Illini to Face UCLA in Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl

Illini to Face UCLA in Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl

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.

UCLA, which won the Pac-12 South Division with a 5-4 conference record. The Bruins now stand at 6-7 overall after falling to No. 9 Oregon, 49-31, in the inaugural Pac-12 championship game. Last week, the NCAA approved UCLA’s petition for a bowl waiver, allowing the Bruins to play in a bowl game despite a 6-7 record. The bowl appearance will be UCLA’s second bowl appearance in the last three years after seeing a six-year bowl streak end in 2007. The Bruins and Illini havesomething in common, as they both own narrow victories over Arizona State this season. Illinois beat ASU, 17-14, on Sept. 17, while UCLA edged the Sun Devils, 29-28, on Nov. 5.

“We’re very excited about the opportunity to be the first Big Ten team to go to San Francisco and play in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl,” interim head coach Vic Koenning said. “Even though it’s only been around for 10 years, this game has had a number of quality matchups and we’re glad to become a part of the bowl’s tradition. UCLA will present a number of challenges for us, but I know that our guys will make the most of playing in a great venue in one of the best cities in America. This is a great honor and a tremendous opportunity for us, and it will give our large alumni base in California great access to our team. I’m sure that our fans will be excited to join us in San Francisco and we look forward to finishing the season on a positive note.”

The Illini could use a win after their once exciting 6-0 season collapsed into the current six game losing streak train wreck; in which Ron Zook’s job was a casualty. The Illini are the first team in FBS history to start 6-0 and finish 0-6. This bowl will feature two teams with fired coaches in it.

But I don’t want to end on a downer. So here’s another factoid:

Illinois is going for the first back-to-back bowl wins in program history.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports

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