This year's Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl will be a battle between the UCLA Bruins and the Illinois Fighting Illini.
Both teams have had roller coaster seasons that resulted in the firing of their head coach. Both will be looking for a New Year's Eve win to end 2011 on a good note.
Where: AT&T Park, San Francisco, CA
When: Thursday, Dec. 31 at 3:30 p.m. EDT
Watch: ESPN/ESPN 3
Listen: AM 570 KLAC, UCLA—WHMS-FM 97.5, Illinois
Both programs are experiencing a transition. UCLA fired coach Rick Neuheisel after a 6-7 campaign that featured a 50-0 rout at the hands of rival USC. Interim head coach Mike Johnson will take the reins against Illinois.
After a promising 6-0 start, Illinois limped to a six-game losing streak. As a result, Ron Zook was handed a pink slip. Former Toledo coach Tim Beckman has been named as his replacement, but Vic Koenning will be on hand as interim coach.
Who Might Not Play for UCLA
Sean Westgate, LB
The senior, who has 46 tackles on the season, has missed the last two games with a concussion. He's questionable for the Hunger Bowl.
Who Might Not Play for Illinois
Donovonn Young, RB
The freshman has shown a lot of promise this season, running for 406 yards in reserve duty. However, he was sidelined against Minnesota because of an ankle injury. It's unknown if he'll be able to suit up against UCLA.
What it Means for UCLA
Many have expressed outrage that a UCLA team with a losing record was allowed to participate in a bowl game. Here is their chance to prove any doubters wrong.
It's also an opportunity to show the new coach and his potential recruits that the Bruins are moving in the right direction.
A victory would be their second bowl win in three years, on the heels of winning the 2009 EagleBank Bowl.
What it Means for Illinois
The Illini are looking to avoid a crushing seventh-straight loss. Tim Beckman will be looking at this game to see how much rebuilding he'll need to do.
Illinois will try to win a bowl game for the second straight year, coming off last year's Texas Bowl triumph.
What They're Saying
Chris Porter of the L.A. Times has commented on UCLA's search for a new coach. Prospective candidates include former NFL head coach Jim Mora Jr., and current Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.
New Illini coach Tim Beckman is optimistic about Illinois' future. In his introductory press conference, he said "This is a gold mine. You can win at University of Illinois."
UCLA Players to Watch: Johnathan Franklin and Derrick Coleman, RB
The running back tandem of Johnathan Franklin and Derrick Coleman has had a lot of success in 2011. Franklin has rushed for 947 yards, while Coleman has added 726 yards and 11 touchdowns.
UCLA will need both players to have strong games in order to prevail.
Illinois Player to Watch: Nathan Scheelhaase, QB
Scheelhaase has struggled some as a sophomore, but he still remains a very talented dual-threat QB.
If the signal caller can get loose in the ground game as well as through the air, the Bruins defense will have a long day.
Key Matchup: UCLA Passing Game vs. Illinois Passing Defense
The Illini defense has 36 sacks on the year, good for 11th nationally. UCLA QB Kevin Prince is mobile, but his effectiveness will be limited if he is disrupted by Illinois' pressure.
Prediction: Illinois 17, UCLA 14