Despite some pushing from multiple angles, including from head coach Bret Bielema, the Illinois Fighting Illini will reportedly be staying home on New Year’s Eve, with Rutgers heading to the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida.
On Wednesday, Texas A&M announced that it had been forced to withdraw from the game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons because of COVID-19 cases and injuries that had ravaged the team’s roster.
While Gator Bowl officials have not yet officially announced that Rutgers will replace the Aggies, multiple outlets have reported the choice, including The Athletic and Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel:
After news broke on Wednesday that Texas A&M had to withdraw from the game, Bielema posted to Twitter that he was “waiting by the phone” for the Illini to have a shot to get into the contest:
Shad Khan, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars and an Illinois alum, reportedly had been pushing for his alma mater to get into the Gator Bowl, which is contested in the Jaguars’ home stadium.
That apparently wasn’t in the cards, and the 5-7 Scarlet Knights will head to Jacksonville instead of the 5-7 Illini squad that they beat in Champaign earlier this fall.