MAC Championship: 10 Things We Learned from NIU's Win vs. Kent State

Zach Dirlam@Zach_DirlamSenior Analyst IIDecember 1, 2012

MAC Championship: 10 Things We Learned from NIU's Win vs. Kent State

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    The No. 21 Northern Illinois Huskies won their second straight MAC Championship Game by outlasting a feisty No. 16 Kent State Golden Flashes team that forced three turnovers and scored 21 points in the fourth quarter at Ford Field on Friday night.

    Junior dual-threat quarterback Jordan Lynch showcased his talents on a national stage and accounted for four total touchdowns in Northern Illinois' 44-37 double-overtime victory over Kent State.

    So, what did we learn from the 2012 MAC title game? Click ahead to find out!

Spencer Keith's Passing Struggles Hampered Kent State's Offense

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    Senior quarterback Spencer Keith struggled all night long with his accuracy and the Northern Illinois Huskies managed to apply constant pressure with their front seven, which made the Kent State Golden Flashes completely one-dimensional on offense for much of the game.

    Keith was sacked four times and only managed to complete 15-of-36 pass attempts for 190 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in the loss.

    The 6'3", 221-pounder did come through with some key passes late in the game, though, including a 19-yard touchdown toss to tight end Tim Erjavec. Keith also scored a rushing touchdown from five yards out that helped the Golden Flashes cut into Northern Illinois' 14-point lead with 4:53 left in the game.

    The Golden Flashes made due without a legitimate passing attack for 12 games this season, but Keith's poor game on Friday night was one of the top reasons why Kent State will not be playing in a BCS bowl game.

Jordan Lynch Is One of the Nation's Top Dual-Threat Quarterbacks

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    Junior quarterback Jordan Lynch made the most of his opportunity to turn in an outstanding performance on a national stage for the Northern Illinois Huskies.

    Lynch finished the game with 372 total yards and four touchdowns in the Huskies' victory over the Kent State Golden Flashes.

    On a 44-yard run midway through the third quarter, Lynch broke Denard Robinson's single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback. Lynch rushed for 1,771 yards and 19 touchdowns to go along with an additional 2,966 yards and 24 touchdowns through the air.

    The Chicago, Illinois native may not be one of the five players selected to attend the Heisman Trophy presentation in New York City, but Lynch is clearly the best offensive player in the MAC and is one of the nation's best dual-threat quarterbacks.  

Even Three Turnovers Couldn't Help the Golden Flashes

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    After thriving on turnovers all season long, and forcing three more on Friday night, the Kent State Golden Flashes could not overcome their offensive ineptitude against the Northern Illinois Huskies.

    The Golden Flashes entered the MAC title game with a plus-20 turnover margin, which ranked No. 1 in the Football Bowl Subdivision, and had a total of 35 takeaways.

    Kent State kept itself in the game for as long as it could thanks to a muffed punt early in the game, and a 22-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter that tied the contest at 27-27, but the Golden Flashes were not efficient enough on offense to pull off win No. 12.

Akeem Daniels Showed Up at the Perfect Time for the Huskies

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    Although Jordan Lynch led the Northern Illinois Huskies with over 1,700 rushing yards this season, the MAC's offensive player of the year would not have been able to turn in an impressive performance against the Kent State Golden Flashes without Akeem Daniels' second straight 100-yard rushing effort.

    Daniels played sparingly in the Huskies' first 11 games, but the Kissimmee, Florida product rushed for 240 yards and five touchdowns in Northern Illinois' last two contests, including 128 yards and a score on 17 carries on Friday night.

    The 5'7", 184-pounder also helped out Lynch in the passing game by hauling in four receptions for 67 yards.

    Daniels took over for injured starter Leighton Settle, and showed up at just the right time for Northern Illinois.

Dri Archer Is a Big-Play Threat Whenever He Is on the Field

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    Junior all-purpose back Dri Archer came into Friday night's game with an ankle injury, but looked to be at 100 percent and managed to rack up 96 total yards and one touchdown on 17 touches.

    The Northern Illinois Huskies were able to slow down Archer for much of the contest, until the speedster flashed his big-play ability with a 60-yard reception in the fourth quarter that helped set up a touchdown just four plays later.

    The Laurel, Florida native scored his only touchdown of the game on a 15-yard jet sweep in the first quarter.

    Archer certainly did not have his best game, and that is a credit to Northern Illinois' defense. However, the 5'8", 164-pounder did help out Spencer Keith to the best of his abilities and made some big plays for the Golden Flashes.

The Huskies Are Clearly the Best Program in the MAC Right Now

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    There is no denying that the Northern Illinois Huskies are the best program in the Mid-American Conference right now after three straight West Division titles, and winning their second consecutive league crown at Ford Field on Friday night.

    The Huskies also have this statistic on their side:

    Northern Illinois has 33 wins since 2010 season. Only schools with more wins in that span are LSU (34) and Oregon (35) #MACtion

    — ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 1, 2012

    Northern Illinois notched win No. 34 against the Kent State Golden Flashes and the Huskies will have a chance to pick up their 35th victory over the past three seasons in the Bowl in January.

    There are no signs of this team slowing down either since Jordan Lynch will be back for a senior season with the Huskies.

Kent State Is Not Worthy of a BCS Bowl Berth...

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    Second-year head coach Darell Hazell quickly turned around the Kent State Golden Flashes, who entered the year with more double-digit loss seasons than six-win campaigns and were one of the greatest stories of the 2012 college football season.

    However, the Northern Illinois Huskies exposed the Golden Flashes as a BCS fraud and proved to the entire nation that Kent State does not deserve to crack the top 16 and earn an at-large bid to the Orange Bowl or Sugar Bowl.

    Kent State had been clinging to its victory over the previously-ranked Rutgers Scarlet Knights in late October, but the Golden Flashes looked more like the team that got blown out by the Kentucky Wildcats earlier this season on Friday night.

    The Golden Flashes will be playing in a bowl game for only the third time in school history, which is still an accomplishment Hazell and his staff can be proud of.

...Northern Illinois Still Has a Chance at Making One, Though

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    The chances of the Northern Illinois Huskies actually winding up in a BCS bowl game are extremely slim, but are not completely out of the question, so as Lloyd Christmas from Dumb and Dumber would say, "You're telling me there's a chance..."

    Yes, the UCLA Bruins loss in the Pac-12 title game helps the Huskies, and losses by the Texas Longhorns and Boise State Broncos tomorrow night would also help Northern Illinois' cause and are both real possibilities.

    However, UCLA took on the No. 8 Stanford Cardinal and the Longhorns have to face the No. 6 Kansas State Wildcats which will not hurt either of them very much in the eyes of the pollsters, and Northern Illinois' victory over the Kent State Golden Flashes probably won't be enough to win over many voters.

    The Huskies will be rooting against everyone ahead of them tomorrow, but it will not be enough to move them into the top 16 of the BCS standings, and Northern Illinois will more than likely be getting an invitation to the Bowl for a second straight year.

Kent State Might Be Heading Back to Ford Field in December

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    The Kent State Golden Flashes accomplished much more than anyone imagined leading up to the 2012 season and their loss in the MAC title game does nothing to discredit the job Darrell Hazell has done to change the culture of one of the worst programs in the history of college football.

    There are no longer any outside chances at playing in the BCS bowl, but the Golden Flashes will likely be returning to Ford Field in December to play in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl against a team from the Sun Belt Conference.

    Kent State has never won a bowl game, and has only appeared in three, so simply playing in a post-season game is a major step forward for the Golden Flashes.

Boise State Is the Biggest Beneficiary from Northern Illinois' Win

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    The Northern Illinois Huskies still have an outside shot at appearing in a BCS bowl game, but the Boise State Broncos are the mid-major program that benefitted the most from the Kent State Golden Flashes' loss.

    The Broncos are currently ranked No. 20 in the BCS standings, and for whatever reason have earned the respect of the national pollsters despite playing a weak schedule and losing two games against mediocre opponents.

    Boise State still has to defeat the Nevada Wolf Pack, who spoiled the Broncos' run at a BCS bowl berth back in 2010, on Saturday and will need some more help than they're already getting from the voters in order to sneak into the top 16.

    Like Northern Illinois, though, the Broncos still have a chance at playing in the Sugar Bowl or the Orange Bowl and that's all head coach Chris Petersen and Boise State can ask for right now.