Illini team, fans feel something special this football season

You must be a long time Illinois fan to remember feeling like this before. With a 6-1 record, the Fighting Illini have tied the program's strongest start from 1953.

They've beat Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota in the same season for the first time since 1983, and head Coach Bret Bielema says they're just getting started.

"I think our guys know they've done a lot of good things to get to where they are, but it's just scratching the surface of what it can be," said Coach Bielema.

Coach Bielema says he thought the team was strong back in the spring, but then losing to Indiana made him certain.

"I told our guys after that game – I know going to Indiana I thought I had a good team. Coming back from it, I knew I had one even though it was after a loss. I knew they could be very special, and that's kind of the way it's played out," he said.


Finally, people are noticing. Illinois has rapidly risen to number 18 in the AP Top 25 poll. Several players got recognized this week. Plus, more eyes are on #2, the number one running back in the nation, Chase Brown.

Illinois just launched a website about his "chasing history" as a Heisman contender and more.

"There's just a lot of general goodwill and excitement that goes beyond what's in front of us right now. So, we're definitely trending in the right direction," said Bielema.

Coach Bielema says he feels the buzz on campus, especially after the Minnesota win when he pulled his hat low and snuck through the tailgate celebrations with his wife, enjoying the growing excitement.

"That's truly the great reward. Of course, we love to win games, get ranked, go to bowl games, win championships, but when you have that many people enjoying a common cause, it's a very special feeling," he said.

Coach Bielema says he's heard that familiar call almost everywhere he goes. Fans shout, "I-L-L!" He's ready with the "I-N-I" response while getting his team ready to face Nebraska after a bye week.