2013 MAC Championship Preview and Prediction: Northern Illinois vs. Bowling Green

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Huskies look to clinch BCS bowl berth by claiming third consecutive conference championship.

2013 MAC Championship Preview and Prediction: Northern Illinois vs. Bowling Green

Heisman contender Jordan Lynch and the No. 16 Northern Illinois Huskies face off against Travis Greene and the Bowling Green Falcons in the MAC Championship Game from Ford Field at 8 pm ET on Friday.  Joining Florida State and Ohio State as the only undefeated teams in the FBS, the Huskies are 14th in the BCS standings, and as a member of a non-automatic qualifying conference could earn a BCS bid by finishing in the top 12 of Sunday's final standings. Bowling Green, making its first appearance in the MAC title game since 2003, has had an impressive season. They are 7-1 in conference play, with their two non-conference losses coming to bowl-bound teams in Mississippi State and Indiana. Despite their success, the Falcons have lost three straight to the Northern Illinois, while the Huskies have won 26 consecutive conference games and are looking for their third conference title in a row.

Three Things to Watch

Bowling Green Rushing Offense

Sophomore RB Travis Greene's 1,422 rushing yards ranks him second in the MAC to Jordan Lynch (1,755). Over the last four games, Greene has averaged 129 yards per game and 6.4 per carry while scoring five touchdowns. He's posted seven 100-yard games, has three multi-touchdown games and has rushed for under 88 yards just once this season. After carrying the ball once all of his freshman campaign, Greene has turned into a key piece of a Falcons' offense that averages 209.6 rushing yards per game and 34.4 points per game.

Jordan Lynch for Heisman

As many Heisman frontrunners continue to fall by the wayside, Jordan Lynch's stock continues to rise. He's the fifth QB in FBS history with 20 passing touchdowns and 20 rushing touchdowns in the same season joining Manziel, Newton, Kaepernick and Tebow. His 1,755 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns rival numbers put up by former Heisman-winning halfbacks. In fact, both are more than Mark Ingram had when he won his Heisman Trophy in 2009. Last week, he rushed for 321 yards against Western Michigan, breaking his own record for most rushing yards in a game by a quarterback. He has seven 100-yard games and two 300-yard rushing performances to his credit this year. Additionally, he has accounted for four or more touchdowns in seven different contests and hasn't thrown an interception since October 19. Lynch trails only Boston College RB Andre Williams in rushing yards, with the next quarterback on the FBS rushing list slated at 18th in the country in rushing. Lynch can throw the ball a bit as well, with 2,457 passing yards and 22 touchdowns. For those who point to the weakness of the MAC conference as a major reason for Lynch's success, it's worth pointing out Lynch's combined 482 yards and six touchdowns in the air plus 91 yards and one touchdown on the ground against two Big Ten schools this year.

Falcons' Defense

The key to stopping Jordan Lynch could lie with the Falcons defense. Bowling Green boasts a defense ranked fifth in the nation, giving up 13.8 points per game and 28th with an average of 134.8 rushing yards allowed. In fact, they've allowed over 28 points just once in 2013. Over the Falcons' current four-game winning streak, the defense has allowed a total of just 17 points. They are just one of seven defenses, along with teams like Alabama and Michigan State, that allows under 300 offensive yards per game. They have the nation's best red zone defense, allowing points only 57% of the time for just fifteen red zone scores all season. Additionally, they rank in the top 25 in third-down defense, allowing a conversion on just 34% of third downs. The Falcons are tough against ball carriers, recovering an FBS 9th-best 13 fumbles, for an average of over one per game.
Key Player: Matt Johnson, QB, Bowling Green

If the Falcons are going to have any chance to take down Jordan Lynch and the No. 9 scoring offense, their own offense will need to put up some points. Sophomore Matt Johnson will need to continue to improve and avoid turnovers. He's thrown an interception in four straight games as he prepares to face a Huskies' defense that has interception 17 passes, good for 12th in the nation. Johnson will look for help from his leading receiver Shaun Joplin, who has three 100-yard games on his 2013 resume.

Final Analysis:

The three reasons Northern Illinois will win another MAC Championship? Jordan Lynch. Jordan Lynch. Jordan Lynch. Despite their strong defensive rankings, his level of talent and playmaking ability is so far above anything Bowling Green has seen this year. The only things to decide now are who the Huskies will face in their second-straight BCS bowl and whether Lynch's darkhorse Heisman candidacy will overcome frontrunner Jameis Winston.

Prediction: Northern Illinois 34, Bowling Green 28

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