Projected AP Top 25 college football rankings after Week 7: No. 16-15
16. Illinois Fighting Illini
If you’d have told someone coming into the season that Bret Bielema would have Illinois at 6-1 and in the driver’s seat to win the Big Ten West this season, they might’ve thought you were outside of your mind. Sure, the Fighting Illini always had the look of a feisty squad but, with Saturday’s 26-14 win over Minnesota, they proved that they are more than just a pesky team but an actual high-quality group.
Chase Brown proved again to be the heart of this Illinois team with a monster 41-carry, 180-yard performance that helped him shoulder the weight of the offense with quarterback Tommy DeVito playing through an injury. And the defense was a monster as they held a potent Golden Gophers attack in check. If the Illini keep this up, they’ll be in Indianapolis facing either Ohio State or Michigan for the conference title.
15. Penn State Nittany Lions
Despite some wins coming into Saturday that looked good in terms of name value, the fact of the matter was that Penn State had really only beaten one higher-quality team this season in the season-opening thriller that they prevailed in over Purdue. So when they went to the Big House on Saturday to face Michigan, it was a proving ground for James Franklin’s team.
What they proved is that they might not be much of anything at the top of the Big Ten this season. Sure, the Nittany Lions were only down two points at halftime, but that was largely due to one long run and a lucky-ish pick-six. Outside of that, and in the second half especially, they were outclassed by the Wolverines. Penn State will have another chance to prove itself when it faces Ohio State but this game won’t inspire much confidence.