According to the most recent Sagarin ratings, Illinois is playing the 20th toughest schedule in the nation. Six of Illinois opponents are bowl eligible (Rutgers, Iowa, Ohio, Penn State, Wisconsin, Ohio State)
Illinois middle linebacker J. Leman has recorded seven games of 10-plus tackles to lead the team. For the season, he is averaging 10.9 tackles per game, which ranks first in the Big Ten and eighth nationally.
Leman is two tackles away from a 100-tackle season.
Illinois has played five Big Ten contests this year. In games against those same fice opponents last year, the point differential in the outcomes was 33.6 points with no wins. Against Iowa, Michigan State, Indiana, Penn State and Wisconsin this year, the difference is 7.2 points with a victory over MSU.
With a 181.9 rushing average per game, the Illini are posting the best average for an Illinois squad since the 1978 season. That year the team averaged nearly 200 yards a game, 198.7.
On the other side of the ball, the Illinois defense is holding opponents to only 124.7 yards rushing per game, which is the lowest average since the 1994 season, when the squad finished with a 121.7 rushing defensive average.
Illinois true-freshman quarterback Isiah "Juice" Williams has proven he has big-play ability. Seven of his nine touchdown passes this season have been for 76, 69, 69, 53, 44, 35 and 31 yards.
Williams is one of five true-freshmen quarterbacks who have made starts nationally -- Williams, ILL; Mitch Mustain, Arkansas; Nate Davis, Ball State; Thaddeus Lewis, Duke; and Matthew Stafford, Georgia.
With 2,335 career yards rushing, senior running back Pierre Thomas now ranks seventh all-time on the school's rushing list.
The Illini have taken advantage of opportunities in the red zone, scoring on 20 of 21 trips inside the 20. The 95.2 percent success rate ranks first in the Big Ten.
Illinois' win over Michigan State marked some firsts for the Illini. It was Ron Zook's first Big Ten win, his first road win as Illini head coach, kicker Jason Reda's first game-winning field goal and true-freshman quarterback Juice Williams' first career win.
Sophomore defensive tackle David Lindquist leads the Big Ten with four fumbles recovered.