Here’s How Illinois Has Fared in Recent Big Ten Recruiting

Here’s How Illinois Has Fared in Recent Big Ten Recruiting
Fact Checked by Pat McLoone

The first three years of the Bret Bielema era in Champaign-Urbana have produced up-and-down results - a pair of 5-7 seasons offset by an 8-5 campaign that resulted in a bowl game loss to Mississippi State in 2022.

Fans and Illinois sportsbooks will be looking for more this season. Entering 2024, the Illini are looking to get back to what helped them reach the ReliaQuest Bowl two seasons ago and away from the errors that netted them 14 losses combined in 2021 and 2023.

With Illinois having only reached seven bowl games this century, it’s worth stating that the program has not been a winner consistently. Bielema and his staff are hoping to change that this fall.

Based on the initial CFP on Illinois sports betting apps, it looks like Bielema has his work cut out for him.

ESPN BET Illinois, for example, gives Illinois national championship odds of +100000, ranking alongside Big Ten rivals Indiana and Minnesota.

Even worse, BetMGM Illinois doesn’t even have the Illini on the board for winning it all. You go 56 deep – from Georgia at +350 to Tulane and several others at +50000 – and still don’t see Illinois. Save your BetMGM Illinois promo code for another wager.

Ahead of the Illini’s season opener against FCS program Eastern Illinois on Aug. 31, – your source for Illinois sportsbook promos - broke down where Bielema’s team ranks in the 18-team Big Ten in recruiting between 2020 and 2024 to measure the university against the rest of the conference.

Big Ten Recruiting Ranks (2020-2024)

Here is the average national ranking of all Big Ten football programs in recruiting, according to 247 Sports:

RankSchoolAvg. National Ranking
1Ohio State4.0
4Penn State14.2
6 Maryland 31.0
10Michigan State35.4.
18 Illinois 57.2


Illinois Struggling to Keep Up

Over the last five years, no Big Ten Conference team has fared worse when it comes to recruiting rankings than Illinois, which has posted an average figure of 57.2 between 2020 and 2024.

The closest program, rankings-wise, was Indiana (55.0). Northwestern (54.2), UCLA (50.4) and Purdue (48.8) also finished well behind the rest of the pack.

The top schools when it came to recruiting over the last five years were Ohio State (4.0), Oregon (8.6), Michigan (13.0), Penn State (14.2) and Nebraska (24.8). Maryland (31.0) and Iowa (32.4) came next.

In what used to be called the Big Ten West, Illinois’ average ranking of 57.2 finished well behind Nebraska (24.8), as well as Iowa (32.4), Wisconsin (33.4), Minnesota (41.4), Purdue (48.8), Northwestern (54.2) and Indiana (55.0). All of which illustrates the tall task ahead of Bielema in the new year.

Bonus Bets Expire in 7 Days. One New Customer Offer Only. Must be 21+ to participate & present in IL. In partnership with Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino. Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER or text ILGAMB to 53342. Visit for Terms & Conditions. US promotional offers not available in NY, NV, or Puerto Rico.


Christopher Boan is a lead writer at specializing in covering state issues. He covered sports and sports betting in Arizona for more than seven years, including stops at, the Tucson Weekly and the Green Valley News.

Cited by leading media organizations, such as: