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This game could turn out to be one of the better ones of the bowl season, yet not many are talking about it. Utah State has come around despite losing quarterback Chuckie Keeton halfway through the season and made it to the MWC title game. Northern Illinois was one win away from a BCS game after losing in the MAC championship game. The Huskies are slight -1.5 point favorites in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. The name just keeps getting longer. Odds courtesy of 5 dimes sportsbook where you can place all your wagers at a discount with reduced juice!
Checking the betting trends at sportsbook.com about a week before the game we see 84% of the early wagers have come in on Northern Illinois with 93% on the Over.
The Aggies have had quite the season, losing two close, but unfortunate games to Pac-12 teams early on only to have Keeton go down in their sixth game. Darrell Garretson came in mid-BYU game and they lost that one along with Boise State the next week. Instead of falling apart, they reeled off five straight wins led by a dominant defense. Unfortunately USU lost to Fresno State in the MWC title game, but they fought until the end and finished with an 8-5 record.
Northern Illinois' season was a bit clearer with Jordan Lynch a constant subject in Heisman predictions leading his team to a 12-1 record, one game short of a BCS bowl. As seen in their final loss, the Huskies aren't unflappable. Their suspect defense came back to haunt as Bowling Green went for 47 points. They also had close wins against teams like Iowa, Idaho and Eastern Illinois early on.
The talking point in this game will be Utah State's defense that only allowed 15.4 points per game on the season. After a couple back-to-back losses they came on strong and even in their final loss, only gave up 24 points to high-scoring Fresno State.
Can this unit stop Jordan Lynch, who has a ridiculous 45 total touchdowns on the year to go with the most rushing yards ever by a QB with 1,881. While running is Lynch's main threat, he's not a terrible passer like some of the other running QBs out there. Lynch finished with 2,676 passing yards and a 63.1 completion percentage. Running back Cameron Stingily doesn't get much credit, but he quietly put in a solid season with 1,081 yards and nine TDs.
This is going to be a test for the Aggies, but there's no question they have the pieces to stop Lynch, much like what Bowling Green did.
On the other end, Northern Illinois allowed less than 20 points per game on the season, but a lot of that is due to competition. Against viable teams, the Huskies struggled to keep any of their opponents in check.
Even though Garretson isn't the same player as Keeton, he can put points on the board. Garretson received a concussion in their final game, so keep an eye on that, but it's unlikely he will miss this game because of it. Garretson hasn't been great, but anyone that reels off five straight wins deserves some credit. In seven games of work he has nine TDs and five interceptions, completing 60 percent of his passes. RB Joey DeMartino (1,078 yards, 12 TDs) will be used plenty in the rushing game with the hopes of keeping Lynch off the field.
Can a stout Utah State defense stop Lynch? Can a weaker Northern Illinois defense contain Garretson? In these situations, most people side with the better offense, but that's not always the final result.
The Aggies are 12-3 ATS in their last 15 non-conference games and 12-4 ATS in their last 16 vs. a team with a winning record. The Huskies are 3-10-1 ATS in their last 14 neutral site games and only 2-7 ATS in their last nine games on grass.
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