Illini get sweet reward for big year

Wednesday, December 5, 2001

Maryland and Illinois, two one-loss teams with no shot at the national championship, are headed to BCS bowls -- the Terps in Miami, the Illini in New Orleans.

No. 7 Maryland, champion of the Atlantic Coast Conference, accepted an invitation Tuesday to the Orange Bowl, its first appearance in the game in 46 years.

It's a fitting end for one of the most surprising teams this season. Maryland (10-1), will play Jan. 2 in its first bowl game since 1990 and first major bowl since the 1977 Cotton Bowl.

Most likely the Terrapins will face No. 6 Florida, but could meet No. 2 Tennessee or No. 5 Nebraska, depending on the outcome of the Southeastern Conference championship game between the Volunteers and LSU.

"It looks like we're going to get to play one of the great teams in the country," Terrapins rookie coach Ralph Friedgen said. "It's really an opportunity for us and an honor for us to be able to play with the caliber of teams mentioned as the other candidates for this game."

Last year, Maryland was 5-6. As a result, Friedgen got every first-place vote in ACC Coach of the Year balloting.

"It's been a dream season in a number of ways," athletic director Debbie Yow said.

Illinois, the Big Ten champion, heads to the Sugar Bowl for the first time. The No. 8 Illini (10-1) probably will face No. 5 Nebraska, but would get LSU if it beats Tennessee on Saturday.

"We're excited," Illinois coach Ron Turner said. "It is one of the premier bowls in college football and has been for many, many years. I know our kids are very excited and anxious to get down there and get going and see what we can do."

Illinois also was 5-6 last year. It's only loss this season was to Michigan.

Clemson moved into a spot in the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho, after UCLA decided not to go to any bowl. The Bruins said playing in the New Year's Eve game against Louisiana Tech would have resulted in a $300,000 loss.

Participating schools in the Humanitarian Bowl receive $750,000 each.

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