Ball State is out for a measure of revenge.
The historic season that was 2012 and resulted in an Orange Bowl bid for Northern Illinois nearly never happened. Early in the second half of last year's annual rivalry game, the Huskies trailed the Cardinals 23-14. That's when Heisman hopeful Jordan Lynch kicked the NIU offense into another gear. The Huskies rattled off 21 unanswered points, capped by a Lynch 71 yard touchdown run, to dispatch the Cardinals 35-23. Lynch did it all, 195 yards through the air, 207 on the ground, and 4 touchdowns. Northern left Muncie 5-1 overall, 2-0 in the MAC, and comfortably in the driver's seat of the MAC West.
Offensively, Ball State put up big numbers as well. Cardinals quarterback Keith Wenning threw the ball a staggering 71 times, completing 42 of those passes for 434 yards and a touchdown. Wenning was picked off twice. Wenning completed passes to 9 different receivers, chiefly Jamill Smith who caught 14 passes for 146 yards. The MAC's leading receiver for 2013, Willie Snead, caught 6 passes for 87 yards and a touchdown. Jahwan Edwards, tied for the league lead in rushing touchdowns for 2013, carried the ball 10 times for 65 yards.
2013's matchup has all the makings of another shootout. It's a familiar cast of characters for Ball State. Wenning leads the conference in passing yards and passing efficiency. Snead, Edwards, and Smith continue to pace the MAC's second ranked offense.
But then there's Lynch.
Northern Illinois has been even more impressive in 2013. The Huskies score better than 44 points a game, and rack up 545 yards of offense per contest. Lynch is third in the conference in rushing, and fourth in passing, accounting for 334 yards of offense. Lynch has more help on the ground this year than a season ago, with Cameron Stingly average 98 yards and a game and reaching pay dirt 8 times.
While last year's game played a critical role in the landscape of the 2012 MAC West season, that game was played on October 6th. This year the Golden Stalk game is on Wednesday, November 13th. It's MACtion, it's nationally televised, and it features the top two teams in the conference. The conference game of the year is arguably the biggest in the Pete Lembo era, the stiffest test for a Northern Illinois team looking to bust the BCS, and amounts to a MAC semifinal game. 2012 had fireworks, but 2013 feels like the finale. Get ready for MACtion.