From Bowl Championship Series to San Diego Credit Union.
That's the far-from-glorious path No. 23 Northern Illinois has taken, seeing a second consecutive BCS bid slip through its hands after a 47-27 drubbing by Bowling Green in the MAC title game. Its consolation prize?
The Poinsettia Bowl, against 8-5 Utah State.
While the disappointment for the Huskies is palpable, however, don't for a second think head coach Rod Carey is going to let his team play with a lack of motivation.
“This game doesn’t define us — we’re not going to let it,” Carey said after the defeat, via The Washington Post. “We still have a lot to play for.”
Heisman finalist quarterback Jordan Lynch added, "We never talked about the BCS."
The Huskies better keep that mindset at Qualcomm Stadium, because Utah State has won five of its past six games and features the type of stingy defense that will make Lynch's dynamic offense uncomfortable.
Date: Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013
Time: 9:30 p.m. ET
Where: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, Calif.
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Odds: Northern Illinois (-1.5), via Covers
Storyline: Can Utah State's Defense Slow Down Jordan Lynch?
The Aggies are giving up 18.2 points per game, which is the eighth-best mark in the country, per TeamRankings.com. They're best against the run, where they are giving up a minuscule 2.8 yards per carry.
That's not exactly good news for the Huskies, who get most of their offensive production via the ground. They are averaging 307.9 rushing yards per contest on 6.5 yards per carry.
Lynch, who finished third in Heisman voting, is at the center of that, with 1,881 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns on the season. He's had an absurd eight games where he's surpassed 100 yards on the ground and two where he went for 300 or more.
Something's got to give.
Prediction: Utah State 31, Northern Illinois 38
The Aggies' defense is stout, but they haven't faced anyone like Lynch.
On the other side of the field, the Huskies don't exactly have an elite defense, but Utah State doesn't have the same kind of offensive firepower to keep up.