clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl Preview: Illinois, UCLA Probably Shouldn't Even Be Here

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, December 31, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

What it is: A guilt trip masquerading as a football game

The Sponsor: Hungry people and the giant international conglomerate that loves them

The Teams: Illinois and UCLA

How Illinois got here: In Zooktacular fashion. By the time Illinois had moved to 6-0 with a 41-20 win at Indiana, people were starting to think that maybe the Illini were a team to take seriously. That was literally the last game that Illinois has won, including a 27-7 loss to Minnesota that pretty clearly signaled that the team had quit. Head coach Ron Zook was fired the next day. The defense was good, but the offense (stop me if you've heard this before, Florida fans) slouched to near the bottom of the notoriously low-octane Big Ten. The Illini failed to score more than 17 points in any of the games on their season-ending slide, even as the defense allowed more than 30 points just once.

How UCLA got here: With a waiver from the NCAA that will make the Bruins the first team in recent memory to play in a bowl game despite sporting a losing record. That's not entirely UCLA's fault -- had Southern Cal not been banned from the postseason for the Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo scandals, the Bruins would never have been the hapless representative from the Pac-12 North sent to be demolished by the Oregon buzzsaw. The rushing offense that generated 190.7 yards was actually pretty decent, but the passing offense was next-to-last in the Pac-12 and part of what led to the dismissal of head coach Rick Neuheisel. Neuheisel might actually be the first head coach in college history to be fired and then coach his team in the conference championship game. The 50-0 loss to Southern Cal in the season finale had something to do with the first part of that formula. Given that the defense averaged allowing 424.2 yards a game, the outcome of the crosstown game was really not that much of a surprise.

College football fans care because: You don't often get to watch a bowl game in which both coaches have been fired.

SEC fans care because: Ron Zook and a team from the Pac-12 with a losing record? This is a lay-up.

Watch this game if...: You don't want hungry people to starve.

The result: Illinois 7, UCLA 3