Maybe they should call it the Kraft Fight Through Adversity Bowl.
Earlier this week, UCLA announced it was suspending four players for the Dec. 31 game against Illinois, including backup quarterback Richard Brehaut. Today (in a classic example of PR 101, dropping the news late on Friday before Christmas), the Illini announced that two of their players are academically ineligible, including leading rusher Jason Ford.
That's a career-ender for Ford, a senior who had 600 rushing yards and seven touchdowns this season. That leaves Illinois thin in the backfield for the game, as fullback Jay Prosch was hospitalized this week for a staph infection and may not be able to play.
Senior Troy Pollard (462 yards this season) and freshman Donovonn Young (406) will likely have to carry the load in the bowl game. It wasn't like the running game or the Illinois offense in general was producing much of anything during the final six weeks of the season, but every little bit hurts even more. I believe this game will come down to whether Illinois' offensive line can rebound after an awful performance down the stretch and whether quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase can regain his confidence and form.
Neither team will be at full strength for this bowl game. But neither team was all that strong to begin with, either.