Three more college bowl games are on tap today as the Big Ten looks to continue its post-season success with Illinois taking on Baylor in the 2010 Texas Bowl. Illinois(6-6) is back in a bowl game after missing out the past two seasons and will face a Baylor (7-5) squad that hasn't been to a bowl game since 1994.
This will be just the second bowl game Illinois has played since 2002, with the most recent being a 49-17 loss to USC in the Rose Bowl following the 2007-08 season. The Fighting Illini had an up-and-down season, winning consecutive games only once and finishing the regular season with a 6-6 record.
Illinois is known for having a widespread alumni base, but Baylor is playing within a three-hour drive of its campus.
"Our guys," Illinois head coach Ron Zook said at the Texas Bowl press conference, "they like being the underdog, they like being the opponent, they like to be in the visitors' (locker room). We're going to really find out what that means now because I know that we're kind of in hostile territory. But we are excited."
On the other sideline, Baylor is going bowling for the first time since 1994.
"It's been 16 years since we've been in a bowl game and our people are pumped," Baylor head coach Art Briles said, "and rightfully so, because when you've looked on from the outside for a long time and you finally get a chance to step in the door, it's a good feeling."
Still, the Bears faded down the stretch, dropping each of their final three games after a 7-2 start. They haven't had much success against Big Ten teams, posting a 2-9-1 mark all-time.
Baylor won the only previous meeting between these two schools, a 34-19 decision back in 1976. In last year's Texas Bowl, Navy thumped Missouri 35-13.
In other Bowl action today, East Carolina (6-6) will take on Maryland (8-4) in the 2010 Military Bowl in Washington, D.C. The game will be the final one for Ralph Friedgen at Maryland who was fired a couple weeks ago. ECU has one of the country's worst defenses and will be hard pressed to keep close to an emotionally charged Terrapin squad.
Later tonight, Oklahoma State (10-2) will face Arizona (7-5) in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio. Oklahoma State finished the regular season with an outstanding 10-2 record, but managed to finish in a three-way tie atop the Big 12 South at 6-2 and lost out on a chance to play for the Big 12 Championship by way of a tiebreaker through the BCS standings. The Cowboys controlled their own destiny heading into the regular-season finale against bitter rival Oklahoma but came out on the short end of a 47-41 final in a Bedlam Battle classic in Stillwater Nov. 27.
The Cowboys had the nation's No. 1 ranked offense this season, averaging an eye-popping 537.6 yards per game, and boast the country's top-ranked passing offense as well. OSU's offense set single-season school records for points (539), total offensive yards (6,451), passing yards (4,256) and touchdown passes (34) in 2010. Oklahoma State's other loss came to Nebraska back on October 23 in another shootout, losing 51-41 in Stillwater. This will be the Cowboys' third appearance in the Alamo Bowl having lost both previous matchups with Ohio State in 2004 and to Purdue in 1997. OSU has also lost in its last two bowl appearances overall. Big 12 Coach of the Year Mike Gundy saw his Cowboys beaten by Ole Miss in the Cotton Bowl at the end of last season and Oregon in the 2008 Holiday Bowl. Oklahoma State's overall bowl record stands at 12-8.
Arizona will be making its third straight bowl appearance under head coach Mike Stoops after a 7-5 regular season. The Wildcats were ranked 13th in the nation following an impressive 7-1 start to the year before a deflating 42-17 loss to then No. 10 Stanford on November 6th triggered a four-game losing streak to end their schedule. The 'Cats wound up 4-5 in the Pac-10 standings, tied for fifth place. The regular season ended on an especially heart-breaking note, falling to rival Arizona State in Tucson when Alex Zendejas' extra point was blocked in double overtime to hand the Sun Devils a 30-29 win. Arizona was blanked in a 33-0 shellacking by Nebraska in last year's Holiday Bowl and will be making its first-ever appearance at the Alamo Bowl. The Wildcats' overall bowl record stands at 6-8-1.
This will be the first meeting between Oklahoma State and Arizona on the gridiron since 1942. The all-time series is even at 3-3 with Arizona having won three of the last four games. The matchup will also serve as a preview to a home-and-home series between the two schools starting in Stillwater next season. This is the first year the Alamo Bowl will feature both the Pac-10 and Big 12 Conferences. For the past 15 years, the game has pitted the Big 12 against Big Ten competition.
"It's great to be the first league team to play in this first year of the new Alamo Bowl affiliation with the conference. Our players are excited to be playing in an outstanding bowl against a quality opponent like Oklahoma State," Stoops said in anticipation of the matchup.