Daily Chronicle sports editor Ross Jacobson and sports reporter Steve Nitz spend their days covering the area’s sports scene. Occasionally, they give their viewpoints on those local sports. In this installment of their Take 2 column, they compare the early ’90s Marshall dynasty to Northern Illinois’ recent run of title game appearances.
Jacobson: Northern Illinois goes for its third consecutive Mid-American Conference championship today against Bowling Green. The Huskies would become only the second team to win three in a row. Marshall won four in a row and five out of six in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
With a Huskies victory tonight, which streak would you consider more impressive: Marshall or NIU?
Nitz: I’m going to go with Northern’s. I just believe the MAC has been better over the past few seasons than it was 10, 15 years ago. Look at the team Ball State had this year. Toledo has a good squad, Bowling Green features a great defense. Buffalo looks like a program on the rise.
The league has gotten stronger and stronger. Maybe it’s the increased bowl opportunities, and I’m sure the midweek games have helped as well.
Jacobson: I could turn the argument around and say that the MAC really isn’t that great outside of the top teams. Over the past couple of years, Massachusetts, Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan all essentially have been walk-over games. NIU has had a few tough contests each season, but many of the conference games have been total blowouts.
But what makes the potential NIU streak more impressive to me is the championship game victories on a neutral field.
When Marshall won five of six MAC titles, the MAC title game was played at campus sites. Every Marshall championship came at home with its only loss occurring in 2001 at Toledo. For NIU to win three consecutive games at Ford Field would be very impressive, and against three different opponents, as well.
Marshall had a pair of great quarterbacks in Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich. But where does Jordan Lynch rank now in the all-time great MAC QBs?
Nitz: I don’t see him having the NFL career of a guy like Ben Roethlisberger or Pennington, but in terms of what he’s accomplished in college, those guys don’t really compare to Lynch. He could end up passing and running for 2,000 yards. It’s pretty insane when you think about it. I think Lynch’s 2013 season will go down as the best in history for any MAC quarterback. Who knows what he could have done for his career if he wasn’t stuck behind Chandler Harnish a couple of years ago.
Jacobson: That’s always a question that comes up with quarterbacks who only get limited starts. However, maybe Lynch doesn’t develop into the player he is today if he was forced into a starting role as a freshman or sophomore.
Nonetheless, Lynch has put up incredible numbers this year and I agree that the past two years have to be considered the greatest back-to-back seasons for a MAC quarterback. The numbers are staggering and you can’t argue with the team success, either. Even with a loss today, he would post back-to-back 12-1 seasons.
The combination of stats and results are something the MAC might never see again.