Chicago Colleges: Jordan Lynch

Poinsettia Bowl preview

December, 26, 2013

A glance at Thursday night’s San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl showdown between No. 23 Northern Illinois (12-1) and Utah State (8-5), as both programs try to bounce back from losses with a bowl victory at Qualcomm Stadium (TV: ESPN, 9:30 p.m. ET).

Who to watch: There are no more Heisman Trophy voters for Jordan Lynch to impress after a third-place finish, but he has one more opportunity for another memorable performance with the Huskies before moving on to the next level. The senior quarterback’s numbers are already eye-popping enough -- 1,881 rushing yards and 2,676 through the air -- and his 45 combined touchdowns have helped the Northern Illinois offense average 41.6 points per game. After a disappointing loss in the MAC title game, Lynch shouldn’t be hurting for motivation as he looks to go out on top against the Aggies.

What to watch: The Aggies have seen their share of prolific scoring attacks and dangerous quarterbacks this season, and more often than not, they’ve found a way to slow them down. Utah State ranks seventh in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 17.3 points per game and holding opponents to fewer than 10 on five occasions. Had the Aggies been able to score a bit more often, this season might have been even more special -- they held USC to 17 points and Fresno State to 24 but lost both games. Senior linebacker Jake Doughty, in particular, will be critical to slowing down Lynch, and he’s proved to be more than capable of chasing down any target this season, with 140 total tackles.

Why to watch: The San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl has put together some of the most entertaining matchups in the past few years, and that has provided some wildly entertaining, competitive games. With a Heisman finalist, one of the best defenses in the country and a prime-time broadcast slot all to itself, there’s no reason to skip this one.

Prediction: Utah State 24, Northern Illinois 23

All six finalists have made Heisman case

December, 13, 2013

Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsFlorida State fans have made their pick, but Jameis Winston is just one of six Heisman finalists.
Six Heisman Award finalists will head to New York for Saturday’s ceremony, the most that have received invites to the ceremony since 1994, when there were also six. The last time there were more was in 1988, with eight.

Although the favorite entering the ceremony is Florida State QB Jameis Winston, all six have made a solid case of why they are the best player in the country this season.

QB Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois
Although Northern Illinois' bid to be a BCS buster was ended in the MAC Championship Game, Lynch’s dual-threat ability kept the Huskies in it all season. He had 321 rushing yards against Western Michigan, the most by a quarterback in FBS history, breaking his own record of 316 set earlier in the year against Central Michigan.

Lynch ended the season with 1,881 rush yards, also an FBS record for a quarterback.

QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Manziel’s bid to join Archie Griffin as the only multiple Heisman winners saw a transformation of his game. While his 2012 season was built more on his legs, his 2013 campaign saw him develop as a passer.

Manziel added a yard to his yards per attempt (from 8.5 in 2012 to 9.5 in 2013). His touchdown percentage also increased from 6.0% in 2012 to 8.4% this year. Also in 2013, 63 percent of his completions this season have gone for a first down or a touchdown, compared to 57.6 percent last year.

RB Tre Mason, Auburn
Even after a 1,000-yard rushing season last year, Mason wasn't on the short list of Heisman contenders until he finished the season with five straight 100-yard rushing games, including 304 against Missouri in the SEC Championship Game, the fifth-highest total all-time in an SEC game.

Mason’s 2,137 all-purpose yards this season broke the Auburn school record, previously held by Bo Jackson. Mason’s 22 rushing TD this season also set a school record.

QB AJ McCarron, Alabama
This is McCarron’s third season as Alabama’s starting quarterback, and he’s improved every season. His opponent-adjusted QBR was 76.7 in 2011, 81.5 in 2012 and 83.5 this season.

He was even better against the tough SEC competition. In SEC games, McCarron had an 86.4 opponent-adjusted QBR, tied for the best in the conference. Fellow Heisman candidate Manziel was third (85.5).

RB Andre Williams, Boston College
This season, Williams became just the 16th player in FBS history to run for at least 2,000 yards in a season, and the first since Donald Brown did so for Connecticut in 2008.

Williams also showed big-play ability. He had 26 runs of at least 20 yards, the most by an FBS player since Kevin Smith had 26 in 2007. His 11 touchdowns on such runs are the most for any player in the last 10 seasons.

QB Jameis Winston, Florida State
Winston is the clubhouse leader for the Heisman, and as the FBS leader in opponent-adjusted QBR (90.9), he has good reason to be. The leader in opponent-adjusted QBR in three of the last six seasons went on to win the Heisman, including Manziel last year.

Winston has also showed a clutch presence on the field throughout the year. On third downs, Winston has a 98.9 Total QBR, leading all FBS quarterbacks. Over the last 10 seasons, the highest third-down Total QBR in a completed season was also 98.9, by Andrew Luck in 2010.

Big Ten's lunch links

November, 14, 2013
Might be a good idea for Jordan Lynch to shop for flights to New York.
  • Connor Cook used the time during the bye week to watch extra film on Nebraska ahead of Michigan State's huge showdown on Saturday. It's a different approach than he used during the first off date this season.
  • The traditional option returns as a featured part of the Nebraska offense, much to the delight of at least one former quarterback who enjoyed plenty of success with that offensive style.
  • Michigan may have plenty of problems with its toothless rushing attack, but Brady Hoke isn't planning any changes to the top of the depth chart at tailback.
  • Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier loves to show off his speed, but the coaching staff has kept him from measuring it in races against his teammates.
  • What will it take for Penn State to consider this season a success? The Nittany Lions address what's ahead of them in the next three games.
  • The linebacker responsibilities suit Collin Link better in Purdue's "Jack" position, but he's picking up the defensive end duties quickly as well in the hybrid role.
  • November was a brutal month a year ago for Iowa. This season, it has a chance to make it much more memorable and potentially improve its postseason destination after missing out on a bowl completely in 2012.
  • Chris Gill could easily be in law school right now. Instead, the transfer offensive lineman is living out his dream of playing for Wisconsin.
  • Indiana athletic director Fred Glass chats about the importance of beating Illinois last week, victory fireworks and flying a winning flag.
  • The Northwestern offense is most effective when it is balanced, and finding a way to blend the run and the pass will be critical if it's going to knock off Michigan to break through in the Big Ten.

Video: NIU QB Jordan Lynch

November, 14, 2013

The Huskies' quarterback and Heisman candidate talks about his huge night with Matt Fortuna as NIU improved to 10-0 on the season with a 48-27 win over Ball State.

Big Ten predictions: Week 5

September, 26, 2013
We're past the quarter pole of the Big Ten season, and the predictions race is all even at 40-6. It's Week 5 on the schedule, but there are only four games involving Big Ten teams, as half of the league is off.

Let's get started ...


Brian Bennett: Miami is 0-3 and has been outscored 107-21. Have fun, Nathan Scheelhaase. I see a 350-yard passing day in your future. ... Illinois 38, Miami 10

Adam Rittenberg: The first open week fell at a good time for Illinois, which had a chance to regroup on both sides of the ball. This might feel like another Saturday off as Miami is truly awful. The Illini's defense rebounds and Josh Ferguson reaches the end zone twice as Tim Beckman's squad exceeds last year's wins total. ... Illinois 31, Miami 13


Adam Rittenberg: Northern Illinois hasn't been overly impressive so far and could easily be 1-2. Purdue is a desperate team doing some "soul searching," according to coach Darrell Hazell, after a 1-3 start. The Boilers take an early lead but Northern Illinois' run game, led by quarterback Jordan Lynch, proves to be too much in the second half. Lynch scores two fourth-quarter touchdowns as NIU prevails. ... Northern Illinois 38, Purdue 27

Brian Bennett: It would be hard to pick Purdue against any half-decent FBS team right now with the way the Boilermakers' offense is sputtering. Defensive coordinator Greg Hudson helped slow down the Huskies in last year's Orange Bowl as a Florida State assistant, and Hazell knows Northern Illinois very well from his MAC days. That should help a little, but Purdue has a hard enough time staying out of its own way right now. ... Northern Illinois 28, Purdue 20.


Brian Bennett: Very difficult call, as both teams are similar in their approach. I think Iowa has a better chance of moving the ball through the air than Minnesota, though Jerry Kill might surprise us. I'd pick Iowa if the game were in Iowa City, but I think the home field may be just enough to get Minnesota over the top. The Gophers pick up a defensive score, and the legend of Mitch Leidner grows as he runs for 125 and two scores. ... Minnesota 23, Iowa 21

Adam Rittenberg: Toughest pick of the week, for sure. I really liked what I saw from Minnesota against San Jose State, but sooner or later, the lack of a passing game will catch up with the Gophers. Iowa is showing better balance on offense and should do just enough to contain Minnesota's ground game. Jake Rudock finds C.J. Fiedorowicz for the winning touchdown pass in the final minute as Iowa keeps the bacon. ... Iowa 28, Minnesota 24


Adam Rittenberg: It wouldn't shock me if Wisconsin records the upset, but Ohio State has too much firepower, and the Badgers remain one-dimensional on offense. Melvin Gordon shows why he's arguably the nation's top running back with 180 yards and two touchdowns, but Ohio State rallies in the second half behind Braxton Miller, who accounts for three touchdowns in his return. This will be a fun one in Columbus ... Ohio State 37, Wisconsin 30

Brian Bennett: Fun one is right. Wisconsin never gets blown out anymore, and the Badgers have the run game to give Ohio State's young defense fits. But I agree that the Buckeyes have a few too many weapons on offense, particularly with Miller's return, while the Badgers' passing game is too shaky. Miller leads the Buckeyes out to a big early lead before Wisconsin makes a late comeback behind scores from James White and Gordon. Bradley Roby intercepts Joel Stave to seal it. ... Ohio State 34, Wisconsin 28

There's our forecast. Now it's time to reach out to our adoring public. As a reminder, throughout the season we'll choose one fan/loyal blog reader each week to try his or her hand at outsmarting us. There's nothing but pride and some extremely limited fame at stake. If you're interested in participating, contact us here and here. Include your full name (real names, please) and hometown and a brief description why you should be that week's guest picker. Please also include "GUEST PICKS" in all caps somewhere in your email so we can find it easily.

This week's guest picker has been all over the Big Ten map. Phillip Mykleby from Minneapolis, the floor is yours.
I'd like to be a guest picker for this weeks games if you don't mind. I guess you can I've been all around the Big Ten in my lifetime. I'm a lifelong Iowa Hawkeye fan growing up and undergrad (I actually met you once in Iowa City for Iowa-Michigan in 2009), then off to Nebraska for grad school, and now I work for the U of Minn. This weekend's game for the Floyd of Rosedale has some added meaning for me. And my entire family will be coming up from Iowa and cheering for the Hawkeyes in the Gopher student section!

Here are Phillip's Week 4 picks:

Illinois 45, Miami (Ohio) 10
Northern Illinois 41, Purdue 28
Iowa 28, Minnesota 24
Ohio State 42, Wisconsin 24


Adam Rittenberg: 40-6
Brian Bennett: 40-6
Guest pickers: 36-10

Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 4

September, 23, 2013
Remember two weeks ago when we were debating Ohio State versus Michigan as the Big Ten's top team? Well, the Buckeyes have created some separation from Michigan and the rest of the league with two dominant offensive performances. Michigan, meanwhile, either has a massive hangover from beating Notre Dame or a lot of issues to sort out.

We gave the Wolverines the benefit of the doubt after the Akron game and kept them at No. 2. After Saturday night's slopfest at Connecticut, we can no longer keep Michigan in the second slot. Northwestern looked lackluster for the second straight week but avoided the major scare Michigan has endured. Wisconsin, meanwhile, might be the league's second-best squad. We'll find out a lot about the Badgers this week in Columbus.

Minnesota and Iowa make nice moves this week, while Indiana takes a tumble.

As a reminder, we keep these rankings consistent with how we vote in the Top 25. Here's one final look at last week's power poll.

Let's get to the rundown ...

1. Ohio State (4-0, last week: 1): We'll finally get a gauge on these Buckeyes as they open Big Ten play Saturday night against Wisconsin, but the recent results have been encouraging. Braxton Miller's absence once again didn't faze Ohio State, which scored 34 points in the first quarter and received a nice boost from running back Carlos Hyde in his season debut. Backup signal-caller Kenny Guiton continued his surge with a school-record six touchdown passes. Miller likely returns this week, but the Buckeyes' offense clearly is more than just one man this season.

2. Northwestern (4-0, last week: 3): For whatever reason, Northwestern looks worse against weaker nonleague foes than seemingly stronger ones. The Wildcats had more positives against Cal and Syracuse than Western Michigan and Maine, although they were never in serious danger of losing in the past two weeks. Linebacker Damien Proby sparked a takeaway-driven defense Saturday. Quarterbacks Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian struggled but have two weeks to prepare for Ohio State, when running back Venric Mark is expected back.

3. Wisconsin (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten; last week: 4): Credit Gary Andersen's players for not letting last week's unfortunate ending linger as they opened Big Ten play against Purdue. Wisconsin went back to what it does best, overpowering opponents with the run game, as Melvin Gordon and James White combined for 292 rush yards and four touchdowns. The Badgers' defense bottled up Purdue, surrendering only 12 first downs, 45 rush yards and 180 total yards. You have to like how Wisconsin is performing before this week's showdown in Columbus.

4. Michigan (4-0, last week: 2): The Akron game could be forgivingly dismissed as a letdown. But when many of the same issues surface for the second straight week against a poor opponent, it's reason to be concerned. Michigan won't stay perfect much longer if quarterback Devin Gardner keeps turning over the ball (he leads the nation with 10 turnovers) and the offensive line endures periods of inconsistent play. Coach Brady Hoke and his staff have plenty of items to address this week before the Jug game against potentially undefeated Minnesota.

5. Nebraska (3-1, last week: 6): After a turbulent eight days, Bo Pelini wanted his players to have some fun in their final nonleague tuneup. The offense had plenty despite playing without top quarterback Taylor Martinez, eclipsing 300 pass yards and 300 rush yards. Reserve quarterbacks Tommy Armstrong and Ron Kellogg III both performed well. The defense had a lot less fun, however, surrendering 465 yards in a performance that Pelini labeled its worst of the season. Nebraska has to get a handle on its defense this week before opening Big Ten play against Illinois.

6. Minnesota (4-0, last week: 7): Knock San Jose State if you must, but the Spartans provided the biggest test for Minnesota to date, and the Gophers passed it with flying colors. Minnesota showed the physical dominance coach Jerry Kill has been waiting for, piling up 353 rush yards and six touchdowns behind quarterback Mitch Leidner and running back David Cobb. Although San Jose State's David Fales showed why he's an NFL prospect, the Gophers continued to force turnovers. Minnesota hosts Iowa this week in a game that has more than bacon on the line.

7. Michigan State (3-1, last week: 5): The Spartans looked like the better team for much of Saturday's game at Notre Dame. But many of the same issues that surfaced in close losses last season -- stalled drives, dropped passes, not enough takeaways and missed field goals -- surfaced in a 17-13 setback. Coach Mark Dantonio and his players say this feels different, and that they can overcome their errors to make some noise in a wide-open Legends Division. The defense remains championship-level, but there are other issues to sort out, namely quarterback.

8. Penn State (3-1, last week: 8): Kent State's woeful offense turned out to be the perfect cure for a Nittany Lions defense that struggled mightily in a Week 3 loss to Central Florida. Safety Ryan Keiser and cornerback Jordan Lucas helped trigger Penn State's first shutout since 2010, as the Lions allowed only nine first downs and 190 total yards. The run game once again surged behind Akeel Lynch (123 rush yards) and others. Penn State's defense will face much greater tests when Big Ten play begins in two weeks.

9. Iowa (3-1, last week: 11): Kirk Ferentz's crew is clearly on the rise after its most complete performance in recent memory. Iowa received numerous contributions on offense, two punt return touchdowns from Kevonte Martin-Manley and a pick-six from B.J. Lowery -- all during a 38-point first half against Western Michigan. Lowery added another pick-six in the second half and stomped the Broncos. After a rough start to the season, Iowa has the momentum it needs heading into a pivotal Big Ten opener against Minnesota.

10. Illinois (2-1, last week: 10): The Illini sat back and watched the rest of the Big Ten in Week 4, enjoying the first of two open weeks. They'll have an excellent chance to improve to 3-1 this week against an 0-3 Miami (Ohio) squad that was shut out Saturday against Cincinnati and has scored just 21 points in its first three games. This is the perfect opportunity for Illinois' defense to rebound after getting gashed by Washington in Week 3. Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase tries to bounce back after completing just 9 of 25 pass attempts.

11. Indiana (2-2, last week: 9): Just when Indiana appears ready to turn a corner, it becomes Indiana again. For the second time in three games, Indiana limped out of the gate and fell behind, never finding a good offensive rhythm and struggling to stop Missouri's balanced attack. Missouri piled up 623 yards, a Memorial Stadium record for an Indiana opponent. The Hoosiers' defense remains far too vulnerable, and quarterback Nate Sudfeld struggled, throwing three interceptions. There's a lot to fix in the open week before Penn State comes to town.

12. Purdue (1-3, 0-1 Big Ten; last week: 12): Trips to Madison haven't been kind to the Boilers, and Saturday's proved to be no exception as Darrell Hazell's team took a step back after an encouraging performance against Notre Dame. When you can't run the ball or stop the run, you have no chance, and Purdue struggled mightily in both areas. Hazell admits Purdue must do some "soul searching" following a rough start, and things don't get any easier this week against Jordan Lynch and Northern Illinois.
Jordan Lynch #6 of the Northern Illinois Huskies points as he looks to pass against the Florida State Seminoles during the Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 1, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida.Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesJordan Lynch #6 of the Northern Illinois Huskies points as he looks to pass against the Florida State Seminoles during the Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 1, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida.

Northern Illinois's offense played the pumpkin in the Orange Bowl last season. Can Lynch & Co. retrace their run as BCS Cinderellas?

Read the story here.

Perception-making games in the Big Ten

July, 29, 2013
Iowa's season opener against Northern Illinois could be just a blip on the Week 1 national radar, but the game's impact for the Hawkeyes can't be minimized.

Kirk Ferentz's crew comes off of its first losing regular season since 2000 and enters the fall with several glaring question marks, including quarterback. A win against a Northern Illinois program that reached the Orange Bowl last season, has won 23 games the past two seasons and is led by fringe Heisman Trophy candidate Jordan Lynch would boost confidence in Iowa, both inside and outside the program. A loss to the Huskies -- especially in blowout fashion -- could set the course for another lost season.

As The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette's Mike Hlas writes, the Northern Illinois opener is a perception-maker for Iowa.
For the Hawkeyes to restore some luster to their national image, beating Northern Illinois on Aug. 31 would be a good first step. A loss, though, would bring out a lot of sharp verbal and written pitchforks.

NIU is undoubtedly the perception-making game for Iowa this season. What about the other Big Ten teams? I took a look at potential perception-makers around the conference.

I'm a firm believer that perception is shaped early on, so for the purpose of this post, I only considered games in the first six weeks of the season (weekend of Aug. 31-weekend of Oct. 5).

Here are the perception-makers around the Big Ten …

ILLINOIS: Sept. 7 vs. Cincinnati

Tim Beckman's Illini have to show obvious improvement early on to avoid a here-we-go-again mentality in Champaign. Although Illinois must be careful with FCS Southern Illinois in the opener, it has a great opportunity to show things will be different as it hosts Cincinnati, a 10-win squad last season, in Week 2. Poor performances against Cincinnati and the following week against Washington in Chicago would brand Illinois a lost cause once again.

INDIANA: Sept. 21 vs. Missouri

It's a close call between the Missouri game and a Week 3 home contest against Bowling Green, which was a better team than the Tigers last season. But beating Bowling Green likely won't boost Indiana's perception, especially if the Hoosiers fall short the following week against an SEC foe. If Indiana completes non-league play at 4-0, ending with a victory against Missouri, it will be viewed as a potential surprise team entering Big Ten play.

IOWA: Aug. 31 vs. Northern Illinois

See above.

MICHIGAN: Sept. 7 vs. Notre Dame

The Wolverines have beaten Notre Dame in recent years without getting much of a perception boost, but the Irish are coming off of a perfect regular season and a national runner-up finish. This is a big moment for Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner, who looks for a signature win early in his first full season as a starter. Michigan remains a talented but young team that will need to grow up in a hurry to contend for big things in 2013. The Notre Dame game provides a great chance to do so.

MICHIGAN STATE: Sept. 21 at Notre Dame

The Spartans look for a bounce-back season and need a validating win early on to boost their perception after falling short of expectations in 2012. Notre Dame provides by far the biggest challenge for Michigan State in non-league play, and Mark Dantonio's team tries to end a two-game slide against the Irish after winning three of the previous four under Dantonio. It's a huge opportunity for quarterback [fill in the blank] and a Spartans offense that managed only three points and 237 yards against Notre Dame last season.

MINNESOTA: Sept. 21 vs. San Jose State

The Gophers' non-league schedule is mostly uninspiring, but keep an eye on this Week 4 showdown with San Jose State. The Spartans won 11 games last season under Mike MacIntyre, now Colorado's coach, and boast one of the nation's top quarterbacks in David Fales, who finished third in the FBS in passing efficiency (170.8 rating). Although an Oct. 5 win at Michigan would transform Minnesota's perception, the Gophers must first get past San Jose State.

NEBRASKA: Sept. 14 vs. UCLA

This is one of the easiest picks on the list. Not only is UCLA by far Nebraska's biggest non-league test, but the Bruins appear to be the Huskers' most formidable challenge in the first two months of the season. A Nebraska win would help validate the impressive record the Huskers likely will have when the calendar flips to November. Another loss to the Bruins, who edged Nebraska last September at the Rose Bowl, would raise doubts about the Huskers' legitimacy even if they go on to pile up wins.

NORTHWESTERN: Oct. 5 vs. Ohio State

The Wildcats play two major-conference foes (Cal, Syracuse) in non-league play, but neither game has real perception-making potential. Besides, Northwestern has handled itself well in non-league play in recent years. The Ohio State game likely will be the most-anticipated home game for Northwestern in the Pat Fitzgerald era. Northwestern can transform its perception with a win, while a loss would reinforce the Wildcats as a good program that can't really beat the Big Ten's elite.

OHIO STATE: Sept. 28 vs. Wisconsin

The Buckeyes' non-league slate is pretty uninspiring, and while San Diego State (Week 2, home) or Cal (Week 3, road) could provide a few clues about Urban Meyer's squad, Ohio State will be heavy favorites in both contests. If Ohio State meets its preseason perception, it will handle Wisconsin at home fairly easily in Week 5. A shaky showing or a loss certainly would change the way people feel about the Buckeyes' chances to get to Pasadena, both for the Rose Bowl and for the BCS title game.

PENN STATE: Aug. 31 vs. Syracuse (at East Rutherford, N.J.)

It's a little dangerous to pick the opener for Penn State, which changed its perception during the course of last season after stumbling in its debut against Ohio. But there are new questions about Bill O'Brien's team, particularly at the quarterback spot as Christian Hackenberg or Tyler Ferguson takes control. Penn State faces another transitioning team in Syracuse at a neutral site. A strong performance could propel Penn State to a 5-0 start before Michigan visits Happy Valley on Oct. 12.

PURDUE: Aug. 31 at Cincinnati

The Boilers are one of the Big Ten's mystery teams as a new staff takes control. Purdue faces one of the nation's tougher non-league slates, going up against two BCS bowl teams from 2012 (Notre Dame, Northern Illinois) and another that won 10 games (Cincinnati). A victory at Nippert Stadium in Darrell Hazell's Boiler debut would give Purdue a nice confidence boost and force folks to take notice of the Boilers heading into their Week 3 home showdown against the rival Irish.

WISCONSIN: Sept. 14 at Arizona State

We'll learn a lot about Gary Andersen's Badgers in the first month of the season as they play two extremely challenging road games against Arizona State and Ohio State. Big Ten teams struggle mightily in Pac-12 venues, and Wisconsin's shaky secondary will be tested by quarterback Taylor Kelly and the high-powered Sun Devils offense. A win would give Wisconsin some confidence as it faces untested Ohio State in Week 5, while a loss could signal trouble ahead.

Instant analysis: FSU 31, NIU 10

January, 2, 2013

It wasn't exactly the easy win so many predicted, but Florida State's size and speed advantage helped the Seminoles outlast upstart Northern Illinois 31-10 to win their first Orange Bowl since 1996.

Record-setting NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch found no room to work, and Florida State's dominant defense showed few flaws in its first game without departed coordinator Mark Stoops, while EJ Manuel accounted for 321 yards of offense and two touchdowns to lead the Seminoles.

It was over when: Xavier Rhodes forced a fumble from Da'Ron Brown on a second-down run with 11:15 left to play in the game. Northern Illinois had just converted a fourth-and-1 and was driving in hopes of cutting FSU's lead to seven, but the fumble was the dagger that ended any hopes of an upset. The play was reviewed, but officials ruled the ball was coming out of Brown's grip before his knee hit the ground, and the Seminoles quickly capitalized on the turnover with a Lonnie Pryor touchdown.

Game ball goes to: Pryor. The senior fullback has toiled in the shadows for four years at Florida State, earning immense respect within the locker room but relatively little fanfare outside it. Tuesday's game was different. While the rest of the FSU running game struggled, Pryor was brilliant. He opened the scoring with a 60-yard touchdown run -- the longest of his career -- and put the icing on the cake with his 37-yard touchdown after NIU's fourth-quarter fumble.

Turning point: There were plenty, but NIU's two turnovers were killer. The fumble by Brown was the last straw, but a third-quarter interception by Terrence Brooks squelched another promising Huskies drive. Brooks picked off Lynch at the FSU 13-yard line to protect a slim seven-point lead.

Stat of the game: Lynch entered the game as one of the most dynamic offensive players in college football, but he found out yards are far tougher to come by against Florida State. Coming into the game, Lynch had racked up 1,771 rushing yards -- fourth most in the nation -- and was averaging 6.5 yards per carry. But Christian Jones, Telvin Smith, Vince Williams and the FSU linebacking corps was exceptional, hitting him repeatedly and giving him nowhere to run. Lynch had bragged earlier in the week that NIU planned to wear FSU down late, but the opposite was true, and the junior quarterback finished with just 44 yards rushing on 23 carries, while completing just 36 percent of his throws.

Unsung hero: It's tough to call Manuel an unsung hero, but in a season in which he's earned just as much criticism as praise -- and maybe more -- he wrapped up a five-year career at Florida State with a solid performance. Manuel completed 27 of 39 passes for 296 yards through the air and added another 26 rushing with a touchdown. He missed a few passes -- something his critics will be happy to note -- but he connected on far more. When the FSU offense needed him, he made the throws he had to make. Manuel never lived up to his immense promise at FSU, but he was surely a very good quarterback, and he ends his career as an Orange Bowl champion and winner of four straight bowl games.

What it means: Northern Illinois shrugged off the legions of doubters and proved an unexpectedly competitive opponent, but in the end, Lynch and the Huskies simply didn't have enough to make a late charge. For Florida State, it was yet another inconsistent performance in a season that has been filled with them. But it was also the school's first BCS win in 12 years, and it marked just the second time in program history that FSU has won 12 games in a season.

Video: Northern Illinois OL Jared Volk

December, 30, 2012

Northern Illinois offensive lineman Jared Volk talks about blocking for Jordan Lynch and preparing for Florida State's defense in the Orange Bowl.

NIU's Lynch too good to pass up

December, 28, 2012
MIAMI -- Jordan Lynch grew up playing tailback, still runs like one and detests sliding.

He lives with three offensive linemen at Northern Illinois because their personalities click. One of his former college coaches says Lynch can play in the NFL … as a safety. His current coach likens Lynch to Tim Tebow, whose status as a quarterback is debated more than the fiscal cliff. His Northern Illinois bio lists Steve Prefontaine, the legendary distance runner from Oregon, as an athlete Lynch admires.

No wonder Lynch had such a tough time selling himself as a quarterback coming of high school.

The man who's third in the nation in total offense (4,733 yards), set four NCAA records and led Northern Illinois to the Discover Orange Bowl plays for the only college team that pursued him as a signal-caller. In fact, NIU was the only team to offer a scholarship to Lynch, who committed the summer after his junior year. While many of Lynch's milestones can be attributed to his legs, his success as a passer -- 24 touchdowns against only five interceptions, 152.98 quarterback rating (25th nationally) -- cannot be dismissed.

Read the entire story.

Lynch: NIU will use disrespect as motivation

December, 6, 2012
Northern Illinois junior quarterback Jordan Lynch said Thursday the Huskies are using critics who say they can't defeat Florida State in the Orange Bowl as motivation.

Lynch and the Huskies made the improbable run to the Orange Bowl by winning their last 12 games of the season, including defeating Kent State in the MAC title game, and finishing within the top 16 in the BCS standings -- ahead of the Big Ten and Big East champions.

Read the entire story.

NIU QB Lynch named MAC MVP

November, 28, 2012
Northern Illinois junior quarterback Jordan Lynch was named the winner of the MAC's Vern Smith Leadership Award, which goes to the conference's MVP, on Wednesday.

[+] EnlargeJordan Lynch
Mike DiNovo/US PresswireQuarterback Jordan Lynch is the sixth NIU player in the past seven years to win MAC MVP.
Lynch, who was also named the MAC's Offensive Player of the Year, has passed for 2,750 yards, 23 touchdowns and four interceptions and has rushed for 1,611 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. He ranks third in the nation in total offense, fifth in rushing, 12th in passing efficiency and third in yards per play.

"(Winning the Vern Smith Award) is definitely a great accomplishment, and it definitely wouldn't happen without all of my coaches and teammates," Lynch said in a statement. "I'm grateful to the MAC coaches. Winning the award shows that your talent, your accomplishments and your hard work doesn't go unnoticed. It shows the respect they have for me as a person and as a player."

Lynch, a first-year starter, has led the Huskies to an 11-1 overall record and undefeated MAC season. Northern Illinois plays Kent State in the MAC championship on Friday.

Lynch is the sixth Northern Illinois player to win the award in the last seven years. He is also the third Northern Illinois quarterback to win it. Quarterbacks Chandler Harnish (2011) and Tim Tyrrell (1983) also earned the honor.

"I'm extremely happy for Jordan and think he's a great representative of that award," Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren said in a statement. "I think Jordan stands for everything that award is about. To see an NIU player win the Vern Smith Award six of the last seven years says a lot about our program."

Northern Illinois wide receiver Martel Moore, defensive ends Sean Progar and Alan Baxter and safety Jimmie Ward were also named to All-MAC first-team. Linebacker Tyrone Clark and left tackle Tyler Loos were second-team selections.

NIU QB Lynch proves he's a dual threat

November, 15, 2012
DeKALB, Ill. -- Toledo Rockets linebacker Dan Molls admitted his team never expected Northern Illinois Huskies junior quarterback Jordan Lynch would be a threat in the air on Wednesday night.

Sure, Molls thought Lynch could beat Toledo on the ground. Leading into Wednesday’s game, Lynch had recorded an NCAA record of eight consecutive games of recording 100 yards rushing as a quarterback and was ranked fifth in the country in rushing yards at any position.

But when it came to passing, Toledo was willing to take its chances against Lynch and concentrate its attention on him running.

“I thing we prepared more for him running,” Molls sad. “Obviously, he’s a great runner. I think the fact he can still hurt you throwing the ball ... caught us off guard a little bit.”

Lynch certainly made the Rockets pay for that on Wednesday.

He was 25-of-36 passing with a career-high 407 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. In the third quarter alone, he was 13-of-15 for 295 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, and led the Huskies to outscore Toledo 21-0.

“If we don’t have two turnovers, it might have been the best game for any quarterback we’ve ever had around here,” Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren said.

Lynch was especially proud of his play, because he did prove he is a QB capable of beating opponents in the air and on the ground. He rushed for a team-high 131 yards on 29 carries.

“I’m a quarterback first,” Lynch said. “I go out there and throw the ball out there. It’s hard to defend a dual-threat quarterback.”

Toledo coach Matt Campbell already knew Lynch was a unique quarterback, but his admiration only grew when Lynch defeated the Rockets and helped Northern Illinois clinch another MAC West division title.

“He’s a great player,” Campbell said. “I think the thing you know in this conference is the best quarterback in this conference has a chance to win a MAC championship. I think right now he’s playing at an extremely high level, and he’s a young man who plays very consistently.

“His ability to sustain his success over the last 10, now 11 football games, a lot of credit has to go to him. He’s certainly a special football player. He’s a got a lot of great football ahead of him.”

Rapid Reaction: N. Illinois 31, Toledo 24

November, 15, 2012
DeKALB, Ill. -- The Northern Illinois Huskies weren’t going to allow their worst offensive first half of the season deter them from their third consecutive Mid-American Conference West Division title on Wednesday.

After scoring just once against the Toledo Rockets in the opening half, the Huskies emerged in the third quarter with three unanswered touchdowns and pulled out a 31-24 victory at Huskie Stadium to clinch the MAC West title and win their 21st consecutive home game.

It was over when: After taking over possession at their own 1-yard line in the third quarter, the Huskies drove 99 yards on nine plays, culminating with an 11-yard pass from Jordan Lynch to Perez Ashford for a touchdown. Northern Illinois went ahead 21-14 with the touchdown and extra point, and Toledo never challenged the Huskies again. Northern Illinois outscored the Rockets 21-0 in the quarter and accumulated 347 yards to Toledo’s 69 yards.

Player of the game: Lynch continued to make a case for himself as an outside Heisman Trophy candidate. And on Wednesday, he showed off his arm more than his legs.

Lynch was 25-of-36 passing with a career-high 407 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He also rushed for a team-high 162 yards on 30 carries. It was Lynch’s ninth consecutive game of rushing for a 100-plus yards, which extended his NCAA record for quarterbacks.

Stat of the game: In the third quarter alone, Lynch completed 13 of 15 passes for 295 yards, with two touchdowns.

Unsung hero of the game: Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward was all over the field. He led the Huskies with 11 tackles, forced a fumble and had an interception.

Play of the game: On the opening play of the third quarter, Lynch threw a short pass to Martel Moore on the right side. Moore caught the ball and turned up field. One defender hit him and Moore stumbled, but he put his right hand on the ground to keep his balance and continued moving forward. He quickly took another hit and again was close to falling to the ground. He put both of his hands -- including his left, which was underneath the ball -- onto the ground to keep himself up, regained his balance and sprinted past Toledo’s defense for a 73-yard score.

What it means: Northern Illinois remained the kings of the MAC. The Huskies have now won 15 consecutive conference games, which included last year’s MAC championship game. The East has some quality teams, but Northern Illinois has to be favored again in this year’s title game, which is Nov. 30.