CFN Analysis - Illinois Beats UCLA In Kraft
Posted Dec 31, 2011

CFN Instant Analysis on Illinois win over UCLA in the Kraft Fight Hunger

CFN Analysis   

Illinois 20, UCLA 14

By Pete Fiutak

- There's something wonderfully decadent about being ten pounds overweight and eating garbage while watching something called the Fight Hunger Bowl.

- Whitney Mercilus capped off his phenomenal year by blowing into the UCLA backfield time and again to screw things up. He might have only come up with 1.5 sacks and five tackles, but he showed he's ready to be a top 50 NFL pick.

- He's better than the fourth rounder some think he is.

- Whatever pistol-like offense the Bruins are trying needs to change. Now.

- Granted, there were some long sacks, but if you're netting 18 yards rushing, your attack didn't work.

- I tried to avoid dogging this bowl for weeks, but UCLA finished the season 6-8. It's time to examine the system.

- Illinois showed up and rocked Baylor for a bowl win last year. It seemed to be able to do just enough defensively to overcome an offense that got nothing without Nathan Scheelhaase.

- Scheelhaase looked healthy and quicker than he did at the end of the regular season. His time off did him some good.

- It would've been the perfect call to make in the perfect game like this; A.J. Jenkins could've been flagged for celebrating when he slowed down and preened on his way to the end zone on the gamebreaking 60-yard touchdown.

- It took an entire half of a season and just under 45 minutes in the bowl, but Illinois finally got a big play from the offense.

- Come on. It's okay to admi it. This bowl just wasn't that bad.

By Richard Cirminiello 

A darn good Illini defense deserved a better fate this season. Had the offense in Champaign pulled its weight even a little, Illinois, not Michigan, just might have copped an at-large BCS bowl bid out of the Big Ten. The D has that much talent.

Jim Mora's first order of business as UCLA's head coach will be to do whatever is necessary to shore up the offensive line. The Bruins were once again abused at the point of attack, a trend that's plagued this program for far too many years.

I know, no one is supposed to speak ill of the postseason these days, but 6-8 UCLA has got to be the face of a bloated system that has a lot of fans bowl-weary before the best games have even been played.

Don't quit on Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase just because he finished the season in such awful fashion. The kid has plenty of talent, as evidenced from his freshman year, and a new, Tim Beckman-led staff determined to recapture his rookie form.

Feel free to throw the towel in on UCLA QB Kevin Prince. Too many injuries. Too little growth. The Bruins need to give the keys to blue-chip recruit Brett Hundley, and allow him to gradually become the franchise beginning in 2012.

By: Phil Harrison
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN

- So all it takes for Illinois to snap its six game losing streak was to usher out Ron Zook and play another team that may just be a bigger dumpster fire than itself.

- Congratulations to UCLA for being the only team in the history of NCAA football to make a bowl game and finish with a 6-8 record. It may never happen again--and its not the notoriety a program wants.

- As Scheelhaase goes, so too do the Illini. He has unfortunately been extremely inconsistent this year and the result has been an Illini team that got out of the gate fast, but that did a swan dive off the cliff midway through the season. He was solid in this one, and the result was a much needed win.

- Don't you wonder how UCLA can't be a better program? The powder blues have been solid but the Bruins sit in a hotbed area for recruiting, have better facilities, and sit in a nicer part of town than USC. If and when the program gets the right coach in there, it could get interesting.

- Okay Big Ten, you needed this one and now the really big games begin to boil--there are plenty of opportunities to make a statement through the remainder of the bowls.

- Is this a preview of the new Pac-12/Big Ten arrangement? If so, advantage Big Ten. UCLA was at least competitive in the Pac-12 while Illinois made it to a bowl game largely on a good non-conference showing.

- Despite the perceived issues at Illinois under Ron Zook, the reality is that this was the first back to back wins by the Illini since--EVER. Granted the competition level was not that great at either bowl, but does the administration really think that things are going to be that much better without Zook. The program was much worse before he got there.

- It's really surprising that Illinois won. Both teams lost head coaches, but all of the chaos surrounding the Illinois program with the assistant coaches threatening a boycott and six straight losses on the table would have had a betting man going with UCLA. You just never know the psyche of the teams coming into bowl games--even when you think you do.

By Terry Johnson
Please follow me on Twitter @TPJCollFootball

- Despite all of the negative comments made leading up to today's game, UCLA and Illinois combined for one of the top defensive efforts of the bowl season.

- Someone forgot to tell Vic Koenning that this bowl game was supposed to be meaningless. Koenning made the most of his opportunity as the Illinois interim coach, going for it fourth down several times, and even running a fake FG (which failed miserably). If he succeeds as the new defensive coordinator at North Carolina, he will get another shot at being a head coach in the near future.

- Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase provided all of offensive fireworks in this contest. It will be interesting to see how much more dangerous he will be under new head coach Tim Beckman's system.

- The Illini front four completely dominated this game by shutting down the run, and pressuring Kevin Prince every time he dropped back to pass. Even if Whitney Mercilus (who equaled Simeon Rice's sack record today) goes pro, Illinois defensive line should rate as one of the top units in the country next season.

- While Rick Neuheisel took most of the blame for the Bruins' struggles, youth and inexperience certainly contributed to the problem. As we saw today – especially in the first half – UCLA has talent, it is simply raw and undisciplined. A veteran coach like Jim Mora, Jr. should help turn the program into a consistent winner.