Illini get their bowl game: Illinois to play Mississippi State in the ReliaQuest Bowl

The Illini have found out their bowl game and opponent.

The Illinois football team will face Mississippi State in the ReliaQuest Bowl, scheduled for Jan. 2, 2023 in Tampa, Florida, according to Brett McMurphy of The Action Network. The game will air on ESPN2.

Illinois (8-4) heads to a bowl game for just the third time in the last decade and the first since a RedBox Bowl appearance in 2019. The Illini also played in the 2014 Heart of Dallas Bowl. The Illini are 8-11 in bowls and have dropped their last two appearances. It's their second berth in this bowl, previously known as the Hall of Fame and Outback bowls.

Mississippi State (8-4) will play in its 13th consecutive bowl game, last missing the bowl season in 2009. The Bulldogs are 14-11 all-time and 7-5 during its current postseason run.

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What to know about Illinois

Illinois is coming off its best regular season in years. The Illini have their highest win total since the 2007 Rose Bowl team finished 9-4. Running back Chase Brown is second nationally in yards rushing with 1,643 and has a chance to break Mikel Leshoure's single-season school record of 1,697 in 2010.

The Illinois offense has improved this season under both Brown and QB Tommy DeVito. The Syracuse transfer has a 70% completion percentage that ranks third in the nation. With a 142.34 passer rating, he is on pace to break the Illinois record of 141.6 set by Wes Lunt in 2014.

The Illini also feature one of the nation's top defenses and led with 22 interceptions. They allowed just 12.3 points per game (second) and third in yardage (263.8). They battled then-No. 3 Michigan before losing 19-17 to the eventual conference champion.

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Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers (2) passes against Mississippi during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Oxford, Miss., Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers (2) passes against Mississippi during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Oxford, Miss., Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

What to know about Mississippi State

Mississippi State features QB Will Rogers, the school's career passing leader with 10,428 yards and 81 touchdowns. He surpassed current Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott in both categories this season.

The Bulldogs have eight wins for the first time since 2018. It's their highest total under third-year coach Mike Leach. MSU has also beaten seven teams ranked in the Top 25 under “The Pirate,” all while unranked. They rank 11th in passing offense at 314.3 yards per game.

Mississippi State last faced the Illini on Oct. 4, 1980, a 28-20 Bulldogs' win.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

This article originally appeared on Journal Star: Illinois football bowl game: Illini in ReliaQuest Bowl in Tampa