What Bowl Game Will Illinois Get Slotted Into? Here's What We Know

Becoming bowl-eligible is a stepping stone in the evolution of a college football program, and the University of Illinois this year will be in a bowl game for the second time in the last eight seasons.

The Illini, who finished with an 8-4 record this season, will not play in the Big Ten championship game after Purdue was able to beat Indiana over the weekend, but they should get a solid bowl bid as a result of their ascent this season.

How does that process work? Here are four games that Illinois fans should circle on their calendar and a primer on how it's decided.

The Basics:

The Big Ten has contracts in nine different bowl games. The tops among those are the College Football Playoff and the Rose Bowl.

If the Big Ten sends a team to the playoff, then the second-best record in the conference generally gets a bid to the Rose Bowl.

Illinois will not get into any of those games with their 8-4 record, and they likely won’t get slotted into the Citrus Bowl either. That game is top-dog among the remaining contests, and in all likelihood that will be where Purdue will end up if they lose to Michigan in the Big Ten championship game this weekend.

The Bidding Process:

The way the bidding process works is that bowls are slotted into a specific order, and they are given their choice of the remaining bowl eligible teams in the Big Ten. There are nine such teams this season:

Michigan (12-0), Ohio State (11-1), Penn State (10-2), Maryland (7-5), Purdue (8-4), Minnesota (8-4), Illinois (8-4), Iowa (7-5), Wisconsin (6-6)

Organizers typically take into account a variety of factors when choosing teams, including the national profile of the team involved, the geographical proximity to a team, and the likelihood that the team will help drive TV ratings or ticket sales.

Since the odds are against Illinois getting into the Citrus Bowl, here are four games that Illinois fans should circle on their calendar:

Dec. 29: Pinstripe Bowl

This game, played at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, will kick off at 1 p.m. Central time on ESPN. The game pits the Big Ten against a team from the ACC.

The contest occupies the sixth spot in the bidding process, meaning that Illinois may not make it down to that slot.

Dec. 30: Duke’s Mayo Bowl

The fourth-bid in the process goes to the Duke’s Mayo bowl, which will be contested at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, home of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.

The contest will kick off at 11 a.m. on ESPN, and will pit a Big Ten squad against a team from the ACC.

Dec. 31: Music City Bowl

This game, contested at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, will take place at 11 a.m. on New Year’s Eve, and will be televised on ESPN.

This bowl game has the fifth-priority for choosing Big Ten schools, and will pit its representative against a team from the SEC.

Jan. 2: ReliaQuest Bowl

Formerly the Outback Bowl, this game is played at Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

This game has the third-highest priority among bowl games when choosing Big Ten teams, and the chosen school will play an opponent from the SEC.

Other Games:

On the off-chance that Illinois isn’t chosen for any of the aforementioned games, they could potentially play in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl, contested at Phoenix’s Chase Field, or the Quick Lane Bowl, contested at Detroit’s Ford Field.

When Will the Games be Chosen?

Typically, bowl game bids are revealed after the final College Football Playoff rankings are unveiled. That will take place on Sunday morning following the conclusion of conference championship games this weekend.

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