California’s Wilcox looks for 1st bowl win against Illinois

NCAA Football
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Redbox Bowl: California (7-5) at Illinois (6-6), Monday at 4 p.m. EST (Fox).

Line: California by 6+.

Series record: Illinois leads 7-3.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

The Bears are in the postseason for a second consecutive season under third-year coach Justin Wilcox. The Fighting Illini will be attempting to win a bowl game for the first time with Lovie Smith as coach in their first trip to a bowl game since 2014.

KEY MATCHUP

Illinois QB Brandon Peters vs. California secondary. Peters was held out of the Fighting Illini’s last game against Northwestern because of a concussion, his second of the season. Although there was some concern he might not play in the Redbox Bowl, Peters was cleared and says he feels fine. Peters passed for 1,611 yards and 17 touchdowns with seven interceptions. He faces a Bears pass defense that has been solid most of the year. In 12 games, California’s secondary allowed 15 touchdown passes, third-best in the Pac-12.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

California: Consensus All-America LB Evan Weaver needs 21 tackles to break the NCAA single-season record. The Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, Weaver has been a monster on defense all season with 173 tackles. Three times this year he’s had 21 or more in one game.

Illinois: RB Reggie Corbin had mixed success this season but has been a force in the Illini’s backfield while averaging nearly five yards a carry. Corbin is 12th on Illinois’ career rushing charts with 2,320 yards. He has two 100-yard games this season while splitting time in the backfield with Dre Brown.

FACTS & FIGURES

California has played Illinois more than any other Big Ten team. . The Bears have allowed 25 points or more only four times in their last 25 games. . California is 6-0 this season when oft-injured QB Chase Garbers plays at least one half. . Weaver has 26 more tackles than any other player in FBS. . California safety Jaylinn Hawkins has nine career interceptions, tied for seventh among active NCAA players. . Bears RB Christopher Brown Jr. has 11 TDs in 12 games. . This is the first game between California and Illinois since 2005. The Bears won 35-20. . California has lost three of its last four bowl games. . The Fighting Illini’s last bowl ‘victory came in the San Francisco Bay Area. Illinois beat UCLA 20-14 in the Kraft Hunger Bowl. . Illinois leads the nation with six defensive touchdowns and is second with 18 forced fumbles. . Cornerback Sydney Brown has interceptions in each of his last three games for Illinois. . Fighting Illini kicker James McCourt has four field goals of 50-plus yards this season, tied for most in the NCAA. . Illinois lost its last two regular-season games.

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