Illinois returns to a bowl game for the first time in five years when it faces California in the Redbox Bowl on Dec. 30.
The Illini reeled off four straight wins after a 2-4 start, and the extra practices afforded by a rare bowl trip should only help coach Lovie Smith’s rebuilding efforts.
Cal used back-to-back road wins to close the regular season to earn a spot in a bowl game close to campus.
The Golden Bears ranked fourth in the Pac-12 in points allowed.
California (7-5 Pac-12) vs. Illinois (6-6, Big Ten) , Dec. 30, 4 p.m. ET
LOCATION: Santa Clara, California.
Cal: RB Christopher Brown Jr., 794 yards rushing, 8 touchdowns.
Illinois: QB Brandon Peters, 1,611 yards passing, 17 touchdowns.
CaL: The Golden Bears won at Stanford and UCLA to clinch bowl eligibility and a winning season. But they also lost to Utah and USC by 59 combined points.
Illinois: The Illini stunned the Big Ten with a four-game winning streak in the middle of the season. But they’ll stumble to Santa Clara after Northwestern beat them 29-10 in the regular-season finale, the Wldcats’ only league win of the year.
Cal 35, Illinois 20 (Sept. 17, 2005)
Cal: Twenty-fourth bowl appearance in school history. The Bears are 11-11-1.
Illinois: First appearance in the Redbox Bowl. The Illini are 8-10 in bowl games.