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For Illinois football, the first program is already in sight with the start of November

CHAMPAIGN – With each passing week, the Illini are reaching important milestones that set the program up for the bigs.

Invincible October is a good reason for all this.

Illinois finished the month 4-0 and improved to 7-1 overall, opening up a world of possibilities for the team as they approach the final four games of the regular season.

With a 26-9 win over Nebraska, Illinois has won seven of its first eight games for the first time since the 2001 Big Ten championship when the team traveled to the Sugar Bowl.

Now with seven wins, the Illini are guaranteed their first winning season since 2011, when they opened, they finished the season 7-6 and earned their most recent bowl victory (Kraft Fights Hunger Bowl in San Francisco).

Brett Bielema’s team also moved up in the rankings to No. 14, their highest ranking in the poll since they were No. 13 prior to the 2008 Rose Bowl. Illinois State is expected to appear in the College Football Playoff rankings when the first are released Tuesday night.

More importantly, these wins give Illinois a chance to play for something the program has never had: a Big Ten West championship.

At 4-1, the Illini have a one-game lead over Purdue at 3-2, while the rest of the division’s teams have at least three losses each. The Boilermakers are the second opponent in a two-game stretch that begins Saturday with a 2:30 p.m. contest against Michigan State at Memorial Stadium.

If Illinois wins both of those games, they will clinch the Big Ten West title regardless of what happens in their final two regular season games on the road against Michigan and the Northwestern Championship.

A great October gave Illinois the opportunity to get that opportunity, and a good November could make the program its first reality.


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