Illinois Fighting Illini vs California Golden Bears: RedBox Game Preview, Prediction


Going 4-5 in conference play isn’t anything to really get too excited about, but it’s plenty good enough to get you into a bowl game these days, provided you take care of business in the non-conference. Illinois and California did just that and thus they will meet in the Redbox Bowl in Santa Clara, California on December 30th.

Cal comes in at 7-5 overall, juxtaposed against the Illini mark of 6-6, but the de facto hosts don’t really have a very impressive resume to speak of this season. Their signature win is over an 8-5 Washington team that went 4-5 in a very mediocre Pac 12. They also have a win over a very blah and overrated Washington State side.


Nevertheless, upon looking at various sports betting websites like you’ll see that Cal is favored, at most sports books by 4.5, with an over/under of 44. That means the bookies foresee a 24-20 Golden Bears victory, and if the Illini are to pull off the upset, they must do so in a de facto road game. The Redbox bowl will be televised on FOX, with a kickoff of 3pm central.  Joe Davis, Brock Huard and Bruce Feldman will have the call from Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers. 

The last time the Illini won a bowl game, it was this specific one, although it had different branding (Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl) and it was played in a different stadium (Pac Bell Park, home of the San Francisco Giants). This will be the first bowl appearance for the program since 2014 and the first of the Lovie Smith era.

Also, I did a segment on the this bowl game, the infamous 1984 Rose Bowl Illini Playboy Mansion New Year’s Eve party legend and the bowl season in general for the Minutia Men show, on the Radio Misfits network. You can access that by going here.

illini basketball

Illinois was a very interesting team in that the route they took to 6-6 was an unexpected one. They experienced a lot of extreme highs (the historical Wisconsin upset, second halves against the Michigans) and egregious lows (inexplicably losing at home to Eastern Michigan, failing to show up against their biggest rival and getting utterly demolished by them, despite Northwestern having their worst season in two decades). For a complete synopsis of their season go here.

The good news for the Illini is that they can end their year on a high note, and in doing so get their ninth bowl win (for full Illini bowl history go here). The Redbox Bowl has already made some national headlines, due to a shirt that leaked. It’s a hideous design on multiple levels, and it even has an egregious error in it:

Turns out, and this a good thing for everyone involved, this is a pirated shirt that is NOT the RedBox Bowl shirt. (Hard to find anyone who actually LIKED this)

It used unlicensed logos and the bowl committee released a statement indicating so:

RedBox Bowl Prediction: California 31, Illinois 27

You can flip coins here on this match up of two mediocre teams, so just take a look at this stat.

Distance from Illinois’ Memorial Stadium to Levi’s Stadium: 2,156 miles
Distance from California’s Memorial Stadium to Levi’s Stadium: 44 miles

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports, which is partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC and Chicago on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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