About this time last year, Boise State was coming off its eighth straight win and was preparing for a Fiesta Bowl matchup against No. 10 Arizona - a game it would win to finish 12-2.
Also about this time last year, Northern Illinois was coming off seven straight wins and a MAC championship blowout of Bowling Green.
A lot can happen in a year -- and a lot has in the journeys for both teams. The bottom line is that both will meet Wednesday in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.
Here's quick look at the two teams:
Who: Boise State vs Northern Illinois
Where: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA.
When: 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 23
8-4, 5-3 Mountain West (2nd, Mountain Division)
>> Boise State opened the season with a 16-13 win over Washington, but fell to BYU the following week, 35-24. The Broncos then ran off four straight victories before splitting the final six games with a 3-3 mark. The final outing was a 40-23 win over San Jose State.
>> The Broncos ranked 16th nationally in scoring offense (37.8 ppg). BSU ranked 50th rushing the ball(184.25 ypg) and 20th in passing (304.3 ypg).
Boise State has totaled over 100 points in each each quarter for the season (118, 117, 110, 108). Opponents totaled, respectively, 47, 101, 40 and 68.
>> Quarterback Brett Rypien has completed 244 of 390 passes (62.6%), good for 2,973 yards and 17 touchdowns. Rypien, nephew of former NFL Pro Bowl QB Mark Rypien tossed seven interceptions on the season.
>> The main target for Rypien is Thomas Sperbeck. The 6-0, 175-pound junior has 82 catches for 1,224 yards and eight touchdown. Shane Williams-Rhodes is second on the team with 55 catches (430 yards).
>> The Broncos also give their running backs a role in the passing game. Sophomore Jeremy McNichols (5-9, 205) owns 46 receptions(third on team), including five receving TDs.
Of course, McNichols does even more damage running the ball. His 221 trips have yielded 1,244 yards (5.6 ypc), and 18 rushing touchdowns.
Senior Kelsey Young (5-10, 198) picked up 457 yards and seven TDs on his 91 carries.
>> The Broncos rank 25th nationally in scoring defense (21.3 ppg). They are 12th against the run (117.67) and 66th against the pass (223.4 ypg).
>> Lineback Ben Weaver (66), safety Darian Thompson (63) and linebacker Tanner Vallejo (57) are the Broncos top tacklers. Kamelei Correa. Thompson and nose tackle Armand Nance each have 7.5 tfl, while Kamelei Correa owns a team-high 8.5 tfl and 5.0 sacks.
>> Placekicker Tyler Rausa has converted 23 of 28 (82.1%), with a long of 51. He was 7 of 8 from 40-49 yards.
NORTHERN ILLINOIS HUSKIES
(8-5, 6-1 MAC, 1ST MAC West)
>> The overwhelming question for NIU is how it can perform with backups handling quarterback duties. The Huskies got through the first half of the season with starter Drew Hare. However, he suffered a season-ending injury in the second quarter of a critical win at Toledo. Redshirt freshman Ryan Graham stepped in and guided the Huskies to several critical victories before suffering a serious injury in a regular season-final loss to Ohio. True freshman Tommy Fiedler was forced into his first collegiate action. When Toledo lost to WMU, it put Northern Illinois in the MAC championship game. Fielder was forced to start and struggled at times in a 34-14 Huskies loss. Fiedler completed 12 of 28 for 152 yards with one TD and three interceptions.
>> Statistically, the Huskies offense thrives on the running game, which ranks 29th nationally (205.15 ypg). Junior Joel Bouagnon (6-2, 226) is the workhorse. He owns 275 carries for 1,269 yards (97.6 ypg, 2nd MAC) with 18 touchdowns. He logged six games with over 100 yards rushing,including a season-high 156 Nov. 11 against Buffalo. However, he failed to get more than 70 yards in any of the last three contests and defenses may be able to able to better contain him while NIU's passing threat is in the hands of freshmen. If Graham is able to return and pass effectively, it could also breath some life into the running game at the same time.
>> Kenny Golladay, a transfer from North Dakota, has been a major impact player for the Huskies receiving corps. He leads the team with 71 catches for 1,122 yards with 10 TDs.
Senior Tommy Lee Lewis, another key target, suffered his own season-ending injury against Toledo - just a few plays before Hare went down.
>> The Northern Illinois defense, while not a "shutdown" unit, has kept the Huskies in a number of games -- even after the Huskies loss key offensive players. NIU was fifth in the MAC in scoring defense (25.5 ppg), sixth in total defense (400.2 ypg), sixth against the (166.8 ypg) and seventh against the pass (233.4 ypg).
>> Despite a late season swing with the young quarterbacks at the helm, Northern Illinois finished plus-3 on turnover margin.
>> Boomer Mays leads the team in tackles with 108, including 68 solos and 5.0 tfl. Marlin Moore (96 tackles), Brandon Mayes (81) and Sean Folliard are also among the team leaders.
>> Sophomore cornerback Shawun Lurry leads the nation in interceptions (9).