Chicago Sun-Times
With Sun-Times sports reporter Herb Gould

Illini will play Baylor in Texas Bowl in Houston

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The good news is, Illinois will be making its first bowl appearance in three years. The Illini will take on Baylor in the Texas Bowl on Dec. 29 at Reliant Stadium, the home of the NFL's Houston Texans.
The bad news is, Baylor is in Waco, Tex., about 190 miles northwest of Houston. That means the Illini are likely to be playing in front of a hostile crowd unless Illini Nation embraces this bowl trip in a big way.
``I've heard it's a great bowl,'' Illini coach Ron Zook said Sunday, when the pairing was announced. ``Our guys understand that Baylor will present another great challenge for us. But being able to come to a new area and play in an NFL venue is something our guys are excited about. And I know that Illini Nation will flock to Houston.''
It will be the third straight virtual road-game bowl for the Ilini, who played USC in the Rose  Bowl in 2007 and LSU in the Sugar Bowl in 2001.
The Texas Bowl will be a meeting of two bowl-hungry teams. Both wll be limping into Houston. Illinois (6-6) has lost three of four, including a pair of upset losses to Minnesota and Fresno State.
The Bears (7-5) will head to the Texas bowl riding a three-game losing streak. After jumping out to a 7-2 record, their highest win total since 1995,  they were handled by three ranked teams, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Big 12 champion Oklahoma.
The Illini will be making their first post-season trip in three years, but only their fourth since 1994. Among Big Ten teams, only Indiana has been to fewer bowls over that span.
Baylor will be making its first bowl appearance since 1994.
``This is a long time coming for Baylor,'' head coach Art Briles said. ``We're excited about going to Houston. We're fortunate that we're getting to stay in-state and play a Big Ten opponent in a great pro stadium.''
This is Baylor's first winning season since 1995.  Illinois needs to win the bowl game to lock up its its first winnig season since 2007, and its fourth winning season since 1994.
In the only previous meeting between the schools, Baylor beat Illinois 34-19 on Sept. 25, 1976, in Champaign.

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This page contains a single entry by Herb Gould published on December 5, 2010 6:47 PM.

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