UCLA vs. Illinois: Brutally Honest Fight Hunger Bowl Preview

at&t-park

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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Illini in San Francisco Bowl vs. UCLA Bruins

at&t-park

The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl will be at 2:30 pm CT on Dec. 31 on ESPN.The destination- picturesque AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants of MLB.

They will face a 6-7 UCLA team. That’s four bowls in a row the Illini have faced an opponent in their home state. (Baylor in the Texas Bowl last year, USC in the Rose Bowl ’07, LSU in the Sugar Bowl ’01).

Illinois has faced UCLA in bowls on four previous occasions- winning the first two. But later losing the 1984 Rose Bowl 45-9, and the extremely exciting 1991 John Hancock Bowl 6-3.

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Ron Zook Fired! Illini A.D. Addresses Media (Video)

illinois-celebration

You look at the pic above and think “what does a celebration from the Illinois Fighting Illini 2004-05 college basketball season have to do with this?” The long overdue firing of the school’s college football coach Ron Zook.

Well, when I searched for google images of “Illini celebration,” it was all hoops images. (which says something about why the Zooker is being jettisoned. And, I needed an orange and blue celebration pic for a news like this.

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Which Illini Coordinator Gets Ron Zook’s (Interim) Job?

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In 2009, a very underachieving Illini football team finished 3-9. Picked as high as third by some Big Ten and college football pundits, the horrible record was nothing short of a catastrophe for the resume of Ron Zook and the Illinois program.

Or so I thought.

Logic dictated then Illinois Athletic Director Ron Guenther can Zook then and there. Unfortunately, Guenther had FOOLISHLY given Zook a big, expensive contract extension before that season, and buying him out would have been just about financially impossible.

So what did Guenther/Illinois do? They doubled down on a losing hand. Sort of.

They brought in two flashy, expensive coordinators to take as much responsibility off of Zook’s plate as possible. Vic Koenning for the defense, Paul Petrino for the offense.

So which one gets the gig now?

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5 Biggest Reasons Illinois Should Fire Ron Zook Next Sunday

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The main story surrounding the Illinois Fighting Illini losing 28-17 to the Wisconsin Badgers today is the fact that Illini Head Coach Ron Zook is a “dead man walking.”

New Illinois Athletic Director Mike Thomas said he won’t make a decision until after the season is over, so I wouldn’t expect to hear anything concrete until after the season’s final game- next Saturday at the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

Sure, there might be a bowl game, but the axe could fall on Zook’s head a week from Sunday.

The Illini blew a 10-point second half lead to Wisconsin, as the Badgers had TD drives of 2, 30, 44, and 39 yards. No, that’s not a typo, it’s an indication of how POOR the Illini special teams are. And how their offense keeps turning it over, but that’s another story for another time.

For now, I’ll list (in no particular order) the top 5 fireable qualities in Ron Zook WITHOUT mentioning his 34-50, 18-37 in the Big Ten record while at Illinois. That’s obviously reason #1; the W-L record speaks for itself.

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Illini Bowl Game History and Bowl Summaries

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It’s bowl week, prime time for college football and the Illinois Fighting Illini are taking part this year. The fifth installment of the Texas Bowl is tomorrow night. The bowl has been affiliated with the Big 12 Conference since its inception in 2006, and 2010 is the first time it pairs teams from the Big 12 and the Big Ten. The Texas Bowl holds the fifth choice among both Big Ten and Big 12 bowls, after the BCS bowls are announced.

Previous Results of the Texas Bowl
2006 – Rutgers 37, Kansas State 10
2007 – TCU 20, Houston 13
2008 – Rice 38, Western Michigan 14
2009 – Navy 35, Missouri 13

By Paul M. Banks

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

texas-bowl

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

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Ron Zook Delivers Jim Mora Style Mini-Rant (Video)

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Last week the Illini football team imploded and lost at home to the Minnesota Golden Gophers, one of the worst teams in recent Big Ten football history.

Words can’t really express a college football let-down of this proportion, although we tried to do so here.

Now a really promising 5-3 team that many pundits believed would finish 8-4 or even 9-3 doesn’t even look like a bowl team. Yes, they could very easily not get that critical sixth win to earn a postseason game and 15 extra practices.

A question from a reporter about the “b word” prompted Illini Head Coach Ron Zook to deliver this Jim Moraesque “PLAYOFFS???!!! YOU’RE TALKING PLAYOFFS?!” rant.

Thanks to The Last Angry Fan for the photo.

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