The Poinsettia Bowl, in its first incarnation from 1952-1955, began as a postseason matchup for the military academies. After the 1955 season, the bowl disappeared for half a century before being resurrected in 2005 with a sponsorship from the San Diego County Credit Union.
The Poinsettia Bowl has previously enjoyed automatic tie-ins with Navy and the Pac-12, but the 2013 game was supposed to be played between the Mountain West Conference's No. 2 team and Army, but the Black Knights' lack of bowl-eligibility and some rearranging gives us a really good game.
Date and time, ET: Dec. 26, 6:30 PM
TV channel: ESPN
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)
Northern Illinois (12-1, 8-0 MAC)
Northern Illinois was this close to their second straight season busting the BCS, but Bowling Green had other ideas. After a 12-0 regular season by the Huskies, the Falcons won the MAC Championship game 47-27, sending Northern Illinois out of contention for one of the big bowl games.
The Huskies scored a pair of victories over power conference opponents during the regular season, defeating Iowa 30-27 in the season opener and Purdue 55-24 at the end of September. An undefeated run through conference play included a 48-27 win over Ball State, but their BCS dreams came to a halt in the conference title game.
Northern Illinois is led by Jordan Lynch, who passed for over 2,500 yards and ran for over 1,800 more, with the conference title game included in those figures. He also finished the season with 45 total touchdowns, second in the nation behind Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr.
Last bowl game: 2013 Orange Bowl vs. Florida State, 31-10 loss
Last year without a bowl: 2007
All-time bowl record: 4-4
Head coach's bowl record: Rod Carey, 0-1
Utah State (8-5, 7-1 MWC)
When former Utah State head coach Gary Andersen left for Wisconsin last winter, fans worried that the program would revert to its pre-Andersen level. Before the program's breakthrough 2011 season, the Aggies had suffered through 14 consecutive losing seasons, trapped as the third FBS-level football program in a state that does not generate enough talent to support them all.
Instead, first-time head coach Matt Wells took the Aggies on a five-game winning streak to close an 8-5 season, nearly knocking off USC in the Coliseum, winning the Mountain West Mountain Division title with a 7-1 conference record, and coming within a late interception of taking the conference championship from Fresno State.
Quarterback Darell Garretson has filled in admirably for the injured Chuckie Keeton, who was pushed as a Heisman contender before suffering a season-ending knee injury in early October. Running back Joey DeMartino has run for 1,078 yards and 12 touchdowns, and three receivers -- Travis Reynolds, Travis Van Leeuwen, and Bruce Natson -- have each caught 50 or more passes. But the Aggies have won with defense: Utah State is allowing just 17.3 points per game, seventh nationally and first in the MWC.
Last bowl game: 2012 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl vs. Toledo, 41-15 win
Last year without a bowl: 2010
All-time bowl record: 2-5
Head coach's bowl record:Matt Wells, 0-0