Alabama vs. LSU: No Match for the Toledo-Northern Illinois Game

Calvin W BoazCorrespondent IINovember 2, 2011

November 1, 2011; Toledo, OH, USA; Northern Illinois Huskies quarterback Chandler Harnish (12) looks to pass against the Toledo Rockets at the Glass Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

While it is still days before the battle between the top two teams in the country, the hype machine for the Alabama-LSU game on Saturday is already in full gear. However, based on what happened in the Toledo Rockets-Northern Illinois Huskies game last night, the Game of the Century won't even be the Game of the Week.

There was barely enough time to find the most comfortable spot on the couch and open up the bag of popcorn when Northern Illinois' freshman Tommylee Lewis took the opening kickoff and raced 100 yards for a touchdown.

It didn't take long before for Toledo to answer when Austin Dantin connected with Eric Page for a 12-yard touchdown pass.  The game was already off to a strong start when Lewis made this contest an instant classic by returning the next kickoff for another touchdown—this time for 95 yards.

What Lewis did in the first quarter was probably enough to top anything that might be witnessed in the Alabama-LSU game, but there was so much more to satisfy even the most discriminating palate.

Northern Illinois went on to defeat Toledo 63-60.  The 123 points marked the highest scoring non-overtime game in Mid-American Conference history. The five touchdowns scored in the first quarter will more than likely be more touchdowns the Crimson Tide and Tigers will accumulate for the entire game. 

The Huskies' Chandler Harnish threw six touchdown passes while Dantin threw five for the Rockets.  The combined total for the two quarterbacks last night is almost half of what A.J. McCarron of Alabama (10) and Jarrett Lee of LSU (13) have thrown for the entire season.

Chandler Harnish threw for 265 yards and ran for 133 yards in NIU's 63-60 victory over Toledo.
Chandler Harnish threw for 265 yards and ran for 133 yards in NIU's 63-60 victory over Toledo.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Toledo's Eric Page caught five touchdown passes in the game while accumulating 150 yards receiving on nine catches. Page had more touchdown receptions last night than any Alabama player has up to this point in the season. Rueben Randle leads the Tigers with seven touchdown catches.

Alabama and LSU would have to play twice to even come close to the combined 1,121 total yards of offense put up by Northern Illinois and Toledo. That total doesn't even include the 468 yards gained on kick returns.

Alabama's Trent Richardson and LSU's Spenser Ware will provide plenty of excitement running the ball Saturday, but Northern Illinois and Toledo didn't achieve all their yardage through the air. Along with passing for 265 yards, Harnish ran for 133. Senior Adonis Thomas carried the ball 25 times for 160 yards while scoring two touchdowns for the Rockets.

To top the game off, Northern Illinois scored the winning touchdown with 19 seconds left when Harnish found Perez Ashford open in the end zone. The game ended when Page caught a pass from Dantin but was stopped at the 25-yard line of Northern Illinois.

Nothing can compare to playing for the top spot in the BCS poll, but NIU's win ties them with Toledo with a 4-1 conference record and puts the Huskies in control of their own destiny to win the MAC West and play in the conference title game. 

It will be hard to find that many games that were better than Toledo-Northern Illinois game. Alabama vs. LSU may get the higher ratings, but last night's masterpiece proves that bigger is not always better.