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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Northwestern Complete Bowl History: Cliff Notes Version

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The beauty of history is that it tells us where we’ve been in order to figure out where we’re going. Illinois took out Baylor in part one of Chicago Big Ten teams in the bowl “Texas Two-Step.” And on New Year’s Day, the Northwestern Wildcats will likewise have an opportunity to defeat a 7-5 Big 12 team in their home state; and a drivable distance from their campus. Just like the Illini did.

But before we get to previewing college football’s Ticket City Bowl vs. Texas Tech, let’s look back at where NU has been in the postseason. Well, it started nice…in 1949. But a half-century later, the holidays haven’t exactly been very happy for the Wildcats.

Let’s Review. Years denote the season, not date of game.

By Paul M. Banks

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Picks for Every Single College Football Bowl Game!

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TSB’s leading resident college football and college basketball nerds pick each and every game; often in very snarky fashion. DK=David Kay, PMB= Paul M. Banks

Dec. 18 New Mexico Bowl: BYU vs. UTEP, 2 p.m., ESPN

(DK) BYU.  The only bowl game in which neither team has a winning record.  What a way to start the bowl season!  I got the Mormons.

(PMB) BYU. It’s a good thing Brigham Young has about 20,000,000 descendants, because I can’t imagine anyone not related to him having even the most remote interest in this game. I’m picking the followers of Joseph Smith as well.

uDrove Humanitarian Bowl: Northern Illinois vs. Fresno State, 5:30 p.m., ESPN
(DK) Northern Illinois.  Hey, I actually know something about Northern Illinois.  Their head coach left for Minnesota and they hired Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Doeren to be their new head man.  He is staying with the Badgers through the Rose Bowl though.  What does that mean for the actually game?  No idea.

(PMB) NIU. This is a very underrated game; and too good to be this early in the cycle. Huskies’ Chad Spann continues legacy of Northern Illinois rushers: Michael “the Burner” Turner, LeShon Johson, Garrett Wolfe etc.

R&L Carriers Bowl: Ohio vs. Troy, 9 p.m., ESPN
(DK) Ohio.  It’s the fourth best team from the MAC taking on a team from the Sun Belt Conference!  Ratings Monster!

(PMB) Ohio. Only because they had a mascot that stalks, plots and attacks other mascots in cold blood. As for the game- YAWN!

Dec. 21
Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl St. Petersburg: Southern Mississippi vs. Louisville, 8 p.m., ESPN

(DK) Southern Mississippi.  Brett Favre went to Southern Miss so obviously I am picking them.

(PMB) SMU. Reading the full name and match-up for this bowl game is the second most redneck thing I’ve ever done in my life. The first is spending last Christmas in a rural VA triple wide; with spotty cell phone service, no internet and three whole channels. Yes, you can’t pick your family. But you sure can pick (or more importantly not pick) your in-laws.

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Losing Teams in Bowl Games? How Frighteningly Realistic a Scenario

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Did you think the idea of expanding the NCAA Tournament to 96 teams was backwards and just plain stupid? Worried about having too many mediocre teams undeservedly in the postseason? Well, it looks like that’s about to happen, this very bowl season in college football.

It’s bad enough that 6-6 teams have been getting into bowl games, and getting there by scheduling creampuffs to pad their record. But now it’s going to get even worse: we could realistically see a few 5-7 teams in the “postseason.” I told you the bowl system has WAY over-expanded, the BCS is a backwards system, and every year we don’t have a playoff system, the terrorists win.

According to the San Diego Union Tribune:

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