By Matt Stevens - IlliniGuys Football Writer/Analyst
November 1, 2022
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- For the first time in school history, Illinois saw its name revealed on the College Football Playoff Top 25 rankings.
In the first CFP Top 25 rankings of the 2022 season, Illinois (7-1, 4-1 in Big Ten Conference) was placed No. 16 by the 13-member selection committee chaired by North Carolina State athletics director Boo Corrigan.
The rankings, released exclusively Tuesday evening on ESPN, included four Big Ten programs (Ohio State at No. 2, Michigan at No. 5 and Penn State at No. 15). Tennessee was ranked No. 1 in Tuesday’s rankings, Georgia was ranked No. 3 and Clemson was ranked No. 4.
“For me it’s awesome but I think what it’s great for is the University of Illinois,” Illinois head coach Bret Bielema said Monday. “I think it’s great for our fan base, for (athletic director Josh Whitman), for the people who have been here through all that stuff, for our players. I saw a great quote from (Sydney Brown), he was asked about the value of where we’re at right now and he said, ‘It’s a lot different from my freshman year and you should enjoy the moment.’ It’s incredible. Syd got interviewed on the field right after the game. Here’s a guy who just had two passes picked off, played a pretty complete game and the reporter asked him what it would mean to win the Big Ten West. He said, ‘Our work’s not done. We still have a lot of football in front of us.’ It just goes to show the demeanor of our football team.
Illinois won its sixth straight game last Saturday by dominating Nebraska 26-9 on national television to complete the Illini’s best eight-game stretch to a season since 2001.
The last time Illinois finished ranked in a Top 25 poll was 2007 but that was in the Bowl Championship Series era where Ron Zook’s Illini would be granted a spot in the Rose Bowl due to Ohio State being the No. 1 ranked team in the final BCS poll and therefore, qualifying the for the national championship game.
“What is going on in Champaign? Bret Bielema’s programs has a chance to get to Indianapolis this season,” ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit said on the ESPN broadcast Tuesday night.
Illinois returns home this Saturday for a contest against Michigan State (3-5, 1-4 Big Ten) for a 2:30 p.m. kickoff on Big Ten Network.
This ranking in the first week of November 2022 is the second time ever that a Bielema-led program finds itself ranked in the CFP Top 25 poll as Arkansas was ranked No. 25 in Week 10 of the 2016 season as the Razorbacks ran its record to 6-3 after defeating then-No. 11 Florida 31-10 but then proceeding to lose three of its last four games. Following that CFP ranking, Bielema’s Arkansas program would lose 11 of its next 13 games against Power Five Conference opponents leading to Bielema’s termination just over a calendar year after being ranked.
“I think our team will enjoy being talked about and it will be awesome to speak of it, but listen, we’re into Michigan State,” Bielema said Monday. “We’re into what we can do. We want to play Michigan State as strongly as we can play them and let the cards fold as they are. Then we’ll get into another game week preparation here against Purdue. I get the question. I think it’s awesome. Again, it’s just part of the process of what we’re on.”
2022 College Football Playoff Selection Committee Members
North Carolina State athletics director Boo Corrigan
Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart
Wyoming athletics director Tom Burman
Colorado athletics director Rick George
Navy athletics director Chet Gladchuk
Former retired head coach Jim Grobe
Michigan athletics director Warde Manuel
Former consensus All-American offensive lineman and 1992 Outland Trophy winner Will Shields
Kansas State athletics director Gene Taylor
Virginia Union Vice President for Athletics and Community Wellness Joe Taylor
Former All-American offensive lineman (at Penn State) John Urschel
Entergy Corporation Group President for Utility Operations Rod West
Former USA Today national college football sportswriter Kelly Whiteside
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