Getting to the postseason was a significant accomplishment for Illinois this season. Not only is it the program’s first bowl game since 2014, this season marked one of the best second-half coaching jobs of the season as Lovie Smith turned a 2-4 team into a six-win squad.

Illinois learned that it will be headed to the Redbox Bowl on Sunday, where it will take on Cal. After the announcement was made, Illini athletic director Josh Whitman talked about what it meant to be back in the postseason.

“We have not been in a bowl game for too long,” Whitman said, according to Jeremy Werner of Illini Inquirer. “Great to have a team back.”

The Illini recorded some signature wins in order to lock up a bowl berth. They defeated No. 6 Illinois and overcame a 25-point deficit to defeat Michigan State on the road. Illinois also got wins over Purdue and Rutgers to finish the year 4-2.

Yes, Whitman is excited about being back in the postseason and playing a 13th game, but he also made it clear that happiness shouldn’t be confused with satisfaction. Moving forward, there are bigger and better goals for the program.

“We needed to get in the postseason. We knew that for a long time,” Whitman said.

“Being happy does not mean being satisfied. We have bigger goals.”

Some of those goals include winning a B1G West title, playing in New Year’s Six bowl games and competing for B1G titles. That won’t just become the goal in Champaign, it’s going to become the expectation.

But bowl eligibility was a great first step, and it gives the Illini something to build off of moving forward. And if Illinois can get a win and finish the year 7-6, it’ll give the program even more momentum heading into the offseason.