Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch remains in the Heisman chase

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Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch plays his final home game for the Huskies on Tuesday night, but you can forgive him if he's not thinking about that.

When you have your Mid-American Conference team on the cusp of a second consecutive BCS bid and you're in the Heisman hunt -- well, those things can overshadow the "last home game" storyline.

Northern Illinois (11-0) goes against woeful Western Michigan (1-10) knowing that it must beat the Broncos (7 p.m. ET, ESPN) to stay in the hunt for a BCS bid.

Northern Illinois is No. 14 in the BCS standings this week and is the highest-ranked non-automatic-qualifying conference team. A non-AQ team is guaranteed a BCS spot in two ways. One is if it finishes in the top 12; the other is if it is ranked in the top 16 and its ranking is higher than that of a conference champion with an automatic berth. This week, the Huskies (and unbeaten No. 16 Fresno State) are higher than any team from the AAC (UCF is 19th and Louisville 20th). Under BCS rules, only one non-Big Six team is guaranteed a spot if it meets the criteria.

Fresno State is higher in the polls than NIU; the Bulldogs are 13th in both polls, while the Huskies are 17th in one and 20th in the other. But NIU has a much better computer ranking than Fresno State (seventh, to the Bulldogs' 17th).

Thing is, Fresno State's opponent this week (San Jose State) is vastly better than Western Michigan, so the potential exists that Fresno State could ease back ahead of NIU in next week's BCS standings. That means the respective league title games could tell the tale.

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NIU and Fresno State already have clinched their spots, but the opponent remains unknown. It will be either Bowling Green or Buffalo -- both are 8-3 going into their Friday game in Buffalo -- for NIU, and either Boise State or Utah State (both are 7-4) for Fresno. Utah State wins the Mountain West Mountain Division if it beats Wyoming or if Boise loses to New Mexico on Saturday. Boise wins the division if it beats New Mexico and Utah State loses.

NIU was in the BCS last season, losing to Florida State in the Orange Bowl. Fresno never has been to the BCS.

Lynch also remains in the running for the Heisman; at the least, he is trying to get to New York as a finalist.

He finished seventh last season, when he set the FBS single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback. He is on pace to break that record this season.

Last season, Lynch also became the first player in FBS history to run for more than 1,500 yards and pass for more than 3,000 in a season; he could do it again this season (he has 1,434 rushing yards and 2,418 passing yards). Lynch is sixth in the nation in total offense (350.2 yards per game) and seventh in rushing (130.4 ypg).

Western Michigan is brutal against the run, surrendering 234.1 rushing yards per game; that is 116th nationally. The Broncos also allow 35.6 points per game, which is 108th nationally.

NIU should cruise, so the question becomes how much time does Lynch spend on the field? To stay legitimately in the Heisman race, a MAC quarterback needs to put up big numbers against an awful team; does that mean Huskies coach Rod Carey plays him a bit longer than he needs to? That could end up being an important storyline, too.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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