Bowling in the Bay: Cal selected to play Illinois in Redbox Bowl

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While the ultimate goal for most college football teams is to play in a New Year’s Six bowl, most members of the Cal program won’t be complaining that their bowl game is virtually in their backyard. The Bears have been selected to play the Illinois Fighting Illini in the Redbox Bowl, which will be played in nearby Santa Clara at Levi’s Stadium. Kickoff is at 1:00 p.m. on Dec. 30.

“Everybody right now is able to get some recovery, which is important at this time of year — physically and mentally,” said Cal head coach Justin Wilcox at a press conference after the announcement.

Since 2014, the Redbox Bowl has featured a member of the Big Ten clashing with a member of the Pac-12, with last year’s matchup seeing Oregon defeat Michigan State by a final score of 7-6. After Cal’s notably bad offensive showing at last season’s Cheez-It Bowl, the Bears will be hoping that the Redbox Bowl does not have a similar scoreline as the 2018 edition.

“Every year is different, every team is different,” said offensive lineman Jake Curhan. “We’ve been here before. Besides the freshmen, everyone’s been to a bowl game. They know what that experience is like.”

Illinois finished the regular season 6-6, clinching a bowl game berth in early November with a win over Michigan State. Undoubtedly their highlight of the season, though, was handing then-No.6 Wisconsin its first loss, which was the biggest upset of the year at the time.

Like Cal, the Illini have been marred by inconsistency, finishing the season with 20 total points in their final two games after combining for a total of 75 in the two before that.

“I’ve heard they have really good receivers. That’s one thing I got really excited about — just more competition and to show what we have,” said Cal cornerback Camryn Bynum.

The Bears will have a group of talented seniors, including touted NFL Draft prospects in Ashtyn Davis and Evan Weaver, who will be vying for their first career postseason wins. Cal is currently 6-0 this season when starting quarterback Chase Garbers plays the entire game, so if the Bears’ offense can do its part, the team has a strong shot of sending its seniors off with a bang.

Shailin Singh covers football. Contact him at [email protected].