By Kevin McGuire
As the college football season hits the home stretch and teams wrap up their regular season schedules, time is running out for Heisman hopefuls to make a statement. One player from the Midwest continues to epitomize everything fans love about MACtion.
QB Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois
The key to success with Northern Illinois the past couple of seasons has been quarterback Jordan Lynch. He has been the Northern Illinois version of Johnny Manziel and perhaps an even more valuable player to his team than last year’s Heisman Trophy winner at Texas A&M.
After leading Northern Illinois to a MAC West title-clinching victory on the road at Toledo Wednesday night, Lynch has completed 66.3 percent of his passes for 2,418 yards, 21 touchdowns and just five interceptions, but it is not his passing numbers that will floor you. It is his ability to run with the football. Lynch is the nation’s third leading rusher with 1,434 yards and 17 touchdowns, which puts him in the same conversation as guys like Auburn’s Tre Mason, Stanford’s Tyler Gaffney and Arizona State’s Marion Grice, all running backs. No quarterback in the country has rushed for as many yards as Lynch and only a small handful of quarterbacks have more total yards of offense than Lynch, who continues to pile up big numbers in MAC play.
Unfortunately for Lynch, it is that conference affiliation that will continue to be difficult to get over, fair or not. Had Lynch led Northern Illinois to a victory over Florida State in the Orange Bowl last season, perhaps that stigma may have changed. But the fact is the MAC is not held in the same regard as the SEC, Pac 12, Big Ten and other conferences with an automatic BCS bowl spot. But if Lynch can lead Northern Illinois back to a BCS bowl game, he will continue to grab some national attention.
Will it be enough to at least earn a trip to New York? Players from non-AQ conferences rarely make the trip, but if Kellen Moore and Colt Brennan could do it, then why not Lynch? Lynch actually received three first-place votes for the Heisman Trophy in 2012, so he is certainly on the radar for some voters out there.
Heisman Match-Up of the Week
Baylor at Oklahoma State: The Baylor Bears are making a push to get in to the BCS Championship Game but face a stiff challenge this weekend. That could mean quarterback Bryce Petty has the best opportunity to provide some Heisman buzz. In a week when other candidates appear to be playing cupcakes, Petty is taking on the biggest challenge against a one-loss Oklahoma State team with the Big 12 lead on the line.
Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.