Whether they want to admit it or not, Heisman voters have been forced to call a spade a spade as Jordan Lynch has become a legitimate contender in an undetermined Heisman race.
Lynch has been the best player in college football this season while remaining the face of the nation’s up-and-coming football program. There is no reason he should not be invited to New York for the Heisman Ceremony, even if he is not playing in a power conference.
After last season, most media put a pity spotlight on Lynch, labeling him as the dark horse with no realistic shot at even an invite to New York in a 2013 Heisman campaign built for Johnny Manziel. It seems Manziel and the 8-4 Aggies were a one-hit wonder last year.
Texas A&M’s struggles left the door open for talented, experienced quarterbacks from across the SEC and ACC to become the headliners of the Heisman race during the middle weeks of the season. Lynch remained a pity pick, a player who might receive a handful of fifth-place votes from his represented region.
But over the past few weeks, while other contenders lost key games or threw their chances away with poor performances, Lynch continued to break records and win games. In November, Lynch compiled 1,470 total yards and 16 touchdowns with no turnovers.
He also continued to find his way into conversations as a legitimate Heisman choice. It only took pundits about a year to start discussing that possibility in depth, instead of dismissing the thought that a MAC player could have any real sway in the race.
Voters have valid reasons for not wanting Lynch to be in the thick of a Heisman race. He does not play in any of the most competitive conferences and he did play poorly against Florida State in last year’s Orange Bowl, the only game in which NIU played a premier nonconference opponent.
But the fact stands that everyone who has been atop the Heisman watch list has played themselves out of their spots, aside from FSU quarterback Jameis Winston and Boston College running back Andre Williams.
Winston is clearly having the best on-field year for anyone in the race not named Lynch, but off the field there are brutal allegations against him. He is in no legal trouble as of yet for an alleged rape, but if more negative details come out then Heisman voters will continue to jump off his bandwagon.
Williams, on the other hand, has been nothing short of spectacular. He is deserving of all the praise he has received. He averaged 6.4 yards per carry for 2,102 yards before exiting Saturday’s game against Syracuse with an apparent arm injury. But Boston College is 7-5 overall and 4-4 in ACC action, landing him in the same pool as Manziel, minus the off-field circus.
Lynch has led NIU to a 12-0 record and its third straight MAC Championship appearance, all while staying squeaky clean off the field and becoming a rightful role model for children across the country.
Lynch’s play has enabled his dark horse label to be removed. Whether the Heisman voters like it or not, Lynch has forced his way onto their ballots. Each of his 43 touchdowns this season beg to differ with any other argument.