Texas Forever! Illinois to Play Baylor in Houston Texans Home, Texas Bowl

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It’s official! The Illinois Fighting Illini have learned their college football bowl destination, and it’s Houston, or more specifically, Reliant Stadium, home of the NFL’s Houston Texans, and this year’s college basketball Final Four.

They’ll play the Baylor Bears in the Texas Bowl on December 29th 5 p.m. CT on ESPN.

By Paul M. Banks

It is Illinois’ second bowl appearance in the last four years after the Orange and Blue played in the 2008 Rose Bowl Game.

“The University of Illinois football team, and the entire University of Illinois community, is excited to get to Houston and play in the Texas Bowl,” Illinois Athletics Director Ron Guenther said. “We’ve had a very good year and we’re looking forward to getting down there and facing Baylor. It’s a great destination and a number of our fans are located in Texas, so we’re thrilled to be going there.”

The Illini (6-6 overall, 4-4 in the Big Ten) will face Baylor, which went 7-5 overall, 4-4 in the Big 12. The bowl appearance will snap a 16-year postseason drought for the Bears, which last appeared in the 1994 Alamo Bowl. Baylor is having a historic year, with its four Big 12 wins marking the school’s most in the 15-year history of the league and its victory at Texas being the Bears’ first since 1991.

The Illini are averaging 32.1 points per game, third-most in a season in school history, and 242.3 rushing yards per game, third-most in school history. Junior running back Mikel Leshoure has had a memorable season, rushing for 1,513 yards (the second-best total in school history) and 14 touchdowns (third-best), including a school record-breaking 330 yards in Illinois’ 48-27 win over Northwestern at Wrigley Field. Redshirt-freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase also has had a strong first year as a starter, completing 56.8 percent of his passes for 1,583 yards, 17 touchdowns and eight interceptions while rushing for 815 yards and four touchdowns.

Defensively, junior linebacker Martez Wilson leads the team with 105 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and four sacks, while junior safety Trulon Henry has a team-high three interceptions.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest webzine. He’s also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

He also does a regular guest spot each week for Chicagoland Sports Radio.com

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  1. I knew Illinois would make a bowl game and everyone said they wouldn’t. Baylor is very, very tough. Illinois will upset Baylor if… they stop Robert Griffen III.

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