BOISE, Idaho--By Boise State standards, it has been a disappointing football season. But in the offseason, people remember your last game, and therein lies a chance for respect for the Broncos.
Boise State is a 4-point favorite today over Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego, probably not a good thing as the Broncos' poorest performances (ala Utah State and New Mexico) came when they were heavily favored. The line was Boise State by 9, which no doubt has slipped because of the Broncos' 0-4 record against teams with winning records.
Both teams have plenty of postseason experience, with NIU playing in their eighth straight bowl game and Boise State in its 14th straight. The Broncos' run is tied for second nationally behind Florida State, Georgia, LSU and Virginia Tech, which are riding a streak of 15 straight bowl appearances.
The Huskies have lost two games in a row, and Boise State has dropped two of its last three. Neither team has its mojo, so both will be looking to get that back this afternoon.
NIU quarterback Ryan Graham returns from an injury to start this afternoon. Husky coach Rod Carey, the fourth head man for the program in the last nine seasons, has guided his team to 31 wins over the past three seasons.
Tailback Joel Bouagnon was fifth in the nation with 18 rushing touchdowns and gained 1,269 yards.
Guard Aidan Conlon and center Andrew Ness will each start for the 56th consecutive time, an FBS record. Both earned All-MAC honors.
Linebacker Boomer Mays leads NIU with 108 tackles and 298 for his career.
Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien will need to be wary of NIU sophomore cornerback Shawun Lurry, a first-team All-American who leads the nation in interceptions with nine. The strength of Paris Logan on the other side led to opportunities for Lurry.
The Bronco seniors need to win to avoid becoming the first Boise State class in 14 years to not win 40 games in their career--those seniors are currently sitting at 39. Recruited by Chris Petersen and his staff, the class of 2015 was 11-2 in 2012 and 8-5 in 2013 under Petersen before Bryan Harsin took over and guided them to a 12-2 season and a Fiesta Bowl Championship last year.
Boise State was 5-1 with wins over Washington and Virginia and cruising towards another big bowl game when eight turnovers doomed them at Utah State. A month later, the Broncos lost back-to-back games on the Blue to New Mexico and Air Force before closing the regular season with a win at San Jose State. These Broncos thus have something in common with the 1998 Boise State team, the last one to lose consecutive games at home. But to find another Boise State team that lost two games at home in consecutive weeks, one has to go back to 1995 when the Broncos were in the Big Sky Conference.
Kickoff for this afternoon's Poinsettia Bowl is at 2:30 Mountain Time.