STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 29: Devon Still #71 of the Penn State Nittany Lions sacks Nathan Scheelhaase #2 of the Illinois Fighting Illini during the game on October 29, 2011 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

2011 Bowl Projections: Experts Divided On Illinois

Illinois is bowl-eligible but sliding down the pecking order in the Big Ten, while Northwestern has plenty of work to do in order to earn a bowl bid.

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2011 Bowl Predictions: Can Illinois Reach The TicketCity Or Little Ceaser's Bowls?

The 2011 College Football Bowl Predictions have undergone another round of updates following last weekend's action. SB Nation has compiled the predictions from Phil and Brad Edwards and Mark Schlabach of ESPN. The results, to say the least, seem mixed.

The Illinois Fightining Illini, after last Saturday's loss to the Penn State Nittany Lions, now stand at 6-3 with a 2-3 record within the conference -- good for nearly last place in the Leaders Division of the Big Ten: 

Big Ten Conference Standings

(updated 10.30.2011 at 2:45 AM EDT)

Leaders Division Conf Overall
Penn St. Nittany Lions 5 0 8 1
Wisconsin Badgers 2 2 6 2
Ohio St. Buckeyes 2 2 5 3
Purdue Boilermakers 2 2 4 4
Illinois Fighting Illini 2 3 6 3
Indiana Hoosiers 0 5 1 8
Legends Division Conf Overall
Nebraska Cornhuskers 3 1 7 1
Michigan Wolverines 3 1 7 1
Michigan St. Spartans 3 1 6 2
Iowa Hawkeyes 2 2 5 3
Minnesota Golden Gophers 1 3 2 6
Northwestern Wildcats 1 4 3 5

And, unfortunately for Illini fans, the schedule does not get any easier over the next few weeks as the Illini face No. 19 Michigan and No. 20 Wisconsin on the 12th and 19th of November respectively. The Leaders Division may seem quite middle heavy with three separate teams at 2-2, but it still appears unlikely the Illini would gain to much ground on their conference.

That, however, did not stop Scout and Schlabach from predicting Illinois would face the SMU Mustangs in the TicketCity Bowl on January 2. The bowl game, held in Dallas, matches up teams from the Big Ten and Conference USA.

Meanwhile, Phil Steele and Brad Edwards cast Illinois in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, which squares a Big Ten team and an MAC school. Presently, Steele thinks the Fighting Illini will face the Toledo Rockets, while Edwards sees them taking on the Northern Illinois Huskies.

Speaking of the Huskies, the experts call for Northern Illinois to also make a possibly appearance in either the Idaho Potato Bowl or the New Mexico Bowl -- for a total of three possible bowl games.

The Northwestern Wildcats, on the other hand, look just about sunk. With a 1-4 conference record and a 3-5 overall record, one must imagine even a miracle would be insufficient at this point.

For in-depth coverage of the Fighting Illini, visit Hail to the Orange; for in-depth coverage of the Northwestern Wildcats, visit Sippin' On Purple. For more news and notes from around college football, including the 2011 college football bowl schedule, head over to SB Nation NCAA Football.

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