As the Illinois Fighting Illini and the UCLA Bruins gear up for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on Saturday, the Illini are focused on breaking through and making school history in bowl season. Sophomore defensive lineman Akeem Spence brought up an interesting bit of bowl trivia that the Illini will be trying to overcome when the game kicks off in San Francsisco:
In the University of Illinois history, we've never won back to back bowl games. That's why we're playing. We're putting in our all because we're trying to do something that's never been done before.
via Sports Illustrated. Illinois beat Baylor Bears last season in the Texas Bowl, so they could finally close the book on this bowl-game oddity forever if they can knock off the Bruins. Even with the incentives in front of the Illini players, it looks like the school has suffered from accepting the bowl invitation for a game so far from home. NBC's Darren Rovell explains, via Twitter:
Illinois should have turned down a bowl game. Will lose about $350,000 on tickets alone. Travel to SF isn't cheap either.— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) December 30, 2011
No matter how you feel about the particulars of the bowl season, this is still a chance to see some very talented players. Terry Hawthorne and Whitney Mercilus headline the NFL talent, while Reilly O'Toole and Nathan Scheelhaase represent a possible look at the future for the Illini.
For more, keep tabs on SB Nation Chicago and SB Nation's NCAA football page. For more on the Fighting Illini, check out Hail to the Orange, SB Nation's Illinois Fighting Illini blog. For more on UCLA, head over to Bruins Nation.