(STATS) - Western Illinois tends to get overshadowed in the nation's strongest FCS conference, but what the Leathernecks could do Saturday would grab a lot of attention, and set a record for the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
The nation's No. 13-ranked FCS program - off to a 2-0 start - will try to end a 15-game losing streak against FBS opponents when it visits Northern Illinois (0-3) in DeKalb. Northern Iowa, Illinois State and North Dakota State have combined to give the Missouri Valley three wins over FBS opponents for the third time. The conference has never had four.
Missouri State also has a chance to give the Valley another FBS win Saturday night at Kansas State (1-1). It's less likely, although the improving Bears have surpassed last year's win total with a 2-0 start.
All six of Western Illinois' all-time wins over the FBS - in 35 games - have come against Mid-American Conference teams, and four were against Northern Illinois.
"Sometimes records are deceiving," WIU first-year coach Charlie Fisher said about NIU on his weekly radio show. "They've got good players. It will be a street fight for us against them. We'll have to be ready to play very well."
WIU has much more momentum heading into Saturday's matchup, having defeated Eastern Illinois and Northern Arizona, which have both appeared in the Top 25 this season.
The Leathernecks haven't committed a turnover, with sophomore running back Steve McShane (181 rushing yards per game) and senior wide receiver Lance Lenoir providing balance for a team with the nation's third-best average time of possession (35 minutes, 44 seconds). The defense features one of the better linebackers in the FCS in leading tackler Brett Taylor.
Northern Illinois holds a 21-17-1 series lead, but it's the first time the once-regular rivals are meeting since 2009. Although NIU is coming off a home loss to San Diego State, they have won 35 of their last 38 games at Huskie Stadium.