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Utah State in the Poinsettia Bowl — Ranking the rankings

Published December 11, 2013 10:16 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Just like any industry, the sports journalism world has its trends. In bowl season, that means rankings.

Most major outlets have tried to put their stamp on bowl season previews with a watchability or power ranking system for the various bowl games. I won't do that, but I will make a ranking of the rankings based on one bit of criteria: where the Poinsettia Bowl match-up between Utah State and Northern Illinois ended up.

Note that this is an objective list and has nothing to do with my personal opinion as to how valid the rankings are. Bear with me as we go through the rankings here from lowest to highest.

6. Sports on Earth • The Poinsettia Bowl falls in at No. 24. You'll see a common thread throughout these analyses that Utah State fans can understand: If only Chuckie Keeton were healthy, what a quarterback match-up it'd be. Still, writer Matt Brown picks the Aggies to win it.

Still, Utah State can challenge Jordan Lynch with its defense, which frustrated Derek Carr and ranks seventh in yards per play allowed. It's certainly a disappointing turn of events for Northern Illinois, which had Fiesta Bowl hopes, and the Aggies may do enough to frustrate Lynch in his final college game and pull out a win.

5. Yahoo Sports • Graham Watson picks USU-NIU at No. 23. It's ahead of a few major conference match-ups, but Watson also sees the Huskies playing a Mountain West team as a downside.

Both of these teams had a chance to play for the respective conference titles and failed, but the loss hurt Northern Illinois just a bit more since it also cost the Huskies a potential BCS bowl game. Playing another team from outside the automatic qualifying conferences is a tough consolation prize.

4. NFL.com • Here, the Aggies and Huskies rise to No. 19. Mike Huguenin questions whether Northern Illinois will truly bring it for the game after losing its grip on a BCS berth.

Hmm, let's talk motivation issues. NIU was one win away from a second consecutive BCS appearance. Instead, the Huskies end up in San Diego in a third-tier bowl against a five-loss team missing its quarterback.

3. ESPN • At No. 18, the Poinsettia Bowl checks in. Again, another "NIU must deal with disappointment" capsule. A little on the Aggies and what they've been through. Jordan Lynch. Wash, rinse, repeat.

The Huskies' stunning 47-27 loss to Bowling Green in Friday night's MAC championship game knocked them out of a BCS bowl game. They'll have to regroup emotionally to play the Aggies, who went 5-2 after losing star quarterback Chuckie Keeton to a knee injury in a 31-14 loss to BYU on Oct. 4. Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch will put the finishing touches on what has been a brilliant college career.

2. Sports Illustrated • Stewart Mandel puts Aggies-Huskies at No. 17 - the Poinsettia Bowl reaches the upper half for the first time! Mandel sees some interest in the offense-defense match-up. Can Utah State do enough to stop Lynch from a milestone?

It's the last stand for Northern Illinois Heisman finalist Jordan Lynch, who needs just 119 rushing yards to become the sport's first member of the 2,000 passing yards/2,000 rushing yards club. Interestingly, Utah State allows just 107.4 rushing yards per game.

1. SB Nation • Not only is this the top ranking I've found for Utah State-Northern Illinois at No. 13, Jason Kirk calls the Poinsettia Bowl the best non-AQ match-up on the winter slate. There' is a moment of silence for the Keeton injury again, but Kirk sees much to appreciate about the game.

Still, even with Utah State down its own dual-threat quarterback due to injury, we get arguably the country's best mid-major offense vs. the country's best mid-major defense. NIU's offense ranks No. 7 in yards per play against FBS opponents, while the Aggies' defense ranks No. 8. USU is capable of doing to Heisman finalist Jordan Lynch what Bowling Green just did, but it's hard to imagine Lynch having two straight disappointing games.

If you're headed to San Diego on Dec. 26, you could be in store for the No. 24 or the No. 13 best bowl (depending on who you trust). But really, Aggie fans - is there anywhere else you'd rather be?

—Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon






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