At the start of the season, Illinois wanted a competitive season. Now, they're in the Rose Bowl.
The Rose Bowl could have gone in a different direction, "I think they made the right decision, I mean it's the Big Ten and Pac Ten, and we beat the number one team in the country," said All-American LB J. Leman. The Illini Nation wanted to see how good its football team is, now they will have the chance to showcase it in one of the best bowl games in the history of college football.
"What a difference three years makes and what a great day for the Illini Nation. It's a very special day for us," said Head Coach Ron Zook. "We kind of had a feeling things were going in the right direction. I'm very happy for Ron Guenther and all the people that are associated with this. We still have a ways to go. It's really special for our seniors, they're in the 'Grand Daddy of the all.' I'm happy for our players and coaches. The players played their hearts out all year, it's going to be a great challenge for us, but one we'll be ready for. Our coaches have done their job. We are all a part of it, in coaching and recruiting, but having said all this, we get to play one of the best teams in the country. We'll have our hands full but we'll do what we can do to have our teams prepared," said Zook.
"Last night was the first night when I really started to pay attention to what could be taking place," Zook said. "I told our kids we can't control where we go, but no matter what, we're going to be playing someone good. Just prepare the way we have all year long."
Don't be fooled that it's a home game for USC, "I'll be willing to bet that place will have an awful lot of orange in that stadium," Zook added. "People don't know, but the Rose Bowl is hard to get too."
Zook was loving the moment, "I told Coach Ron Guenther that if in three years we were not in the Rose Bowl he should get rid of me. I grew up watching the Rose Bowl and loving the parade and all that comes with it. I told my guys if you're a competitor and you want to compete, then it's about playing the best so were in that situation."
We'll have more on the Illini and the Rose Bowl later.