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Chandler Harnish has Huskies near another MAC West title

Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish.  |  Jonathan Daniel~Getty Images

Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish. | Jonathan Daniel~Getty Images

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Time: 7, ESPNU, 670-AM.

Records: Northern Illinois 7-3, 5-1 Mid-American; Ball State 6-4, 4-2.

The story line: A second consecutive MAC West Division title is Northern Illinois’ to lose, thanks to a five-game winning streak paced by quarterback Chandler Harnish and one of the most prolific offenses in the nation (41.6 points per game). All NIU has to do is win their last two games, both at home.

The line: NIU by 19.

Lacy J. Banks’ pick: NIU, 42-21.

Updated: December 16, 2011 8:23AM

There is no national campaign pushing Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish for the Heisman Trophy.

And this is the year of the quarterback, right? Six of the top seven candidates are quarterbacks. But Stanford’s Andrew Luck, Boise State’s Kellen Moore, Houston’s Case Keenum, Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden and Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson play for schools representing larger, more reputable, more established teams that play tougher schedules and frequently play on national television.

“But [Harnish] is everything you could ever want in a quarterback on the field and off the field,” Huskies coach Dave Doeren said. “He’s an outstanding player, an excellent student, an intelligent, courageous leader and a great human being.”

Harnish leads NIU (7-3, 5-1 Mid-American) into its penultimate regular-season game against Ball State (6-4, 4-2) on Tuesday night at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb. The Huskies are on a five-game winning streak and need only two more victories to clinch their second consecutive MAC West Division title.

NIU is coming off a three-game road trip capped by last Tuesday’s 45-14 victory over Bowling Green. Harnish passed for 294 yards two touchdowns and ran for 151 yards and one touchdown. The Huskies led 24-14 at halftime, and its much-maligned defense shut out Bowling Green in the second half.

“I was proud of the way our defense pressured them through the game and shut them out the second half,” Doeren said.

The Cardinals haven’t been scoring like the Huskies, who are averaging a school-record 41.6 points per game. But they are close to NIU in defense. The Huskies have been giving up 33.6 points per game and the Cardinals 33.

“They were able to play at a high level earlier in the year, knocking off Indiana and Army,” Doeren said. “[Lembo] is well-organized. I know he does not have all the personnel he wants on the defensive end. They play hard, and they’re sound.”

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