season appeared to be over when Chuckie Keeton suffered a year-ending injury, but the Aggies responded under first-year head coach Matt Wells. Utah State has a phenomenal defense, and watching them go up against the bulldozer that is Lynch will be one of the more intriguing matchups this bowl season.
Rankings and records: Northern Illinois is ranked No. 23. Utah State is unranked. Northern Illinois went 12-1, with an 8-0 conference record good for the division title. Utah State went 8-5, winning their division with a 7-1 conference record. Utah State won the only matchup between the two schools, way back in 1995.
Vegas: Northern Illinois is a 1.5-point favorite. The over/under is 58 points.
Weather: The high will reach the 70s during the day, cooling down into the 50s at night.
Three names to know
Jordan Lynch. Northern Illinois' Heisman candidate quarterback is an absolute bulldozer of a runner, but is an able passer as well.
Jimmie Ward. The Huskies' secondary struggled against Bowling Green, but the senior safety has six interceptions and eight passes broken up this season.
Joey DeMartino. Even with the changing guard at quarterback, the senior running back has been consistent -- he's averaging 5.4 yards per carry and has scored 12 touchdowns this season.
Two things at stake
Northern Illinois lost its BCS shot in the MAC title game and will be looking not to end its season on a disappointing note.
Utah State had a strong year despite the loss of their star quarterback, and a win here would give the Aggies positive momentum moving into next year.
How to witness
TV: 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Radio: Here's a list of affiliates for Utah State. For Northern Illinois, tune in to 1360 AM and 98.9 FM.
Online streaming: WatchESPN.
Location: San Diego, CA
Stadium: Qualcomm Stadium (capacity: 70,561)
Tickets: Find available seats here.
Last year's score: BYU 23, San Diego State 6
Last year's attendance: 35,442
Last year's TV rating: 1.5 share (2.2 million viewers)
Last year's payout for each school: $500,000
Team with the most all-time appearances: TCU and Navy (3)
Team with the most all-time wins: TCU (3)