N. Illinois-Toledo Preview

The Associated Press

Jordan Lynch and Northern Illinois took a big step toward winning the Mid-American Conference's West Division by knocking off one of their prime competitors last week.

Now the No. 20 Huskies must go on the road to eliminate the other team in their way.

Lynch looks to help NIU clinch the West crown Wednesday night at Toledo as it seeks its 24th straight conference victory.

Northern Illinois (10-0, 6-0) would have been eliminated from contention last Wednesday with a loss, but Lynch helped end Ball State's seven-game win streak in a 48-27 home victory.

The game was closer than the final score. Lynch threw a tiebreaking 36-yard TD pass to Da'Ron Brown with 5:49 remaining before the Huskies added two more scores in the final 1:26.

Lynch went 26 of 32 for 345 yards and two scores while running 20 times for 123 yards and two more TDs.

''If Jordan isn't in the conversation for the Heisman I don't know what people are watching, they were asleep,'' coach Rod Carey said. ''In my estimation that trophy goes to the best player in the nation and with the performance he had tonight, he dang sure should be in that conversation.''

Lynch is the main reason why Northern Illinois, ranked 16th in the BCS, is averaging 44.6 points for the sixth-best mark in the country.

Toledo (7-3, 5-1) is averaging 35.0 points with 106 in its last two games. The Rockets have won five straight.

"Jordan Lynch, he's a tremendous player," Toledo quarterback Terrance Owens said. "I feel that, like the offensive side of the ball, we have to match their offense. But it all boils down to all four quarters, we gotta win the fourth quarter."

The Rockets remain in the thick of the battle to win the West, but they must win both of their remaining games, Wednesday's contest and the Nov. 29 finale at Akron, to have a chance.

Toledo is unsure of the status of star running back David Fluellen, who has missed the last two games with a leg injury. Fluellen is second in the MAC with 133.4 rushing yards per game and first in all-purpose yardage with 159.0.

"You cannot put him in if he's not ready to rock and roll," coach Matt Campbell said. "I think it's a situation for him that we just need to try to continue to get him back to full strength so he can feel really comfortable about playing in a football game."

Freshman Kareem Hunt has picked up the slack with 595 yards and six TDs on the ground in the last four games. He had a season-high 186 rushing yards and one score in a 51-41 win over Buffalo last Tuesday.

These teams feature the top rushing attacks in the conference, with Northern Illinois averaging 303.8 yards and Toledo 247.3.

The Huskies have captured the last three meetings, with close victories in the past two. They needed a touchdown with 19 seconds left to escape with a 63-60 win Nov. 1, 2011 in their most recent visit to the Glass Bowl. Lynch spearheaded a rally with two third-quarter TD passes in a 31-24 home victory last Nov. 14.

"They're a great team," Northern Illinois tight end Luke Eakes said of Toledo. "We've had problems with them in the past and they always come out to play well. They're always fired up to play us and we're fired up to play them. So I consider them our biggest rival."

Northern Illinois will put a 14-game road win streak on the line. Toledo mayor Mike Bell, who played for the Rockets between 1973-76, has proclaimed Wednesday as "Toledo Rocket Football Day."

"It's going to be a hostile environment," Carey said. "It's going to be Wednesday. It's going to be a night game. It's an 8:00 p.m. kickoff, so it's going to be cold. I'm sure it's going to be windy, and all of the elements will play a factor into the football game just like it should when you play outside in November."

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