DeKALB – Alabama's 21-0 beatdown of LSU in January's BCS National Championship Game was a memorable one.
It was a dominating defensive performance by Nick Saban's Crimson Tide, the best team in the country. The Tigers were shut out.
They had just five first downs. Less than 100 yards of total offense.
Of course, there were still debates about whether Alabama deserved to be in the game due to the Tide not winning their own conference. Some people said Oklahoma State was the true national champion, and the Cowboys received four first-place votes in the final AP poll.
What certainly didn't cross my mind was that with LSU's loss, the longest winning streak in the country belonged to Northern Illinois, which had gotten a 38-20 win over Arkansas State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl a day earlier. Heck, I didn't realize it until sometime this spring.
It didn't hit the players or coaches right away either. NIU coach Dave Doeren doesn't remember when he noticed he was the coach of the team with the longest winning streak in the nation.
It may not have seemed likely, after Doeren saw his team fall 48-41 at Central Michigan on Oct. 1, 2011.
But here we are. Saturday at Soldier Field, the Huskies put their nine-game winning streak on the line against Iowa. Sure, NIU's run isn't quite as impressive as the 34-game streak USC put together from 2003-06, or the one of the same length Miami (Fla.) had from 2000-03. And yes, I know some of USC's wins have been vacated, while the Hurricanes could have some victories technically gone as well thanks to the Nevin Shapiro Scandal.
Still. Just sit back and think about it for a minute. NIU has the longest winning streak in the country.
NIU. Not Ohio State, not Alabama or some other SEC school. Northern Illinois, a school from the Mid-American Conference.
Doeren and his team haven't been afraid to talk about last year's run either. Sure, Doeren knows what happened last season really means nothing in 2012.
He still realizes how big of an accomplishment the current nine-game winning streak is.
"It's something that you're proud of, but at the same time you acknowledge it's not going to do anything for you when it comes to winning," he said after Saturday's final preseason practice at Huskie Stadium.
Quarterback Jordan Lynch said the team brings it up when they talk about what they are playing for Week 1. Don't think the Huskies won't be thinking about keeping the longest winning streak in the nation alive and well when they take the field Saturday.
"That's the thing we talked about, we want to keep that winning streak going," Lynch said. "And it's a major accomplishment, but it's nothing if we don't keep it alive."
Dare I say the Huskies have a decent shot at keeping the run of success going for a few weeks? Sure, it will be considered an upset if NIU beats Iowa. But is it out of the question? Of course not. Iowa is a middle of the pack Big Ten team. Certainly beatable. Don't get these Hawkeyes confused with the Wisconsin team NIU played last season.
This season's non-conference schedule is still one of the easiest ones NIU has had in recent memory. Despite not playing up to par against Football Championship Subdivision teams the past two years, I still expect NIU's game against Tennessee-Martin Week 2 to be your typical FCS blowout.
On Sept. 15, the Huskies face an Army team that was 3-9 last season. NIU could very well be favored when it takes on Kansas, a team the Huskies could have very well beaten in Lawrence last season, at home.
The first MAC contest where I see the Huskies being an underdog is the Oct. 27 game at Western Michigan.
Maybe Iowa beats NIU no problem, and talk of this streak is gone fairly quickly. There's also the chance the Huskies upset the Hawkeyes, and who knows how long the streak could last if that happens.
Long story short, last year's ride was a fun one for the coaches, players and fans, as NIU ended the season with its first MAC title since 1983 and a bowl victory.
I think that ride can last a little while longer.