TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – It’s official! Illinois and No. 22 Mississippi State are set to face off in the ReliaQuest Bowl in Tampa next year.

On Jan. 2, the two teams will meet for the second time in history with the last matchup taking place in 1980. For Illinois, this will be the first appearance in the bowl since 1991.

“We are excited to extend an invitation to the University of Illinois and the Mississippi State University to play in this year’s ReliaQuest Bowl,” said ReliaQuest Bowl Chair Troy Atlas in a statement. “These are two quality teams that we expect will produce an exciting match-up fans are really going to enjoy.  We look forward to hosting the teams and their fans and ensure they will have an amazing experience at the game and enjoying the dynamic Tampa Bay area.”

Illini head coach Bret Bielema said that he’s grateful to accept an invitation to the ReliaQuest Bowl, formerly known as the Outback Bowl.

“The ReliaQuest Bowl is a first-class bowl that will give our program an opportunity to play a very good SEC opponent in Mississippi State with a national spotlight in a big-game atmosphere. Our program is excited to make the most of the experiences the ReliaQuest Bowl presents for our players, staff, and fans. This will be a great reward to finish the 2022 season and catapult us into 2023. I couldn’t be more excited about this program where we’re at, but more importantly, where we’re going,” Bielema said in a statement.

MSU’s head coach also joined in on the excitement of playing in Tampa Bay and stated that they’re thrilled to compete in a bowl game for the 13th consecutive season.

“We are excited to play in the ReliaQuest Bowl against a quality, well-coached Illinois team,” head coach Mike Leach said in a statement. “We look forward to continue competing, improving and building on the positive momentum surrounding our program. Our players and coaches are excited for the practices and preparation ahead.” 

MSU’s interim Director of Athletics Bracky Brett added that he looked forward to seeing Bulldog fans throughout the city of Tampa to end the year.

The ReliaQuest Bowl will be played at Raymond James Stadium on Monday, Jan. 2, at noon. Fans can purchase tickets by following this link.