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Texas Bowl Preview: Illinois, Baylor Are... Hey, Baylor's In a Bowl!

Texas Bowl, December 29, 6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN

What it is: A matchup of teams that are just a game apart in record, but worlds apart in excitement over being in this game.

The teams: Illinois and Baylor

How Illinois got here: It was an up-and-down year for the Illini, but that comes with the territory when Ron Zook is your head coach. Their win over NIU allows makes them just one of four Big Ten teams to beat a 10-game winner and they played Ohio State tough, but they were barely competitive against Michigan State and lost to Minnesota. Their 65-63 3OT loss to Michigan was one of the season's more memorable games though, but in true Zook fashion, they dropped their final game to Fresno State a week after securing bowl eligibility. Zook only coached this year because the school couldn't afford to buy him out a year ago, and he gets at least another year now as Illinois isn't exactly the kind of program that fires bowl-bound coaches.

How Baylor got here: After losing him for nearly all of 2009, Baylor got program-changing QB Robert Griffin back for all of 2010. What a difference he made, as Baylor actually made it to a bowl game for the first time since 1994. An early-season 45-10 loss to TCU threw some doubt on how good this team actually was, but missing the Big 12 North's best two teams (Nebraska and Missouri) combined with Texas's big slide made bowl eligibility attainable. Art Briles's great coaching shone through, and he got the job done. The Bears lost their last three games to Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma, but those three did tie for the Big 12 South lead this year.

College football fans care because: It's a chance to see Baylor in a bowl game, and that doesn't come around every year.

SEC fans care because: Bobby Petrino's brother Paul runs Illinois's offense, and the strange things that happen when the Zooker is involved need no introduction.

Watch this game if...: You want to be able to tell your grandchildren that you saw Baylor play in a bowl game.

The result: Baylor 34, Illinois 27