NIU's Lynch has big numbers, now come big games

NIU's Lynch has big numbers, now come big games
October 25, 2013, 1:45 pm
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Vinnie Duber

The first player to win the Heisman Trophy was University of Chicago running back Jay Berwanger in 1935.

Since, unless you've played for a college football powerhouse in a major conference, your chances of winning the award have been slim. In fact, the last player to do so was Brigham Young quarterback Ty Detmer in 1990, the same year Jordan Lynch was born.

When Northern Illinois launched its "Lynch For 6" Heisman campaign earlier this year, it likely knew there wasn't going to be much of a shot of the Huskies' senior quarterback actually being in contention when the award was handed out. Those honors go to the big boys of the SEC and the Big 12 and the Pac-12 and the Big Ten.

But, if you haven't been paying attention already, take a look at the college football landscape. You won't find many other players putting up numbers like Lynch, and you'll find even fewer doing so while leading undefeated teams. The lone exception is Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, with whom Lynch is having a very comparable season, and Mariota is arguably the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy.

[MORE: Carey trying to teach undefeated NIU a lesson from 2003]

Call it lack of respect for the MAC or whatever you will, but the fact is that NIU, a year after appearing in the Orange Bowl, is undefeated — something they weren't last season, and they still went to South Florida — and a second straight trip to a BCS game is not just a possibility, it's a good one.

Of course, that's mostly thanks to Lynch, the quarterback who runs one of the most prolific offenses in the land. The Huskies rank seventh in the country with 519.9 yards of offense each week and 21st in the country with 39.4 points per game.

Personally, Lynch has more rushing yards (932) than all but three players in college football. He's the only quarterback in the top 13 rushers, and he's one of just two quarterbacks in the top 56. He ranks ninth in the country with 2,420 yards of total offense, trailing, for the most part, quarterbacks who have done it mostly with their arms.

The most eye-popping day yet came in Northern's win just last week against Central Michigan, when Lynch set a new FBS record for rushing yards in a single game by a quarterback. He picked up 316.

[RELATED: Lynch sets FBS record as Northern Illinois stays unbeaten]

And it wasn't his first trip to the NCAA record books either. Before his senior season even started, Lynch already held the records for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single season (1,815), the most 100-yard rushing games by a quarterback in a single season (12) and the most rushing yards per game by a quarterback in a single season (129.6). Last season, he also became the first player in college football history to rush for 1,500 yards and pass for 3,000 yards in a season and the first to pass for 400 yards and rush for 150 yards in a single game.

Lynch has been adamant about putting the team first and focusing on the next game and all those other oft-heard yet important cliches. But the truth is that his statistical achievements could potentially be overshadowed by those team achievements. If Lynch and the Huskies keep playing like this against MAC competition, they'll be in prime position for another invitation to a BCS bowl game, something unheard of not just in Northern Illinois history but in MAC history, as well.

This is the BCS's final season, and in its previous 15 seasons of existence, only 12 teams outside the six "BCS conferences" (those earning automatic bids) have reached a BCS bowl game, and four of those have been independent Notre Dame. Of the remaining eight, only one has been from the MAC, last year's Northern Illinois team. A second trip would be just the second in conference history, and it would match NIU with Utah, TCU and Boise State (two of those teams have since joined BCS conferences) as two-time BCS visitors. And Lynch would be the quarterback for both.

[MORE NCAA: Big Ten previews: Lions get bowl-like setting vs. Buckeyes]

That's what Lynch is really going after.

In the end, if not for some unforeseen downturn in production, Lynch figures to be one of college football's statistical greats at season's close. In fact, with all his record-setting, he'll likely be one of college football's all-time statistical greats. Will that be enough to get him into the Heisman conversation? It's unlikely.

But neither of the last two Heisman winners have played in a BCS bowl. Lynch will likely let someone else win the Heisman as long as the Huskies are playing on one of college football's grandest stages.

The next step in that journey comes Saturday, when the Huskies take on Eastern Michigan at 2:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet.