The biggest game of the season in the Mid-American Conference has a great sub-plot: The two best quarterbacks in the MAC will go head-to-head.
Northern Illinois (9-0), 15th in this week's BCS standings, plays host to Ball State (9-1), with the winner taking a big step toward winning the MAC West crown. A win also keeps NIU in the hunt for a second consecutive BCS berth. And, presumably, a win keeps NIU senior quarterback Jordan Lynch -- who finished seventh in the Heisman voting last season -- in the Heisman conversation for at least another week.
Lynch won't be the only star quarterback on the field. Ball State senior Keith Wenning (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) is the better pro prospect of the two; he has gone from a fringe draftable guy to a mid- to late-round prospect. He has a strong arm, nice touch, OK mobility and the best receiving corps in the MAC.
Wenning leads the MAC in passing at 316.4 yards per game and in TD passes with 27 (fourth nationally). He is completing 62.9 percent of his passes and has thrown just five interceptions.
Lynch (6-0, 216) is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation. He is ninth nationally in rushing at 127.8 yards per game and has 12 rushing TDs. He also is averaging 207.9 passing yards per game, with 19 TDs, five interceptions and a 63.6 completion percentage. His lack of size and arm strength have most analysts thinking he can't be an NFL quarterback. But his toughness and versatility could mean a position change is in the offing at the next level.
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There are some other players to keep an eye on. Ball State features junior wide receiver Willie Snead (5-11, 193), who leads the MAC in receptions (74, eighth nationally), receiving yards (1,175, third) and receiving TDs (12, third). Northern Illinois has senior strong safety Jimmie Ward (5-11, 192), who has 59 tackles, five interceptions and four pass breakups.
Northern Illinois has won 22 consecutive MAC games and also owns a nation's-best 24-game home winning streak; no player on the Huskies' roster has played in a home loss.