Projected AP Top 25 college football rankings after Week 8: No. 16-15
16. Illinois Fighting Illini
Particularly with Purdue laying an egg against Wisconsin and Minnesota getting blown out by Penn State, it shockingly looks like Bret Bielema and his upstart Fighting Illini have a clear path to a date with either Ohio State or Michigan in Indianapolis with the Big Ten Championship on the line. And it’s a credit to Illinois for how strong they’ve been as an entire team to get to this point.
We know that running back Chase Brown is a total stud as he’s been a workhorse carrying the offense out of the backfield, but Tommy DeVito has shown improvements at quarterback and the defense is quietly one of the best in college football this season. They might not be a Top 10 team, but this Illinois team looks capable of giving anyone in the country trouble on a given Saturday.
15. Utah Utes
Kyle Whittingham and Utah certainly earned their week off on Saturday after the heroic home win over USC to hand the Trojans their first loss of the season last week. Not only was it a fast-paced, high-scoring and grueling affair, but the Utes also showed a ton of heart in going for the two-point conversion to win late in the fourth quarter rather than settling for the tie and a potential push into overtime.
With that said, the Utah defense is not what we’re used to seeing from this program on that side of the ball and the offense has been maddeningly inconsistent, despite having playmakers like Cam Rising on their side. Is that something they can fix moving on from the win over USC? That’ll be fascinating to find out over their next five games, starting on Thursday with a matchup in Pullman against Wazzu.