||Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
San Fransisco, CA
2:20 pm CST
Fun facts surrounding the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl:
1. UCLA is the first team in a decade to earn a trip to a bowl with a losing record. Head coach Rick Neuheisel was fired after four seasons at UCLA, but still coached in the Pac-12 title game against Oregon. The Bruins (6-7) only got to play in the game because USC (who destroyed UCLA the previous week 50-0) was ineligible because of probation. An NCAA waver allowed the Bruins to accept a bowl bid despite the 49-31 loss to the Ducks dropping them below .500, making the Bruins the first program to earn a bowl berth with a losing record since North Texas in 2001.
2. Illinois is the first FBS team in history to close the regular season with six straight losses after opening with six consecutive wins. Illinois (6-6) became bowl eligible by beating Indiana on Oct. 8 to open 6-0 for the first time since winning the national title in 1951, but it is just one of nine FBS schools that hasn't won since. Despite ending the regular season on a six-game losing streak, the Illini, who reached as high as No. 16 in the Top 25, earned back-to-back bowl berths for the first time since 1991-92. That wasn't enough to save Zook's job, however.
Is there any sense in really previewing this game? Not really. Neither team is particularly good at anything, though each has shown flashes of...competence? Is that the right word?...during the course of the season.
UCLA has alternated good and bad offensive performances in its last four games, combining for 76 points in two but just six in the other two. Meanwhile, the Illini managed to finish the regular season ranked seventh in the country in total defense (291.8), fourth against the pass (159.1) and tied for 11th with 36 sacks despite the embarrassing end of the season skid. Much of this success stems from the play of All-American defensive end Whitney Mercilus, who had an FBS-best 14 1/2 sacks and led the Big Ten with 19 1/2 tackles for loss.