Illini 24, No. 6 Wisconsin 23: Congrats, Lovie Smith! Now about that bowl game …
It was Smith’s biggest “W” since the Bears topped the Seahawks in the 2010 NFL playoffs. That’s the last time Smith, in his fourth season at Illinois, won a postseason game of any sort. How ’bout it, Illini? Beat Purdue, handle horrendous Rutgers and — yep — knock off Northwestern, and you’re in.
It was Illinois’ biggest victory since a 28-21 upset at top-ranked Ohio State in 2007.
It was Lovie Smith’s biggest ‘‘W’’ since the Bears topped the Seahawks 35-24 in the 2010 NFL playoffs. That’s the last time Smith, in his fourth season at Illinois, won a postseason game of any sort.
Minds: boggled. That’s the case all over after the Illini — who came in 0-3 in the Big Ten — shocked No. 6 Wisconsin 24-23 on Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.
Smith’s beleaguered defense forced a late turnover, leading to James McCourt’s 39-yard field goal as time expired.
Just like that, a 30-point underdog notched the upset of the season in college football.
Just like that, Smith unburdened himself — for now — of all the talk about his job status.
‘‘Our program, we needed to get a signature win,’’ Smith said on the field when it was over. ‘‘I was just hoping today was the day — and the day came.’’
Just like that, the Illini (3-4) can start thinking about maybe, just maybe, finishing strong enough to make it to a bowl game.
But that means winning again Saturday at 2-5 Purdue, doesn’t it? It means adding to the misery of a horrendous Rutgers team a week after that.
For the Illini, it means winning the games they should — must — win, and that does indeed include down-and-out Northwestern at Memorial Stadium in the regular-season finale Nov. 30.
See how quickly we’ve moved on?
On to the rest of the ‘‘Big 10’’ (where 10 actually means 10):
2. Crimson and over? The college football world missed a heartbeat or two when Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa left a victory Saturday against Tennessee with a high ankle sprain. No problem next weekend against awful Arkansas. Then comes a week off. But then comes LSU on Nov. 9 — ready, Tua? It’s a huge story to watch.
3. A perfect 10: Not a single defeat among Alabama, LSU, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Baylor, SMU, Minnesota and Appalachian State. At this point of the season, the number of zeros is surprising.
4. Real talk: You can cut off the above list after Penn State. Nobody else is getting to the finish line without an ‘‘L’’ or with a shot at the playoff.
5. But wait: We’re a tiny bit scared of Baylor and/or Minnesota making us look foolish. No team is getting more out of less than these two. Still, multiple ‘‘L’s’’ likely are on the horizon for the Bears and the Gophers.
6. Mario Cristobal, your table is ready: Who’s doubting the coach as a fit at Oregon now after his Ducks rallied from 28-14 down to win at Washington? Just because a guy is born in Miami, plays at Miami and cuts his teeth coaching at Miami, that doesn’t mean he can’t win a Pac-12 title.
7. One-and-overdone: The debut of a new overtime rule — by which teams go straight to two-point conversion attempts beginning with the fifth OT — was all we needed to see to know it’s ridiculous. Virginia Tech’s 43-41 victory against North Carolina in six OTs was perfectly exciting through four OTs. Then it instantly jumped the shark.
8. Broadway Joe: If I’m voting for the Heisman Trophy today, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is my no-doubt-about-it No. 1.
9. That’s what he said: ‘‘I love kickers.’’
That was Texas coach Tom Herman after Cameron Dicker made a 33-yard field goal as time expired for a 50-48 victory against Kansas in Austin. One suspects if Herman could dicker with the football gods for a better-looking final score than that against the lowly Jayhawks, he’d do it in a heartbeat.
10. And another thing: Ryan Field? More like Dyin’ Field. There’s no shame in losing to Ohio State, but the 52-3 bloodletting Friday was a trip back to a morbid past for Wildcats football. Six games in, there are no signs of life.