CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — The Illini are heading west. The team got together Sunday afternoon, watching a video together at the new Smith Center.
A trip to the Bay Area means a home game for Milo Eifler, who was the most excited person in the building to hear that he gets to play in his home state.
“Oh yeah the Cali bound, I put this on immediately,” Eifler said. “I just want to let everybody know that we’re going to California and you should be there December 30th, 3 p.m.”
Eifler is one of six California natives on the roster. For other guys like Alex Palczewski, it will be their first trip to the Golden State, giving them a chance to get out of the cold and see a new part of the country.
“It’s going to be awesome, actually being able to enjoy the warmth for a bit,” Palczewski said. “It’s going to be weird playing in December, 60 degrees, not freezing my butt off.”
Illini athletic director Josh Whitman says he had a good feeling for the last week that they would go to San Jose, calling it a perfect landing spot for the program.
“After looking at the landscape and where other schools had to go based on the repeat performances but you never know until you know,” Whitman said. “So it wasn’t until we got the call this afternoon that we knew definitively.”
This will be the second game known as thte Redbox Bowl, but the event has been played annually since 2002. It was called the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl back in 2011 when Illinois beat UCLA at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
Bret Beherns also caught up with Jermey Werner of IlliniInquirer.com to break down the bowl selection.
“I think a lot of people had pegged Illinois in this, so maybe not a big surprise that they go there but a great opportunity.”
“It’s a huge opportunity. You get to play a PAC 12 team and you get to go to California rather than New York or Detroit or some place cold but for Illinois, this is a big game for them. It’s been a long time since Illinois has finished the season above .500, so for them it’s just another legitimizing chance against a program that’s pretty good at Cal.”
“What do you make of the matchup and does Illinois have a good chance to win the game?”
“Cal’s a really good defensive team but I kind of like that for Illinois. They haven’t had an offense that’s very explosive, a defense that’s taken a big step forward so I actually kind of like this matchup. It could be some Big Ten football cause Cal out of all the teams, kind of like Stanford in the PAC 12, they’re kind of a Big Ten like team. So I think if Illinois gets into the 20-something points they have a good chance to win but I think it’s a pretty even matchup.”