CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — While several Illini will be missing the ReliaQuest Bowl game, Illinois head coach Bret Bielema has taken these extra few weeks of practices to get different players some reps.

While getting to the bowl is a huge accomplishment for the program, Bielema said getting to a bowl game is a new standard for the Illini. He said the team expects to play past the regular season.

“The culmination of becoming Bowl eligible really wasn’t a big deal in the building. I think the expectation was there and then the build up to see where we went was a nice little crescendo to play Mississippi State,” Bielema said. “I think our guys were very excited to play an SEC opponent and then to have obviously the tragedy of Mike Leach passing, it brings a whole ‘nother avenue to the game that nobody could see coming, but I think our guys are going to work their tails off while they’re here. We’ll go down there December 26th, and then we’ll leave on January 3rd. I don’t think anybody’s going to argue with 7 days in the sun in Tampa and a lot of fun events in between.”