SAN DIEGO (AP) While many Boise State fans wished their team would have been good enough to return to the Fiesta Bowl, the Poinsettia Bowl isn't that bad of a destination for the Broncos.
Boise State (8-4) lists 44 players from California on its roster for Wednesday afternoon's game against Northern Illinois (8-5).
Most of them are from Southern California.
Coach Bryan Harsin hopes to attract even more.
''Obviously that's a large portion of our team,'' Harsin said. ''California's a big area for us in recruiting.''
Among the Broncos from Southern California are running back Jeremy McNichols of Long Beach and safety Darian Thompson of Lancaster. Star wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck is from Carmichael in Northern California.
''You know, Boise is a place if you haven't been there, I think the first thing, we joke about this, I think it's a blue field with a bunch of potato farms around it, OK?'' Harsin said. ''So when we get `em on campus, when we get `em to Boise, Idaho, I think they see that environment, not just the football facilities and the school itself but Boise, Idaho, and the people.
''There are quite a few people from California that have moved into Boise, Idaho, as well, so I just think they feel like this is a place they can come there and thrive. It just makes sense. So to be here, to be in this game, it's huge for us, and it's something that we also look at not just who we are playing and what we're doing in the bowl game but where we're going, and this is big.''
The Broncos have played at Qualcomm Stadium before, both against Mountain West Conference foe San Diego and in the 2008 Poinsettia Bowl, when their undefeated season ended with a 17-16 loss to TCU.
This is NIU's second Poinsettia Bowl appearance in three seasons.
''We're probably going to have to come out here and start recruiting, is probably the first thing it means to us,'' coach Rod Carey said. ''We don't actively recruit out here, but certainly being out here, hopefully more to come in the future, that we will open up that door. It means a lot.
''The bowl game is exactly what you would think a bowl game would be. It's a reward. It's also a great opportunity to play against a great opponent in Boise.''
Here are some things to watch in the Poinsettia Bowl:
RUNNING BACKS: The two featured backs put up nearly identical numbers. McNichols ran for 1,244 yards and 18 touchdowns. NIU's Joel Bouagnon was named to the All-Mid-American Conference first team after rushing for 1,269 yards and 18 touchdowns. McNichols replaced Jay Ajayi, who is a rookie with the Miami Dolphins. Ajayi scored his first NFL touchdown at Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday in a 30-14 loss to the Chargers.
WHICH UNI? Other than wearing white jerseys as visitors, the Broncos won't reveal until Wednesday what their full uniform combination will be. The Broncos have four different helmets and five colors of pants to choose from.
NEED A WIN: The Huskies have lost two straight, including a 34-14 loss to Bowling Green in the Mid-American Conference championship game.
''I think the guys have done a good job of understanding what took place in the MAC championship game and where our shortcomings were, and that probably took longer than 24 hours, to be honest,'' Carey said. ''That one hurt a little bit. But I think the guys are past it, the coaches are past it, and certainly as soon as we turned on the film of Boise, we all got past it really, really quick, OK? Because they will snap you in really quick with what you see on film.''
BEEN HERE BEFORE: Harsin, a former Broncos quarterback, came to the 2008 Poinsettia Bowl as BSU's offensive coordinator-quarterbacks coach and was Texas' co-offensive coordinator-quarterbacks coach when the Longhorns played in the 2011 Holiday Bowl, the big brother of the Poinsettia Bowl.
CONSISTENCY: BSU is in its 14th straight bowl and NIU is in its eighth straight.
''You look at it, they're committed to the run and committed to stopping the run and being dynamic on both sides of the ball, and they do it the right way,'' Carey said. ''You can see those similarities, and I would like to think we're coming in that area, and we have done some good things that way, too, but certainly it's a little bit like looking in the mirror.''