KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Prior to the season, the chatter surrounding Northern Illinois was about how tough it would be to replace Chandler Harnish, last year's Mid-American Conference MVP who owns several school records.
It was said that first-year starter Jordan Lynch wasn't going to be able to replace Harnish's production. Not with an entirely new offensive line. It was the common theme when discussing the Huskies, and rightfully so. Replacing Harnish, who started four years for the Huskies, wasn't going to be easy.
Nine games into the season, every fan who said Lynch wouldn't be as good as Harnish was right, Lynch isn't as good as Harnish was last season.
He's been better. Yeah, I said it and I'll say it one more time in case you didn't hear. Lynch is currently on pace to have a better season than the one Harnish put together in 2011.
This isn't intended to be anything negative about Harnish. The guy was a dominant player in the MAC, and there's a reason he's currently on an NFL practice squad.
However, Lynch has just been good. Really good, and his numbers don't lie. Through nine games, the junior from Chicago has racked up 3,169 yards of total offense. In 2011, Harnish put up 4,595 yards of offense. Given three more regular season games, a possible berth in the MAC Championship Game and a likely bowl game, Lynch has a very good shot to surpass Harnish's mark from last season, a year in which Harnish had 14 games to do his work.
Heck, Lynch has even got a shot at Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson's record of most rushing yards by a QB in a single season. Robinson ran for 1,702 yards in 2010. Lynch has now run for 1,185 yards after Saturday's 136-yard performance.
If you want to judge Lynch on how he's done in clutch situations, don't look far. Look at what the QB was able to do in the win at Army Sept. 15, finding Martel Moore for an 8-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter to put NIU ahead. He also led comebacks against Kansas and Ball State.
Coming into Saturday's 48-34 win over Western Michigan, when he had six total touchdowns, Lynch was sixth in the nation in total offense.
All season NIU head coach Dave Doeren has reiterated how he wasn't worried about his quarterback heading into the season.
After Saturday's win, Doeren even used the H-word when talking about Lynch.
"I'm going to tell you, I think the guy should be on the Heisman list," Doeren said. "The guy's close to breaking the all-time record for quarterbacks in rushing. Throws four touchdowns, runs for two, averages 130-plus (rushing yards) per game. He doesn't turn the football over, he's playing so hard."
Lynch may not get any Heisman love this season, playing in the MAC. It didn't help that his worst game of the season came against a team from the Big 10.
But next season, Lynch's name will be out there, when he'll have a year of experience under his belt, not to mention an entire offensive line returning.
The word Heisman might be used a little more often in DeKalb in 2013.