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ILLINOIS: Illini to face Baylor in 'road' game

The good news is, Illinois will be making its first bowl appearance in three years. The Illini will take on Baylor in the Texas Bowl on Dec. 29 at Reliant Stadium, the home of the NFL's Houston Texans.

The bad news is, Baylor is in Waco, Texas, about 190 miles northwest of Houston. That means the Illini are likely to be playing in front of a hostile crowd unless Illini Nation embraces this bowl trip in a big way.

''I've heard it's a great bowl,'' Illini coach Ron Zook said Sunday, when the pairing was announced. ''Our guys understand that Baylor will present another great challenge for us. But being able to come to a new area and play in an NFL venue is something our guys are excited about. And I know that Illini Nation will flock to Houston.''

It will be the third straight virtual road game for the Illini, who played USC in the Rose Bowl in 2007 and LSU in the Sugar Bowl in 2001.

The Texas Bowl matches bowl-hungry teams who'll limp into Houston. Illinois (6-6) has lost three of four, including upset losses to Minnesota and Fresno State.

The Bears (7-5) are riding a three-game losing streak. After starting 7-2, their highest win total since 1995, they were handled by three ranked teams, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Big 12 champion Oklahoma.

The Illini will be making their first postseason trip in three years, but only their fourth since 1994. Among Big Ten teams, only Indiana has been to fewer bowls over that span.

Baylor will be making its first bowl appearance since 1994.

''This is a long time coming for Baylor,'' coach Art Briles said. ''We're excited about going to Houston. We're fortunate that we're getting to stay in-state and play a Big Ten opponent in a great pro stadium.''

This is Baylor's first winning season since 1995. Illinois needs to win the bowl game to lock up its its first winning season since 2007.

Baylor beat Illinois 34-19 in Champaign on Sept. 25, 1976, in the only meeting between the schools.



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