As Ball State-Ohio trods into its second quarter, taking place in DeKalb, Illinois is a game of much greater proportions: it's essentially the MAC West Championship for the third straight year. Discuss NIU and you are discussing Jordan Lynch, a quarterback who inherited a void left by four-year starter Chandler Harnish, went to IKEA, decorated that void and really made it his own.
No school has ever boasted two different quarterbacks having seasons of 2,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards, (although in this dual-threat era, that's subject to change). And NIU did it in back-to-back years. We asked if Jordan Lynch could be that guy and he affirmatively is. We never asked if he was the best college quarterback north of West Virginia, however, and he may be that too (apologies to Denard).
What he hasn't done, however, is impress a national audience. The Iowa game — their lone loss — was on ESPNU, the Army game was on CBS Sports Network (a channel I don't get) and the rest of them have been on ESPN3 or MACDN, both which are technically national outlets but they aren't canned and served right on your television, which is what's considered "a national audience." This is ESPN2, so it definitely counts as showing the world what Lynch can do live.
And I don't think it's a question of "if." He'll get his 200 yards passing, 100 rushing, and three total TDs, or at the very least snuggle up close to those numbers. The speed, the accuracy and the decision-making are all going to exist. And #VoteLynch is going to take flight on Twitter.
Of course, the fan vote count is a fractional, almost ceremonial, component of who wins Heisman. Still, campaign away. If NIU scoots to the MAC Championship and the Huskies sprint to a 12-1 finish, maybe he sneaks into the top 10 of the voting, and it'll be grand. That's the best-case scenario. At worst he finishes the season with incredible numbers and ramps up for a 2013 title run. That's looking ahead, of course. And that's all about Lynch.
For the MAC enthusiast, we're going to figure out who wins the West. Since 2010, the division was decided by this game and fueled by an average of 64 points against Toledo, NIU has won it both times. Remember a simpler time when promising Northern Illinois seasons were doused in Rocket fuel and set ablaze? Ah, those were the days. But the script has been flipped. Suddenly the onus is on Toledo to prove that the division is anybody but NIU's. With the game being in DeKalb, I'm going to pencil this one in for the red and black, mostly because pencils have erasers.
But if Toledo can pull this off, then a new tale will unfold, starring a familiar cast of characters: A rusher named David Fluellen, buried on the depth chart last year but making the most of his chance to carry his team; Bernard Reedy, a dynamic playmaker and legitimate No. 1 receiver and return man; Dan Molls, a fierce linebacker who was third on the team in tackles last season despite missing six games due to injury; Jermaine Robinson, a disrupting cover guy in the secondary who has picked off three passes, broken up nine more and might take away one of Lynch's strengths. But it may ultimately come down to the patchwork defensive line to see if they can slow up Lynch's ultimate appendages: his legs.