The Illini are in one of the strangest positions any college football team has ever been in. This year alone, they have fired a head coach, signed the interim coach to only a two-year deal, failed to become bowl eligible and still may reach a bowl.
After falling to Northwestern, the Illini finished their Season 1 win short of becoming bowl eligible. But because there aren’t enough eligible teams to fit all of the bowl games, the NCAA has said five to seven teams could make the postseason, putting Illinois in a prime position.
Unlike Missouri, which has already said it will not participate in a bowl game, the Illini would accept a bid. While it’s still not a guarantee they will get an offer, they will be ready if it comes.
As bowl projections roll in, most seem to believe that the Illini will find a way into a bowl game. The most likely options appear to be either the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana or the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas.
Illinois will likely be an underdog no matter who, or where, they play. Depending on who they play, it could be a big risk/big reward scenario for the Illini. A win could be a springboard with the new staff going into next season. But a loss, especially because a team not in a Power Five conference would be just another embarrassment in a forgettable Illini season.