CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Since Nov. 9, we’ve known Illinois will be bowling for the first time since 2014 this December.
Now, we know the destination.
Illinois (6-6, 4-5 Big Ten) will be playing California in the Redbox Bowl at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, on Dec. 30.
Previously, the Illini appeared in this bowl when it was the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park in 2011 (20-14 win over UCLA).
While the Redbox Bowl isn’t the most premier bowl game to be a part of, it’s going to cap a season where very few expected the Illini to get a chance at a postseason game. Prior to a Homecoming contest against a top-10 Wisconsin, the Illini stood at 2-4 with Lovie Smith’s tenure potentially coming to an abrupt end. Four hours and a James McCourt game-winning field goal later, Illinois’ four-game winning streak had its spark and propelled Lovie to his first bowl game — and the Badgers to their only defeat to a team not named Ohio State all season.
The Illini very well could have avoided the bowl game in Santa Clara if they won both of their last two games, including a disheartening 29-10 loss to Northwestern on Senior Day.
Oregon scraped by Michigan State in last year’s Redbox Bowl, 7-6.
Illinois’ game will kick off at 3 p.m. CT on Dec. 30 on Fox.
In its last bowl game, Illinois lost to Louisiana Tech, 35-18, in the 2014 Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl.
We’ll provide more in-depth coverage on Illinois, their opponent, things to do in Santa Clara, a road-trip playlist and more as the game comes near!