by CFP Staff
December 31, 2011
UCLA closed its season with an embarrassing 6-8 record by falling 20-14 to Illinois in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
Interim head coaches led both teams as defensive coordinator Vic Koenning led the Illini in place of the fired Ron Zook, and offensive coordinator Mike Johnson took over the Bruins in place of the fired Rick Neuheisel.
Illinois came into the contest on a 6-game losing streak. UCLA brought a 6-7 record to the game and needed a waiver for its PAC-12 Championship game loss to Oregon not be counted against the school since it, too, was a postseason game. A 5-4 conference record helped its cause.
UCLA and Illinois have played each other 12 and the series now stands tied at 6 wins apiece. The teams met in the 1984 Rose Bowl when Neuheisel was the Bruins' QB and guided UCLA to a 45-9 triumph. Illinois' win on Saturday was its first over UCLA since 1964.
The San Francisco Bowl Association has been the driving force behind the Bowl game since its inception in 2002. In that time, the game, played at San Francisco's AT&T Park, has generated over $120 million in economic impact for the City and County of San Francisco. Several of college football's most storied programs have already participated in the contest, formerly known as the Emerald Bowl. They include onetime national champions USC, Miami and Florida State, plus California, Boston College, UCLA, Oregon State, Utah and Nevada.
55.6% of CollegeFootballPoll.com voters picked Illinois to win and the Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com projected the Fighting Illini to win by 5.32 points.