With the Illini securing their sixth win of the season against Northwestern, the team has ensured that it will play in a bowl game this year. This is significant for several reasons.
The opportunity to play in a bowl game allows the team to practice for an extra two weeks. The extra practice will certainly help the many freshmen on the team develop for not only the bowl game but next season.
A bowl game also saves Ron Zook’s job. While the head coach would likely have kept his spot even if the team had gone 5-7, as that still would have been a two-win improvement from the 2009 season, the Illini have already doubled their wins and could win two more games in 2010.
Finally, just making a bowl game is something that the team can take great pride in.
Zook has only led the Illini to one bowl in his past five seasons, and the turnaround that the team showed in 2010 should really help Illini recruiting, which took a hit following the past two seasons.
Writing Illini will provide a more in-depth look at this season’s bowl game once Illinois’ bowl and opponent are decided. For now, here is a look at Illinois’ history in postseason bowl games.
Illinois has been to 15 bowl games in its history, and the Illini have a 6-9 record in bowl games.
Here is a look at all 15 bowl appearances by the Illini.
- 1947 Rose Bowl
Illinois defeated UCLA 45-14 in the first Rose Bowl between the Big Ten (Big Nine at the time) and the PAC-10.
- 1952 Rose Bowl
Illinois defeated Stanford 40-7 to move to 9-0-1 on the season and secure the school’s last national championship.
- 1964 Rose Bowl
Illinois defeated Washington 17-7 as it moved to 3-0 in Rose Bowl games.
- 1982 Liberty Bowl
Illinois was defeated by Alabama 21-15 as the Illini suffered their first Bowl loss.
- 1984 Rose Bowl
UCLA avenged its ’47 loss by handling the Illini 45-9.
- 1985 Peach Bowl
Illinois falls just short of the upset as Army squeaks out a 31-29 win.
- 1988 All-American Bowl
Florida defeated Illinois 14-10.
- 1990 Citrus Bowl
Illinois defeats Virginia 31-21 to move back to .500 in bowl games. It is the last time the Illini would be even in bowl games.
- 1991 Hall of Fame Bowl
Clemson shuts out the Illini 30-0.
- 1991 Sun Bowl
Illinois loses to UCLA 6-3 in the Sun Bowl.
- 1992 Holiday Bowl
Illinois loses to Hawaii 27-17.
- 1994 Liberty Bowl
Illinois posted its only bowl shutout as it destroyed East Carolina 30-0.
- 1999 Micron PC Bowl
Illinois remained perfect over Virginia as it posted its largest bowl win in a 63-21 trouncing of the Cavaliers.
- 2002 Sugar Bowl
Illinois fell to LSU 47-34.
- 2008 Rose Bowl
A surprise season found Illinois in the Rose Bowl again against a dominant USC team that just missed out on the National Championship game. Illinois would fall 49-17.
Here are some interesting facts on the Illini in bowl games.
- Of the teams that have been to Pasadena multiple times, only USC, Michigan State and Alabama have better win percentages than Illinois.
- Illinois’ longest bowl streak is from 1988 to 1992, when the team made a bowl game for 5 straight years.
- Illinois went 3-0 in its first three bowl games but has never won consecutive bowl appearances.
- Illinois did lose three straight bowl games from 1990-1992.
- The Illini have been to a bowl game at least once every decade except for the 70’s.
- The last decade, 2000-2009, was the first decade when the Illini didn’t win a bowl game.
With the bulk of a young team returning next year, a strong performance in this year’s bowl could help the Illini have an even more successful season in 2011.
As Illinois and its fans look ahead to the postseason, the team cannot afford to overlook its last regular season game against Fresno State.
If the Illini can win their next two games, this season will be more of a success than anyone could have predicted back in the preseason.
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