Complete Illinois Fighting Illini Bowl Game History and Bowl Summaries

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Good morning college football and Illinois Fighting Illini fans. Another autumn Saturday is in the books and the season is just flying by. Last night saw Illinois go on the road, to Michigan State, and win their fourth straight game. They did it in extremely dramatic fashion, achieving the biggest comeback in school history (25 points).

Illinois is now bowl eligible, for the first time under Lovie Smith, and there are still two games left to play. This will be Illinois’ 19th bowl appearance, and they are 8-10 all-time. Let’s take a look at where we’ve been, so we can try to see where we’re going.

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UCLA vs. Illinois: Brutally Honest Fight Hunger Bowl Preview

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Ever since the bowl matchups were announced, everyone has picked on the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl for being the the worst matchup of them all. The New Year’s Eve game features not one but both teams playing under interim coaches because the regular head coach was recently canned.

And both teams made dubious “history” on the way here. Illinois comes in riding a six-game losing streak, after starting 6-0. Before the 2011 Illini, no team in FBS history had started 6-0 and finished 6-6. Their opponent is 6-7 UCLA, who required an NCAA waiver to compete in this game despite a losing record. So these traditional college basketball powers play in a college football game with a combined 12-13 record. Ack.

On top of that, UCLA has four players ineligible for the game, including backup quarterback Richard Brehaut. Illinois has two ineligible, including leading rusher Jason Ford.

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Illini Bowl History: Mixed Results, Lots of UCLA for some Reason

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This year marks Illinois’ 17th bowl appearance, where they are 7-9 all-time. The Big Ten has had to play 16 bowl games in the state of their opponent since 2005. That’s more than double that of any other conference, and extremely unfair. And that number will increase by five this holiday season.

By appearing in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco versus UCLA, the Illini are facing a bowl opponent in their home state for the 4th consecutive time. For some reason, they’ve drawn UCLA in 4/17 appearances, nearly one quarter. In this match-up of two traditional college basketball powers, the Bruins hold a 3-1 advantage over Illinois.

Let’s take a look at Illinois’ bowl history:

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