Big Ten's big three stay up top, Illini on the verge of top 25

Big Ten's big three stay up top, Illini on the verge of top 25
December 23, 2013, 7:00 pm
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Vinnie Duber

The Fighting Illini might not have to go much longer without a number in front of their name.

Illinois was the second team in the receiving votes category of the latest AP top-25 poll when the latest batch of rankings was released on Monday. Additionally, the three Big Ten powerhouses — Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State — remained at Nos. 3, 4 and 5 respectively. Iowa jumped up from No. 25 to No. 22, and Michigan also received votes.

[MORE: A Saturday of statements for the Big Ten]

It was a big weekend for the Big Ten, but it was Illinois' upset win over a ranked Missouri team in the annual Braggin' Rights game that gained the most attention. The Illini have played well all season but failed to hold onto second-half leads in games that could have ended in statement wins, and because of it they failed to gain much national attention or votes in the AP poll. But finally getting that big non-conference win on Saturday changed all that, and the Illini only have one team — Oklahoma, ironically coached by former Illinois head man Lon Kruger — separating them from a top-25 ranking.

Meanwhile, statement wins from elsewhere around the Big Ten kept the conference's top teams near the top of the poll. Michigan State drubbed Texas in Austin over the weekend, while Ohio State pulled off an improbable come-from-behind victory over Notre Dame at Madison Square Garden. Plus, Iowa moved ahead a few spots after demolishing Arkansas-Pine Bluff — a game the Hawkeyes led at the half, 52-15 — and Michigan earned some votes for its win over Stanford in Brooklyn.

Check out the entire top 25 here.