Nation's most underrated players

Northern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch has put up monster numbers for the 11-1 Huskies. Nelson Chenault/US Presswire

At a time when Johnny Manziel, Manti Te'o and Collin Klein are readying themselves for the bright lights and big city of Heismanville, the following five players were in many ways nearly as productive and integral to their team's successes. The problem is that you've likely heard very little in 2012 about their performances. Smaller media markets, smaller conferences and smaller expectations might affect the amount of attention a player receives -- but they don't minimize how valuable a player is to his team.

In many ways, this is my "Moneyball" evaluation of the five most undervalued and underappreciated players of the 2012 season. In compiling this list, I reached out to several of my college football analyst colleagues and, remarkably, three of the players were nearly unanimous picks. So even though these players may not be household names and are a long way away from the red carpet of New York City, they are quite popular among my football-judging peers at ESPN and have proved their value throughout the season.

1. Jordan Lynch, QB, Northern Illinois Huskies

Let's take a quick look at how Lynch's 2012 statistics compare to those of Johnny Football:

By no means is the MAC the SEC, though it may not have been far off the Big Ten in 2012. Lynch, like Johnny Football, was in his first season as a starter under center and ignited the 11-1 Huskies every weekend. He was held to fewer than 100 yards rushing just once, and Iowa was fortunate to face the inexperienced starter in Week 1 (with that loss the only blemish on the Huskies' record in 2012).