The UCLA Bruins and the Illinois Fighting Illinis are set to clash in the 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, in a battle of interim head coaches.
The UCLA Bruins are the first team in the last decade to make it to a bowl game with a losing record. It helped a bit back dooring into the Pac-12 championship game due to the fact that USC was ineligible. Offensive coordinator Mike Johnson will replace Rick Neuheisel as the interim head coach for the bowl game. "I think it's going to be a good matchup," Johnson said. "It's two teams that have gone down similar paths." The Bruins have one of the worst offenses in the country, averaging just over 20 points a game. They continued to have quarterback issues throughout the season due to injuries. Not only has the UCLA offense been bad, but the UCLA defense ranks 96th out of a possible 120th on scoring defense, giving up over 32 points per game.
Not to be outdone by UCLA, the Illinois Fighting Illini are the first team in FBS history to start the season with six consecutive wins, only to follow it up with six consecutive losses. The Illini will also have an interim coach after firing Ron Zook after the conclusion of the regular season. "We're extremely excited," interim head coach Vic Koenning said. "It's an opportunity that, you know, we hoped very much to have a chance to play again. We have a lot of redemption to do." While Illinois did have a very disappointing season, they do have some exciting players to watch on offense in wide receiver A.J. Jenkins and quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. Jenkins, who will be heading to the NFL after this game, should end the season with just over 1,200 receiving yards. Unlike the UCLA defense, Illinois' is one of the better defenses, giving up just an average of 20 points per game.
Game date, time: 3:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, December 31st
Location: AT&T Park, San Francisco, CA
TV channel: ESPN/ESPN3
Odds: Illinois favored by 3
For more college football, stay tuned to SB Nation’s college football news coverage. And visit our many college football blogs. For the latest updates on the Fight Hunger Bowl, follow this StoryStream. For more Illinois, be sure to check out Illinois blog Hail to the Orange. For more on UCLA, visit UCLA blog Bruins Nation.