TAMPA, Fl. (WCIA) — Illinois football has arrived in Tampa, Florida. The ReliaQuest Bowl is just one week away, where the Illini will play Mississippi State.

The Illini received a police escort from the airport to their hotel here just off the water in Tampa. A lot of smiles were going around and for good reason, this is the first Florida bowl game for Illinois since 1999.

It’s unseasonably cold here in the Sunshine State, the high was 55. The locals were bundled up in winter coats, but the Illini were just happy to be in a warmer climate than Champaign. No one got off the bus better than super-senior offensive linemen Alex Palczewski and Alex Pihlstrom. The duo matched their custom Illini shirts, Palcho was even rocking the Illini hat as well. Getting the opportunity to finish off his career in a January bowl game is the perfect way to end it for Philstrom after six up and down years with the program

“A little chilly here but me and Palcho, we decided we’re going to match and decided to wear these shirts, you know having fun with it,” Alex Pihlstrom said. “You know bowl games are supposed to be exciting, supposed to be fun. All week we’re going to be focused on the game but hospitality is going to be great here, we got a lot of events planned but excited to play one more game with our guys.”

It was just a travel day for the Illini today, but they’ll practice for the first time tomorrow here in Florida

We’ll have coverage all week leading up to the ReliaQuest Bowl one week from today, including the Your Illini Nation Bowl Special. Watch WCIA3’s Sports Director Bret Berhens Thursday night live from Tampa, a one hour show in primetime all devoted to the Illini. Join Bret, Andy Olson and Brice Bement as the WCIA3 Sports Team gets ready for the game on January 2nd.

All part of a fun filled week for the Orange and Blue and the WCIA3 Sports Team will be here every step of the way bringing you the very latest both on-air and online.