More Overtime (cont.)
With two weeks remaining, the Heisman race has been thrown into flux. Most people seem to agree that Texas A&M's Johnny Football is the player to beat, but those other two spots on the ballot have suddenly become wide open. Voters really ought to take a look at the Johnny Football of the MAC -- Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch.
In last Wednesday's nationally televised 31-24 win over Toledo, the Huskies' first-year starter became the first "400/150" player in college football history -- he threw for 407 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 162 yards on 30 carries. He even contributed a 62-yard punt to boot.
"For how long people have been playing college football, to go out and have a record of your own, that's pretty special," said Lynch, a fourth-year junior, on Sunday. "But definitely if you watched the game, there's tons of plays our receivers and running backs made to help me out."
It was just the latest milestone for Lynch, who, in leading NIU to a 10-game win streak and clinching a third straight MAC championship game berth, has rushed for at least 100 yards in nine straight games, an NCAA record for quarterbacks. He ranks third nationally among all players with 1,504 rushing yards, putting him within 198 of Denard Robinson's NCAA single-season quarterback record of 1,702. He also ranks third in total offense (371.5 yards per game), one spot behind Manziel, and 10th in pass efficiency (159.4), one spot above Geno Smith.
Northern Illinois, formerly coached by Minnesota's Jerry Kill, was the lone FBS school to offer the 6-foot, 216-pound Chicago native a scholarship to play quarterback. Lynch ran the triple-option in high school, offering few chances to show off his arm, but the system did prepare him to run NIU's spread-option offense.
While Lynch is reticent to brag about himself ("All credit goes to the coaches for putting me in the right situation and for making my stats possible," he said), NIU is not holding back. It launched an official Heisman campaign for Lynch a few weeks ago, complete with a promotional website, JordanLynchfor6.com. And his coach, Dave Doeren, whose 24th-ranked team (10-1) has now won 19 of its last 20 games (an 18-17 loss to Iowa in this year's season opener was the lone setback), is happy to campaign for him.
"I think to be the Heisman winner, you have to do everything. You've got to be almost perfect," Doeren said recently. "All he needs to do is continue to do what he's doing, win games, be productive, and not make mistakes. That's what he's doing. ... To win that award, you've got to play that way. I think he's deserving of the conversation."
The last MAC player to earn an invitation to New York was Marshall's Chad Pennington in 1999. Byron Leftwich finished sixth in 2002, and Ben Roethlisberger came in ninth in '03. Lynch is hurt by the fact he came into the year with no name recognition, but he'll have another showcase opportunity on Nov. 30 against No. 23 Kent State.
Adjust the volume level on your computer -- then just watch and enjoy (especially the end).
You will now.
Mini-previews for three of Week 13's big games:
Michigan at Ohio State, Saturday (Noon ET): The first installment of Urban Meyer vs. Brady Hoke could be the beginning of a long and heated rivalry-inside-the-rivalry. Michigan snapped a seven-year losing streak against the Buckeyes last season. Braxton Miller will look to avenge that defeat and deliver Ohio State's first undefeated season since 2002.
Florida at Florida State, Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET): The Gators possess the nation's 114th-ranked passing offense, just ahead of all the triple-option teams. But hey, they're 10-1, and they also lay claim to the nation's fourth-ranked defense, which will attempt to slow Florida State's running game and try to rattle Seminoles star EJ Manuel.
Notre Dame at USC, Saturday (8 p.m. ET): The Trojans still have Marqise Lee. The sophomore receiver racked up another nine catches for 158 yards last week and could personally derail Notre Dame's national title hopes. Otherwise, however, it's the Irish's suffocating front seven going up against USC's redshirt freshman backup quarterback.