Northern Illinois' shocking upset loss to Bowling Green prevented the Huskies from becoming the first team in Illinois college history to play in back to back BCS level games. Under the current format, there is a chance Northwestern's 1996 Big 10 co-champions could have joined accomplished that feat. What Northern Illinois has built with coaching and administrative changes in a non-automatic qualifier conference has been sensational. With wins over Iowa and Purdue, the Huskies had as many wins against the Big Ten as the Land of Lincoln's resident two teams, Northwestern and Illinois (and one includes an NU victory over the Illini). The 2012 and '13 NIU seasons will go down as two of the greatest by a FBS team in Illinois college football history.
1905 University of Chicago
Possibly one of the most dominant teams in the history of college football. The Maroons outscored their opponents 271-5. The penultimate game was against Michigan. The Wolverines travelled to then Marshall Field having outscored their opponents 495-0. The win for UC snapped a 56 game Michigan winning streak. The game was a back and forth defensive battle. Eventually the Maroons won when the tackled UM's Denny Clark in the end zone for a safety. Sadly Clark would commit suicide 30 years later.
1913 University of Chicago
Not quite as powerful as the 1905 team, the Maroons gave up 27 points in seven games. The ended the season 7-0 for the second and last undefeated, untied season.
Like their conference rivals to the North, Illinois' key game occurred against a dominant Michigan team. The Wolverines travelled to Champaign having outscored their opponents 89-0 in their first four games. Using a pair of big plays, the Illini defeated Michigan 14-0 in front of 67,000 at Memorial Stadium. They finished an undefeated season with five shutouts and having allowed only 3.0 PPG.
The 1951 Illini were one of four teams that claimed a national championship. They finished the season 9-0-1 after defeating number eight Stanford 40-7 in the Rose Bowl. The allowed only 20 points in their last six games, including a 0-0 tie with Ohio State.
The 1983 Illini remain the only team in Big Ten history to win nine games in a season. Led by Silver Football winner Don Thorp, the Illini ran off ten straight wins after a 28-18 loss to Missouri in the opener. In Big Ten play Illinois gave up an average of 14.7 PPG.
When Gary Barnett was hired at Northwestern, he proclaimed he would "take the purple to Pasadena" After shocking Notre Dame in the opener on the road, the Wildcats came crashing back to Earth a week later with a home loss to Miami (OH). They then ran off nine straight wins including an 8-0 Big Ten record. It took an Ohio State loss to Michigan in the final game of the Big Ten season to indeed send the Purple to Pasadena. This was likely the most improbable season in the history of Chicago sports. It was Northwestern's first winning season in 25 years, their first bowl game since what was also their last Big Ten title and trip to their only other Rose Bowl after the 1948 season.
The 1996 season was important for Northwestern to prove that the 1995 season was not a fluke. After a season opening upset loss at Wake Forest, the Wildcats had a seven game winning streak. Only a loss at number 15 Penn State prevented back to back undefeated Big Ten seasons. The Wildcats won their final two games before losing to Tennessee in the Florida Citrus Bowl.
2012 Northern Illinois
After going 22-6 under Jerry Kill, Tom Matukewicz and Dave Doeren, the Huskies capped off Doeren's second season with an Orange Bowl bid. Only a fourth quarter comeback by Iowa from a 17-9 deficit at Soldier Field in the opener, kept the Huskies from being undefeated. They needed a Jordan Lynch touchdown in the second overtime to send them to Miami.
The Huskies kept the game close for three quarters before two Florida State touchdowns allowed the Seminoles to pull away. NIU would finish the season 12-2.
The 2012 Wildcats became only the second Northwestern to win 10 games in a season. The other was the 1995 Rose Bowl team. Northwestern was only 4:47 away from having an undefeated season. They were unable to hold late leads at Penn State and Michigan and at home against Nebraska.
Although the fell shy of their goal of reaching the Big Ten Championship game, the Wildcats won their first bowl game since 1948. Their 34-20 win over Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl snapped an eight game Bowl losing streak dating to the 1996 Rose.
2013 Northern Illinois
Rod Carey became the Huskies fourth coach in four years following coaching them in the Orange Bowl in January. They needed a late interception and a Matthew Sims 34 field goal with four seconds left to escape in the opener at Iowa. NIU's 73rd ranked overall and 56th ranked scoring defense caught up with them in the MAC title game against Bowling Green.
The Falcons shredded the Huskies for 584 yards en route to a 47-27 title game win. Bowling Green put up 31 points in the first half and Quarterback Brett Johnson had four of his five touchdown passes in the opening 30 minutes. NIU Quarterback Jordan Lynch still finished with 335 yards of total offense, but his team's overall performance likely squashed any chances he had of winning the Heisman Trophy.
If you like this article, please subscribe below to get updates.
Type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.