Danny Wilde US PRESSWIRE
Wherein we (Mike and Geeves) here at Hustle Belt discuss the comparative merits of the two likely front-runners for conference Player of the Year: Kent State's Dri Archer and Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch.
Jordan Lynch is the MAC Player of the Year. In fact, Jordan Lynch should be in the debate for the Maxwell, Camp, and even the *gasp* Heisman Trophy. Why? He's the most complete, dominant football player in the country, and it's hard to find anyone who has a more significant impact on their team.
This is the case because Jordan Lynch is the Northern Illinois offense. Lynch's numbers, looking at solely his passing statistics, are neither earth-shattering nor pedestrian: 229.2 passing yards per game (#48 in FBS), 8.6 yards per attempt (#11), a quarterback rating of 157.3 (#13), and a 23:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He's great as a passing quarterback, that much is certain.
Where Lynch really shines and separates himself from the field is his skill in running the football. Lynch currently stands at #4 in the nation in rushing yards with 1,611. Not among quarterbacks, among the entire FBS - and almost 300 yards more than Dri Archer. Lynch is only 146 yards off the lead for the rushing title this year, an honor that hasn't been held by a quarterback since the dawn of time, or at least the dawn of NCAA record-keeping. This is not insignificant.
Lynch has already become just the second-ever quarterback to rush for over 1,500 yards and pass for over 2,500 in the same season, and with two games left he will likely shatter Denard Robinson's record for QB rushing yards in a season (1,702). He's likely to join Johnny Manziel in the 3,000 passing yard, 1,000 rushing yard club, and it's even borderline conceivable that he could finish with 2,000 rushing and 3,000 passing yards, something that no quarterback has even come close to doing.
Yardage is not the only thing Jordan Lynch has going for him. He is also third in the country in points responsible for, a figure that accounts for passing touchdowns in additional to traditional points scored by rushing, receiving, defense and special teams. Lynch has been responsible for 228 points this season, or more than three touchdowns per game. By comparison, Dri Archer has been responsible for 132 points, or two scores per game.
A critic might say that Jordan Lynch has a built-in advantage over Archer since he is a quarterback and touches the ball every offensive snap. That Archer is the more impressive player given the impact he has on the plays he can participate in. I say that Lynch has proven himself beyond any handicap, evidenced by his top-10 ranking in almost every category as well as the fact that he has a shot to make history as a rushing quarterback. This Jordan Lynch season may very well rewrite a significant portion of the NCAA record book.
The scariest part, though? Jordan Lynch is a junior, and can return to terrorize the MAC all over again in 2013.
Sure, there are a lot of fancy numbers that make Jordan Lynch's season look very impressive. Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to rain on his parade, because it is indeed a very impressive season. That said, it's a whole lot easier to post a numerically impressive season when you touch the ball as often as a starting quarterback does.
Matter of fact, didn't Northern Illinois have another quarterback who just put up equally impressive numbers? I'm hard pressed to believe that Lynch is able to step right in and have his first year as a starter look as good as Chandler Harnish did without attributing some success to the offensive system he plays in. There, it's been said.
Given that, I would argue that Dri Archer is a much more valuable player to his team than Lynch is to the Huskies. Last season Kent State was a strong defensive team that had to bust their butts late to achieve mediocrity because their offense was so vapid. Spencer Keith and the passing game didn't get appreciably better this season, but it looks like the offensive line changes late last season paid off. He got sacked less, and the Flashes ran the ball a lot more, and a lot more successfully - last season their run game was 12th in the conference, and this season only NIU was better.
Trayion Durham's improvements as a sophomore were certainly a part of that huge swing, but Archer's emergence was a much bigger factor. In his first two seasons, Archer had 133 touches (rushes and receptions) for 692 yards and six touchdowns, plus another 800+ kickoff return yards. This season, he ramped that production up to 168 touches for 1,895 yards and 18 touchdowns, plus another 573 return yards and three KO touchdowns (99, 98, and 82 yards).
Matt already talked about how teams eventually stopped kicking off to him, but they couldn't keep it out of his hands on offense, as Archer produced 29 plays of 20+ yards, ten of which also went for 40+ yards - capped by his two long touchdowns (74 and 79 yards) against Bowling Green. His production meant a typically inept Falcons pass offense needed two huge pass plays of their own just to keep the game close.
Yes, Archer started the season slow, but he finished it strong, and wound up averaging at least nine yards per carry in eight of the Flashes twelve contests this season. It could certainly be argued that in the Ball State, Akron, and WMU games (in addition to the win over BGSU) he was the biggest reason that Kent State wound up with a win, and all those wins cumulatively are why they are where they are today. That makes Archer the MAC Player of the Year in my mind.