When: Dec. 26, 1pm ET
Where: Dallas, TX; Cotton Bowl Stadium (92,100)
Spread: Louisiana Tech – 6 (via VegasInsider.com)
All-Time Series: Louisiana Tech leads 1-0
Last Meeting: Louisiana Tech Win @ Illinois; 52-24 in 2012
Gift Bag: Gift suite; Ogio Marshall Pack backpack; beanie; Big Game football (courtesy sportsbusinessdaily.com)
Good luck getting off to a god start for the Big Ten there Illini, as the conference is just 5-5 in opening bowl matchups over the past decade. However, the good news is that none of the five losses have come against non-BCS (now known as group of 5) teams. Can the Illini keep that going in the Heart of Dallas Bowl 2014?
As for the matchup itself, a month for Wes Lunt to get back in a rhythm and get more comfortable following a broken leg can only be a good thing. Before the broken leg in the sixth game of the season he was one of the top quarterbacks in the Big Ten, throwing for 1,569 passing yards and 13 touchdowns. He was averaging 313. 8 yards per game. His return after a six-week absence wasn’t quite as good.
Illinois will need him or Riley O’Toole to be sharp in this one, as they’ve got nothing in the run game and La Tech has one of the best rushing defenses in the country.
The Bulldogs are the exact opposite of the Illini though, as they have a stud at running back in Kenneth Dixon, who has over 1,200 yards and 21 touchdowns this season. A chance to go up against the Big Ten’s worst rushing defense has to be something he and the team is excited about.
While there’s the history of the drubbing Illinois suffered at the hands of perhaps La Tech’s best team ever in 2012, most of the roster for the Illini weren’t on the team back then. Expect this game to be a little bit different as there is no AirRaid offense for the Illini to deal with.
Illinois will be much more familiar and comfortable with the offense the Bulldogs run this time around, but will it make a difference given the horrific defense played all season long?
Andy: Illinois 38, Louisiana Tech 31
Dave: Louisiana Tech 31, Illinois 28
Zach: Louisiana Tech 35, Illinois 24
*staff predictions = 1 point per correct pick & 1 bonus point w/ closest to score & 2 bonus if correct score