Who is ready to add some #MACtion to their Heisman stew?
With major-conference contenders dropping like flies and leaving a gaping hole in the race for the 2013 bronze statue, Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch made his play to fill the void Tuesday night. The Huskies signal-caller accounted for 360 total yards and four touchdowns, leading his team to a 33-14 victory over Western Michigan.
Notice I said total yards. Because, if we were judging Lynch by his pure "quarterback" numbers, he'd have been an utter nightmare. Lynch completed only five of 17 passes, which accounted for a whopping 39 yards, including a 10-yard toss to Juwan Brescacin in the first quarter.
That leaves [attempts to do basic subtraction in head], yes, 321 yards that Lynch gained on the ground. Don't worry, I'll leave you plenty of time to unslack your jaw and get a mop for the drool your wife will undoubtedly see all over the carpet.
OK, done? Good. Let's move on, because Lynch had a night worth examining.
Lynch's 321 yards came on just 27 carries, 13 of which were longer than 10 yards. At one point between the first and second quarters, Lynch had rushed for double-digit gains on five straight attempts and was seemingly on a one-man mission to out-gain Western Michigan by himself. Which, of course, he did.
Oh, and I'm burying the lede. Lynch also set an all-time record for rushing yards in a game by a quarterback. The previous record was 316. The previous record-holder? You guessed it, Jordan Lynch. No other Huskies player had more than 49 yards.
There is seemingly beating a team by yourself, and then there is actually beating a team by yourself. While I'm totally not advising one-on-11 football, Lynch came about as close as anyone I can remember who wasn't playing as Tecmo Bo.
It was fun. It was ridiculous. And it was kind of stupid. Western Michigan is one of the handful or so worst teams in college football, with its only win coming against UMass, which may be the worst team in college football. Football Outsiders' FEI ratings currently have the Broncos at a robust No. 116 in the nation (UMass is No. 121), though they're admittedly better defensively than on offense.
In essence, this is the type of performance Heisman voters wouldn't pay much mind to in normal circumstances. We'd hoot and holler a little bit about it because, well, what else are college football fans supposed to do on a Tuesday night? But a pretty good player on a conference's best team absolutely destroying one of the nation's worst teams isn't exactly worthy of any postseason awards distinction.
I mean, Johnny Manziel had 562 total yards against Alabama this season. We surely can't compare the two performances and somehow think Lynch is more deserving of an invite to New York City, right?
Welllll, not so fast. If we're playing the narrative game, Lynch is more likely now than at any point in this season to enter the Heisman conversation.
Last week saw Manziel and Oregon's Marcus Mariota exit stage left. The controversial Texas A&M quarterback had unquestionably the worst performance of his season in the Aggies' 34-10 loss to LSU. That came at a terrible time for Manziel's Heisman hopes, as he was seemingly moving his way back up to possible favorite status. Mariota didn't play as poorly in Oregon's loss to Arizona, but a majority of his candidacy was built on the Ducks' status as national title contenders. Same for Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty.
Boom. Three top contenders roasted. In a field that was already whittling itself down, the Heisman race had suddenly dipped into the dreadful strata. Florida State's Jameis Winston has been the favorite for weeks and is still a borderline lock should the Seminoles finished the regular season undefeated, but we're firmly in the "blindly reaching" stages of finding secondary contenders.
Boston College running back Andre Williams entered the conversation by rushing for 893 yards and six touchdowns over his past three games. Before that run, though, almost no one even mentioned his name. Same goes for Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, who had been in the "yeah, yeah, yeah" fringes of the conversation all season but is now all but guaranteed an invite. I very much look forward to comparing him to Ken Dorsey's Heisman candidacy over the next few weeks.
That leaves Lynch, the unbelievable leader of the indestructible underdogs. Barring a loss in the MAC Championship Game, Northern Illinois will be headed to a BCS bowl for the second straight season, with Lynch serving as the figurehead of the rise to prominence. In a season where everyone seems to be losing right when the Heisman narrative tells them to win, Lynch keeps coming through.
Even if you account for the Huskies' terrible schedule—Jeff Sagarin ranks them No. 110 in difficulty, before Western Michigan—Lynch's counting stats are dumb stoopid. He's combined for 42 total touchdowns and 4,212 total yards. Although he didn't have a great night passing on Tuesday, Lynch is well over 60 percent for the season and has had a QBR of 85 or higher six times on the year. There may be no better running quarterback in the history of the sport.
All of that speaks to why Lynch sits exactly where he should: a likely ceremony invite. We can all but rule out the possibility of Lynch winning. Ty Detmer was the last Heisman winner that didn't reside in a major conference, and his and Andre Ware's victories in back-to-back years are the only times it happened in the so-called modern era. (No, Notre Dame winners don't apply.)
Winston or McCarron will win. One of their teams will go undefeated, and we'll all talk ourselves into thinking that's the right decision. Freshman bias will be discarded for Winston. For McCarron, we'll just chuck our hands up in the air and dap him up the way we once did Eric Crouch.
As for Lynch, he'll be there. He'll get the free dinner, say all the right things and perhaps even raise the profile of his school along the way. And you know what? We won't have a hard time talking ourselves into that.
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