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San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl Preview: Boise State Broncos vs. Northern Illinois Huskies
by Tony Finn

The 2015 Poinsettia Bowl features two of the most successful Non-Power Five Conference programs in the history of college football. The Boise State Broncos arguably have been the most prominent football program outside of the Power Five over the last decade and if the truth be told the Northern Illinois Huskies also have some bragging rights. The two programs meet in the 2015 Poinsettia Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium.

Northern Illinois is coming off yet another amazingly successful regular season, but they failed to secure the MAC title this past month losing the tilt to a capable and talented Bowling Green team. A strong start by the Boise State squad gave hope to the student body and the fan faithful that the Broncos might be in line for another trip to a New Year’s Six Bowl. These two talented football programs do battle Thursday afternoon, 4:30 p.m. ET, in San Diego with the national broadcast being aired on ESPN.

‘SAN DIEGO COUNTY CREDIT UNION POINSETTIA BOWL’

Boise State Broncos (-8, 54.5) vs. Northern Illinois Huskies

Venue: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California
Time and TV Coverage: 4:30 PM ET on ESPN

Boise State: 8-4 SU, 6-6 ATS, 6-6 O/U
Northern Illinois: 8-5 SU, 7-4-2 ATS, 6-7 O/U

Broncos

The Boise offensive is multi-dimensional and is under the direction of quarterback Brett Rypien. Sophomore running back Jeremy McNichols is the key to a Broncos balanced attack. McNichols has had a season of explosive plays, big runs but most important he has been the consistent cog in the Broncos offensive machine. McNichols is tied for the top spot in all of football with 23 touchdowns (18 rushing, five receiving). The sophomore tailback has also rushed for 1,244 total yards while posting seven 100-yard game performances. Junior wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck leads the Mountain West in receptions (82) and receiving yards (1,334).

Boise State averaged 38 points per game behind Rypien, who replaced QB Ryan Finley, after the sophomore starting signal-caller suffered a season-ending ankle injury. The nephew of former Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien passed for 2,973 yards and 17 touchdowns resulting in him earning the Mountain West Freshman of the Year honors.

The defense has seemingly had a different hero every Saturday afternoon. Defensive back Donte Deayon is the leader of the unit and is the general in the Boise secondary. Deayon has 17 career interceptions, four this season, and overall the Broncos defensive unit has a total of 28 takeaways this season. Assisting Deayon in the Boise State secondary is safety Darian Thompson, who had five picks this season and is the Mountain West’s all-time leader with 19 career interceptions.

Huskies
Northern Illinois has played musical chairs at quarterback this season beginning with injuries to junior starter Drew Hare (Achilles’ tendon) and redshirt freshman backup Ryan Graham (leg). The Huskies are utilizing their season opening third-string quarterback in Tommy Fiedler. The team plans to send Fielder to the gridiron at Qualcomm Stadium to make his second career start. There was hope that their freshman signal-caller, Graham, would regain his health and be available for the holiday bowl event in San Diego, but regardless of who starts behind center, and who is available at the quarterback position, the offense revolves around running back Joel Bouagnon and the units rushing game.

Bouagnon (1,269 yards, 18 touchdowns) figures to share a heavy brunt of the offensive load tonight with the hope will ease some of the bowl pressure on the inexperienced, Fiedler, at quarterback. Fiedler was 12-of-28 for 152 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions in a 34-14 loss to Bowling Green in the MAC title game. Feidler will have the services of veteran, and junior receiver Kenny Golladay (71 receptions for 1,122 yards and 10 touchdowns), to stretch the field.
The Huskies defense is led by senior middle linebacker Boomer Mays (108 tackles) and senior defensive end Perez Ford (five sacks). The aforementioned two, combined with Shawun Lurry, feature a gambling defense that has forced 27 total turnovers this season.

Outlook
The question marks that surround the quarterback position for the Huskies make this an even more intriguing matchup, and a contest that is difficult to prognosticate. Expecting the well-coached Boise State team to challenge the quarterback situation for the Huskies should be expected making the Huskies offense the big question mark in this holiday season’s Poinsettia Bowl.
After starting the season strong the Broncos lost focus in the second half of their league schedule. Losses to New Mexico and Air Force were the school’s first back-to-back home
losses in over 18 years. The coaching staff was forced to use a rookie behind center, QB Brett Rypien, who lived up to his prep school performances, before scuffling in November. clippings.
Northern Illinois lost five of their 13 starts, including the final two of the regular season which were the most losses since 2009 for one of the most successful programs in MAC history.

Injuries were a contributing factor in their five losses during the season and remain a hurdle for tonight’s game against an offensive minded Boise State club.