By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) Forget Tuscaloosa and Baton Rouge? Never mind Eugene and Gainesville? And don’t bother searching Columbus or South Bend?
Perhaps. Because, if you’re looking for the best college football player in the country, you might not need to look very far. He could be in DeKalb.
“I have to cackle a little,” my good friend and former colleague Mike Murphy of The Times in Ottawa, Ill., emailed on Thursday. “All the MAC schools breathed a little after [former Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler] Harnish graduated. Then they look at [current NIU QB Jordan] Lynch and say, “Oh (expletive).”
Along with an “Oh wow,” or three.
An NIU alum and longtime season ticket holder, Murphy knows more about Huskies football than anyone. So when I heard this week that Northern Illinois is organizing a Heisman Trophy campaign for its prolific quarterback, I asked the expert, “Is Jordan Lynch the best college football player in the country?
“Maybe,” Murphy responded. “He may have the best stats.”
It’s difficult to argue against that. Currently, the six-foot, 216-pound redshirt junior from Mount Carmel leads the nation in total offense (3,169 yards) and total touchdowns (32) and is No. 2 nationally in rushing (1,185 yards).
Last Saturday during the Huskies’ 48-34 win over Western Michigan – their eighth in a row – Lynch also broke the NCAA record for quarterbacks with his seventh consecutive 100-yard rushing games. Against the Broncos, he romped for 136 yards on the ground while passing for 274 and accounting for six touchdowns (four passing, two rushing).
To put that performance in perspective, in four Big Ten games this season, the University of Illinois has scored five touchdowns.
Earlier this week, Northern Illinois Associate Athletic Director for Communications Donna Turner revealed that the school is working on a website, Facebook page and Twitter hashtag (#VoteLynch) to promote its QB for college football’s ultimate individual award.
The Heisman campaign isn’t a first for NIU. Back in 2003, NIU Sports Information Director Mike Korcek spearheaded a “Turner the Burner” Heisman campaign for the Huskies’ star running back Michael Turner. That campaign included bottles of “Turner the Burner” hot sauce being mailed to media members across the country.
It didn’t win Turner the Heisman, but it may have helped get USA Today to write a 1,300-word feature story about him in August 2003.
NIU’s upcoming campaign is unlikely to garner Lynch the coveted trophy either. CBSSports.com Heisman pundit Chris Huston commented this week, “Jordan Lynch is obviously a remarkable talent, but for a player like him to challenge for the Heisman, it would require that he put up numbers that are out of this world.
“If he became the first 2,000/2,000 guy, he might have a shot of at least getting to New York, for instance. But the sad reality of the Heisman process is that players from schools like NIU aren’t taken seriously unless their school can maintain a constant presence in the polls, or beat BCS level teams with regularity.”
But unlike Northwestern’s ill-advised “Persa Strong” campaign from 2011 during which NU tried to promote quarterback trying to return from a torn Achilles tendon for the Heisman, NIU’s campaign for Lynch is a worthy one for a worthy candidate.
Is Jordan Lynch the best college football player in the country? Like Murphy said, “Maybe.” But whether he is or is not, it’s cool to see him – and his high-flying Huskies – getting some Heisman-fueled attention.
They deserve it.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.