Thursday’s bowl previews: Little Caesars, Poinsettia

12/25/2013 6:55 PM

12/29/2013 7:29 PM

Little Caesars Pizza Bowl

Pittsburgh vs. Bowling Green

5 p.m. Thursday, Ford Field, Detroit

TV: ESPN

Records: Pittsburgh 6-6, 3-5 Atlantic Coast Conference; Bowling Green 10-3, 7-1 Mid-American

Key points: Bowling Green closed the regular season with a dominant five-game winning streak, beating Miami (Ohio) 45-3, Ohio 49-0, Eastern Michigan 58-7, Buffalo 24-7 and Northern Illinois 47-27 in the MAC championship game. Quarterback Matt Johnson threw a career-high five touchdowns to help rout Northern Illinois, including four in the first half. Bowling Green will try to keep rolling against a Pittsburgh team that has lost five of its last eight games after starting the season 3-1. The Panthers have been inconsistent. They defeated Notre Dame and Duke, which lost in the ACC championship game, but couldn’t put together a win streak after September.

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

Utah State vs. No. 23 Northern Illinois

8:30 p.m. Thursday , Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego

Records: Utah State 8-5, 7-1 Mountain West; Northern Illinois 12-1, 8-0 Mid-American

Key Points: Northern Illinois seemed on track to bust into the BCS for a second straight season, but Bowling Green’s MAC championship upset of the Huskies ended that dream. Instead of playing the underdog role again, Northern Illinois will be the favorite against Utah State. But the Huskies, led by senior QB and Heisman finalist Jordan Lynch, shouldn’t overlook the Aggies. Utah State has a stingy defense, giving up just 17.3 points and 332.1 yards per game. Senior linebacker Jake Doughty led that defense with 140 total tackles and 10.5 tackles for loss. Doughty and his teammates will have a tough task in slowing down Lynch, however. Lynch has thrown for 2,676 yards and 23 touchdowns this year and also leads the Huskies with 1,881 yards and 22 touchdowns rushing.

Tarrant ties: Utah State sophomore linebacker and Crowley High School ex La’Bradford Harold has played in seven games and recorded five total tackles.

— Brent Shirley

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