This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features University of Illinois Fighting Illini taking on Baylor University Bears in the 5th annual Texas Bowl at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas.
Illinois, 6-6, 4-4 Big Ten, will be appearing in its second bowl game since 2002. Once again the Fighting Illini had an up-and-down season under head coach Ron Zook, who only won consecutive games once this season.
Illinois offense is all about the running game and depends on it to have any kind of success downfield. The Fighting Illini come into the game ranking 13th nationally in rushing with 242.3 ypg. Mikel Leshoure ran for a school-record 330 yards and 2 touchdowns in their last game of the season and has averaged 126.1 rushing yards per game on the season, while scoring 17 touchdowns. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is also a threat with his legs, as he ranks second on the team with 815 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns. In the passing game Scheelhaase though averages just 131.9 ypg to go along with 17 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. A.J. Jenkins heads up the receiving corps with 694 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Baylor, 7-5, 4-4 Big 12, is going bowling for the first time since 1994 and is playing just three hours away from its campus. Head coach Art Briles watched as his team started the season strong but faded down the stretch, dropping each of their final three games after a 7-2 start. The Bears haven’t had much success against Big Ten teams though posting a 2-9-1 mark all-time.
Baylor’s offense is capable of picking up yardage in huge chunks, as the Bears rank No. 12 in the nation in total offense with 478.5 ypg. They have a potent air-ground combo to keep defenses off balance in quarterback Robert Griffin and running back Jay Finley. Griffin is completing 66.3 percent of his passes on the year and has thrown 21 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions. He is an asset on the ground too with 8 rushing touchdowns and averaging 50 ypg. Finley averages 6.3 ypc and has scored 11 touchdowns.
Kendall Wright is Griffin’s favorite target on the season with his 825 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Baylor won the only previous meeting between these two schools back in 1976.
PICK: Baylor University Bears