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Can Northern Illinois Huskies Return to National Spotlight?

Last year, the upstart Mid-American Conference Northern Illinois Huskies, led by quarterback Jordan Lynch, earned a surprise BCS Bowl berth against the Florida State Seminoles. Though they lost in an embarrassing fashion, the Huskies look to once again make a splash in college football this season.

“We have tons of playmakers back,” Lynch said. “Our team speed is better than it was last year. We’ll push the field more this year. The offensive line and (I) have more experience. I know where to throw the ball.”

The offensive unit for the Huskies has reportedly gotten much faster. Receiver Tommylee Lewis, a junior last season, looks to by Lynch’s top target this season at wideout.

“We’ve got a decent amount of speed this year,” Lewis said. “We had it last year. But now some guys are starting to step up (into bigger roles). Expectations are higher. You’ve got to show you can be depended upon.”

No matter who’s catching passes, however, everything comes down to the play of Lynch. He put up astronomical numbers last season, completing more than 60 percent of his passes for 3138 yards and 25 touchdowns. He also ran for 1815 yards and 19 touchdowns. As a recent USA Today article pointed out, Lynch’s numbers compare favorably with those of last season’s Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. The difference, however, is that Manziel put up his stats in a loaded SEC, while the Huskies faced off against the perceived weakness of MAC opponents. Many were extremely critical of the decision to put the Huskies in a BCS Bowl game in the first place, though Lynch responded to the critics.

“I don’t think we deserve any negative criticism,” Lynch said. “All we did is our job, winning 12 straight games and finishing 12-2. Playing Florida State, it was 17-10 going into the fourth quarter. We stuck with them. It didn’t end up the way we wanted it to but that’s a team you see play on Saturdays on TV all the time. Northern Illinois stuck with them. I think we can grow from that and finish the fight this year. Go back to a BCS bowl and win the game.”

NIU has even started a Heisman Trophy campaign for Lynch, though they should look to Northwestern’s ill-fated campaign two years ago for quarterback Dan Persa and think twice before going all out. The reality is that it would be extremely unlikely for a player from the MAC to even be a finalist. However, Lynch is glad that his upcoming season can give his school and his conference a little bit of the national spotlight.

“It’s good for Northern Illinois and the Mid-American Conference,” he said. “It’s tons of exposure and any time we’re getting our school and our conference exposure it’s good. I’m not too updated on the Twitter world or anything like that. I know I have a microscope on me now and the things I do. I feel like I don’t do anything out of the ordinary to blow things up.”

Here are the season over/under win totals for the Huskies, courtesy of Bovada.lv.

2013 Regular Season – Total Wins – Northern Illinois Huskies        

  • Over                            9½ (-175)
  • Under                          9½ (+145)
  • 100%