The 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl is the most unique of the slate of 35 college football bowl games this season in that it is the only game that features two teams that fired their head coach. Both Rick Neuheisal and Ron Zook are gone, but of the staffs and teams that remain, the Illinois Fighting Illini are slight favorites over the UCLA Bruins on December 31 in San Francisco.
Illinois is a 2.5-point favorite over UCLA per Odds Shark, but perhaps betting the under could be the play. UCLA has averaged just 23.8 points per game this season, while Illinois has scored 22.8 per game. In their final six games, all losses, Illinois averaged just 11 points per contest.
Both teams will be coached in the bowl game by coaches on their way out. Mike Johnson, who served as offensive coordinator under Neuheisel, will coach the Bruins but has no place on new head coach Jim Mora's staff. Johnson will be gone after the bowl game. Vic Koenning, who was defensive coordinator under Zook, will lead Illinois in the bowl game, but announced last week that he will not return to Illinois next season. Koenning has been linked to North Carolina.
So what we are left with is a pair of low-scoring (read: boring) teams led by coaching staffs with no stake in the future of their respective schools. Prepare for a snooze fest on New Year's Eve.
The 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl will be played at 12:30 p.m. PST on December 31, 2011, at AT&T Park in San Francisco, and be televised by ESPN. For more news and information on Illinois football, be sure to read Hail to the Orange. To keep up with UCLA football, be sure to read Bruins Nation.