UCLA, Illinois set to meet in Kraft Bowl at AT&T Park

Two schools without permanent head coaches will look to build momentum for the 2012 season when UCLA meets Illinois in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park on Dec. 31.

UCLA, which won the inaugural Pac-12 South Division championship, finished the season at 6-7 and had to receive a special waiver from the NCAA in order to become bowl eligible. Interim coach Mike Johnson, who finished last season as the 49ers’ offensive coordinator, will lead UCLA into the bowl after Rick Neuheisel was fired on Nov. 28, though he was allowed to coach in Friday’s Pac-12 championship game against Oregon, which the Ducks won 49-31.

“The next few weeks will offer all of us associated with the Bruin football team an opportunity to grow, individually and collectively, as we prepare for the challenge that is ahead of us,” Johnson said in a statement.

Illinois started the season 6-0 before losing its final six contests, costing Ron Zook his job on Nov. 27. The Illini, which boast one of the Big Ten Conference’s best defenses, will be coached by Vic Koenning in the Kraft Bowl.

“Even though it’s only been around for 10 years, this game has had a number of quality matchups,” Koenning said in a statement. “We are glad to become a part of the bowl’s tradition.”

UCLA previously played in the Emerald Bowl at AT&T Park in 2006 when it lost 44-27 to Florida State.

Army was slotted in to be a part of the Kraft Bowl should they become bowl eligible, but the Black Knights are just 3-8 heading into next week’s annual game against Navy.

collegeDylan KruseSan Franciscosports

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