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Redbox Bowl – California Golden Bears vs. Illinois Fighting Illini

Defense Could be Key

Our 2019 Redbox Bowl pick is for the third of four games being played on Monday, December 30. This Redbox Bowl prediction has the California Golden Bears at -6.0 and the over/under at 43.5. The game will be played at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. Kickoff is at 4:00 pm ET, the same time as today’s Music City Bowl with Mississippi State and Louisville. Also see our SERVPRO First Responder Bowl with Western Kentucky and Western Michigan (12:30 pm ET) pick, as well as our picks for the final game of the day. That would be the Capital One Orange Bowl, featuring the Florida Gators vs the the Virginia Cavaliers (8:00 pm ET).

In the Pac-12 North, the California Golden Bears (7-5) finished tied with three other teams for second place. Their conference record was 4-5, which was four wins short of the division-winning #6 Oregon Ducks. The Illinois Fighting Illini (6-6) were also 4-5 in their conference. That record earned them fourth in the Big Ten West, which was won by the 7-2 Wisconsin Badgers. The Badgers are ranked eighth.

2019 Redbox Bowl Pick – Regular Season

The Golden Bears won their first four games of the season, which included a 20-19 upset victory over #19 Washington. After those initial victories, California lost four straight games, which included losses to #13 Oregon (17-7) and #12 Utah (35-0). The Golden Bears then won three of their last four games, which included a 33-20 win over Washington State.

After winning their first two games of the season, the Fighting Illini lost four in a row, and then after that, they won four straight games. Our 2019 Redbox Bowl pick notes that in three of four of those losses, opponents scored 40 or more points against Illinois. The last loss in that string was 42-25 to #16 Michigan. Those next four wins included a 24-23 victory over #6 Wisconsin. That string of wins was topped off by a 37-34 win over Michigan State. The Fighting Illini lost their final two games of the season. Included was a 19-10 Iowa win, which was ranked 17th.

California Golden Bears vs. Illinois Fighting Illini – Stats

On offense, the Golden Bears are averaging 20.1 PPG. Their opponents in today’s game are averaging 27.3 PPG. In terms of offensive yards, these two teams are very close. California is averaging 323.0 offensive yards per game and Illinois 319.4. On defense, the Golden Bears are a bit better off. While Illinois is permitting opponents 25.4 PPG, California is giving up 22.1. The Illini are allowing 409.8 YPG, while the Bears are giving up 385.5. Of note, Illinois has difficulty stopping the run. They are responsible for allowing opponents 210.6 YPG. On the other hand, California is permitting opponents 262.4 passing YPG.

California at Illinois – Players

Look for the Golden Bears to run as much as possible. Although, they will need to utilize their air game to do so. Chances are the Bears will rely on their defense to hold off Illinois and stay in the game. If California is going to control the Fighting Illini offense, they will have to shut down their ground game. The Illinois D is vulnerable to the run. Still, their ability to strip the ball from runners could serve them well today.

California Golden Bears

QB Chase Garbers has passed for 1,500 yards, completing 59.2% of his passes. Garbers has thrown 10 TD passes and three picks. He’s been sacked 21 times. There’s no standout receiver on this team. The top pass catcher, Nikko Remigio, has 34 receptions for 477 yards and two scores. Christopher Brown Jr. leads the ground attack. He’s earned 794 yards on 188 carries. Brown, who’s averaging 4.2 YPA, has scored six times.

Our 2019 Redbox Bowl pick observes that the Bears do possess a decent pass rush. This year, they’ve scored 34 sacks. The secondary has defended 47 passes and made seven interceptions. Junior Cameron Goode offers fine penetration. He’s recorded 8.5 sacks. LB Evan Weaver leads the club with 95 solo and 172 total tackles, while LB Kuony Deng brings 112 total tackles to the field.

Illinois Fighting Illini

QB Brandon Peters leads the air attack. Peters has 1,611 passing yards, 17 TDs, and seven interceptions. He’s been sacked 22 times. With 33 receptions and nine TD catches, WR Josh Imatorbhebhe is the team’s top pass catcher. Two running backs, Reggie Corbin and Dre Brown, anchor the ground game. Corbin has 102 attempts, 634 yards, and six scores, and Brown has 102 attempts, 545 yards, and five TDs.

The Fighting Illini defensive strength is in causing turnovers. They have totaled 12 interceptions and 18 FF with 16 covered. The defense has scored six touchdowns. At the same time, Illinois has just 22 sacks and 26 PD. Top performers include LB Jake Hansen with 3.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles and three recovered, LB Dele Harding with 64 solo tackles, 148 total tackles, three INTs, and three FF, and LB Stanley Green with three FF and four recovered.

Five Keys to the Game

Our 2019 Redbox Bowl pick observes the following keys to this matchup:

  1. California rush attack could gain traction versus Illinois
  2. Fighting Illini offer a balanced offense
  3. Overall, California is vulnerable to the pass
  4. Illinois defense causes turnovers and scores
  5. Depth on offense goes to Illinois

Our 2019 Redbox Bowl Pick

Our 2019 Redbox Bowl pick envisions Illinois creating some scoring opportunities with their aggressive defense. That could certainly turn this game in favor of the Fighting Illini. However, California has a sound defense, which can keep them in the mix throughout the game. All in all, we like Illinois offense and see it being more productive in this game. Also, we think that the Fighting Illini defense will keep the Golden Bears on their toes. Take Illinois at +6.0. We’re also going with the over at 43.5.

Redbox Bowl Pick – Summary

Illinois Fighting Illini at +6.0 and over 43.5


Paul has been writing about sports betting and sports for more than a decade, offering picks on the NFL, MLB, NHL, and NBA, as well as on college sports and European football. He's written thousands of season and post-season previews, innumerable articles on sports betting strategies, and various books on sports and sports betting.

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