CHAMPAIGN, Ill. Last weekend's upset of a Top 25 team wasn't enough to get Illinois ranked. Maybe this one will be.
Rashard Mendenhall and Juice Williams carried the surprising Illini to a 31-26 win over No. 5 Wisconsin on Saturday, ending the Badgers' 14-game winning streak.
A week ago, Illinois beat then-No. 21 Penn State 27-20, the school's first win over a ranked opponent since 2001.
Mendenhall ran for 160 yards and two touchdowns, and Williams added another 92 yards rushing as Illinois improved to 5-1 overall. The Illini are off to a 3-0 start in the Big Ten for the first time since 1990, when they won a share of the conference title.
None of it is a surprise to Illinois coach Ron Zook, who challenged Mendenhall before the season to lead the potent offense.
"I said, 'Rashard, if you have the kind of year we think you're capable of having, and if you do the things the coaches are trying to get you to do, we have a chance to be pretty special,' " Zook said.
After winning only four of his first 23 games, and just one in the conference, Zook has Illinois talking Big Ten title.
"With a team like us," Mendenhall said, "we haven't had too much success like this ... (Now) we know we can play with anybody."
The Badgers (5-1, 2-1) hadn't lost since Sept. 16, 2006, at Michigan.