The Illini ended the 2007 season with a ranking of No. 18 by the coaches and No. 20 by the Associated Press. The team's highest rating of 2007 was 13th heading into its Rose Bowl game against USC. Illinois faced five ranked teams last season, posting a 3-2 record vs. the top-25. Head coach Ron Zook's squad was the only in the country to defeat two top-5 opponents with upsets of No. 5 Wisconsin and No. 1 Ohio State.
This year's schedule features some of the best competition in college football as the Illini start off the season with No. 7 Missouri in St. Louis, Mo., in the State Farm Arch Rivalry on Aug. 30. They also face back-to-back ranked opponents in No. 22 Penn State on Sept. 27 and No. 24 Michigan on Oct. 4, both of which are road match-ups. On Oct. 25, Illinois travels to No. 12 Wisconsin and then hosts No. 3 Ohio State on No. 15.
Zook is one of 61 head football coaches that vote for the weekly poll.