Jacksonville, FL - - The Iowa Hawkeyes (7-5) arrived on Christmas to Jacksonville for their Taxpayer Bowl date next Friday with the Tennessee Volunteers (6-6). The Big Ten Conference opens bowl play today with the first two games of ten bowls featuring conference schools.
Illinois and Rutgers both kick off the today the 2014-15 B1G bowl season for the Big Ten, the day after Christmas, with back to back games on ESPN.
At Noon, Illinois-Louisiana Tech in the Heart of Dallas Bowl kicks off from the old Cotton Bowl. The Fighting Illini closed out B1G play with wins over Penn State and Northwestern, after their home loss to the Hawkeyes to finish 6-6 on the season.
Illinois head coach Tim Beckman has the Fighting Illini in their first bowl game in three years, at the helm. Beckman's father was an assistant coach during the Bob Commings era at Iowa.
Illinois WR Mike Dudek is having the most prolific season for a freshman receiver in school history. Dudek is a first-team Freshman All-American by ESPN, USA Today, Scout, 247Sports and Phil Steele with more possibly to come.
After serving as a backup for most of his Illini career, senior QB Reilly O'Toole has put the team on his back down the stretch, leading the Illini to gutsy wins over Minnesota, Penn State and Northwestern in the final five games to lock up a bowl berth.
Louisiana Tech finished 8-5 during the regular season, as a member of the Conference USA. The Bulldogs are lead by QB Cody Sokol, who transferred out from Iowa, after this Spring, and #3 on the Iowa quarterbacks depth chart.
Illinois has an all-time record of 8-9 in bowl games.
Illinois trails the all-time series with Louisiana Tech 1-0, with the Bulldogs earning a 52-24 victory in Champaign on Sept. 22, 2012, just the fourth game of Beckman's tenure with the Illini.
Louisiana Tech defensive end Houston Bates started all 12 games at Illinois in 2013, ranking second on the team with 12.0 TFLs and 3.5 sacks. The Covington, Louisiana, native transferred to Louisiana Tech following the season with one year of eligibility remaining.
After the Illinois-Louisiana Tech game, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (7-5) will face a 3:30 p.m. kick-off against the North Carolina Tar Heels (6-6) from Detroit in the Quick Lane Bowl. A ESPN preview of this match up in Detroit.
Rutgers just completed their inaugural season as a member of the Big Ten Conference. The Scarlet Knights have a 3-3 all-time record with North Carolina, out of the ACC.
The Tar Heels own a three game winning streak with Rutgers, with the last win in the 2011 regular season.
Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood is seeking his first bowl win as coach. Rutgers is 5-4 overall in bowl games and 0-1 vs. ACC opponents.
Back in Jacksonville, the Iowa Hawkeyes touched down on Christmas Day, as the Florida stay during bowl prep for the Taxpayer Bowl at the Gator Bowl officially begins for the Hawkeyes.
Tennessee players are enjoying the final day of four day holiday from bowl preparations, as they will rejoin each other on Saturday, before arriving in Jacksonville on Sunday for next Friday's game in the Gator Bowl against the Hawkeyes.
A Florida story sharing each programs contrasting bowl preparation ahead of next Friday's Taxpayer Bowl.
The Iowa-Tennessee series is tied at 1-1, after Iowa beat Tennessee 28-22 in the 1982 Peach Bowl. Tennessee followed up with a 23-22 victory in the 1987 Kickoff Classic in the Meadowlands.