CHAMPAIGN – As the program chases a major first over the rest of the month of November, the program got another in 2022 on Tuesday night thanks to what they’ve done in August, September, and October.

Illinois was ranked 16th in the first College Football Playoff Top 25 poll of the season, marking the first time the program has appeared in those rankings since they began in 2014.

The 13-person committee voted on the poll, using performance on the field, conference championships won, strength of schedule, and head-to-head match-ups against comparable teams to decide the rankings.

This honor for Illinois comes after the team has enjoyed its best start since the 2001 season, opening with wins in seven of their first eight games. At 7-1 on the season, the Illini are currently in first place by themselves in the Big Ten West conference, a division they’ve never won in program history.

Bret Bielema’s team can win it if they can pick up wins in their next two games at home against Michigan State (Saturday) and Purdue (November 12th). Illinois finishes the year with road games against Michigan (November 19th) and Northwestern (November 26th).

One thing fueling Illinois’ great start is the defense, which is currently ranked first in ten different national categories, including scoring (8.9 points per game) and yardage allowed (224.5 yards).

The Illini also have the nation’s leading rusher, Chase Brown, who currently has 1,208 yards rushing.

Thanks to their contributions, Illinois has won six-straight games for the first time since 2011, including an undefeated October that they finished off with a 26-9 win over Nebraska last Saturday.