Matt Stevens, IlliniGuys Staff Writer
October 9, 2022
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- For the first time in 11 years, the University of Illinois football team will play a regular season game with a number by their name.
Following the 9-6 win over Iowa Saturday, its fourth straight win of the 2022 season, Illinois (5-1, 2-1 in Big Ten Conference) is ranked, at No. 24, in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll for the first time since Oct. 16, 2011.
“Some people have been asking me, ‘Do you think you should be ranked?’ I said, ‘No, but I did think we’d get some recognition.’ We haven’t played a ranked opponent at this level,” Illinois head coach Bret Bielema said on Oct. 3 just two days removed from defeating Wisconsin in Madison 34-10. “We’re kind of finding our way. I’m excited for that. That’s a good indication. We’ve been talking to our players about getting respect and you get respect one day at a time, but if people are starting to respect us, that’s a great thing. We’ve obviously have a long way to go.”
Illinois will host Minnesota (4-1, 1-1), which also received five voting points in this week’s poll, for an 11 a.m. kickoff for its Homecoming week in Champaign.
By being ranked for the first time since Ron Zook’s Illini started the 2011 season by winning its first six games, Illinois ended the longest drought being unranked among Power Five Conference programs just one week after Kansas ended that streak. As of now, Rutgers (Nov. 18, 2012), Oregon State (Aug. 17, 2013) and Vanderbilt (Jan. 7, 2014) take over the title of longest time being outside in the AP Top 25 poll. Illinois was joined by James Madison this week as new additions to the AP Top 25 poll as the Dukes (5-0, 3-0) found themselves in the poll for the first time in school history and are playing their first season as a member of the Sun Belt Conference in Division I college football’s highest level.
Illinois was one of four Big Ten programs ranked this week with Ohio State (2), Michigan (5) and Penn State (10) all staying within the top 10 of the poll. Georgia took back the No. 1 spot in The Associated Press college football poll after dominating Auburn 42-10 on Saturday and previous No. 1 Alabama sliding to No. 3 after they escaped a 24-20 home win despite Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Bryce Young being sidelined with an injury. The Crimson Tide is the first team to drop from No. 1 to No. 3 off a victory in 25 years.
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