Seniors deserve applause

   NEW ORLEANS  Kurt Kittner, Brandon Moore, Bobby Jackson and Luke Butkus never might understand what they mean to the likes of Brandon Lloyd. But Illinois'' talented, talkative receiver wants them to know.


Rival coaches grin and bear it

   NEW ORLEANS  The old acquaintances said hello, shook hands and stood uncomfortably behind a trophy. It''s one they hope to be holding on their own late tonight.

   The day before the Sugar Bowl is listed as a photo opportunity with the game trophy. Louisiana State''s Nick Saban and Illinois'' Ron Turner willingly obliged, putting their hands on it while photographers flashed away.

Five keys to victory

   Five ways for each team to win:

UI''s Lackey comes close

   Top-seeded Joe Heskett of Iowa decisioned second-seeded Matt Lackey of Illinois 4-2 in Sunday''s 165-pound championship match at the Midlands Wrestling Championships in Evanston.Lackey was the top finisher for the Illini, who placed seventh in the team standings.

   The Illini''s John Lockhart, the No. 1 seed at heavyweight, lost 4-2 to Ohio International''s Mitch Clark in the semifinals. Lockhart finished fourth.

Sugar Bowl win would cap Illinois revival

   NEW ORLEANS  Four years ago, the program couldn''t go any lower.

   A big, fat zero in the left hand of the record for the first time since 1969. No game closer than 10 points. Fans staying away in droves.

Tonight''s matchups

   A position-by-position look at the two teams.

A Sugar Bowl chat with Brian Dietz

   Today''s guest: Kurt Kittner.

A few minutes with...

   ...Comedian and Illinois alum Arte Johnson

Dietz: Big game, big chance for Illinois

   NEW ORLEANS  No Illinois player has a better sense of history than center Luke Butkus. His name is synonymous with Illini football and winning. From legendary linebacker Dick Butkus to 1983 Big Ten MVP Mark Butkus, their family has left its mark on the gridiron in Champaign-Urbana.

Asmussen: Iron Mike''s needs some heavy metal

   NEW ORLEANS  Sunday night, it was back on the town for The News-Gazette travel party. Took a $10 cab ride (sorry boss, the bills are piling up) to a media event at the odd Mike Ditka''s.

   The restaurant is fine. Good food, typical New Orleans ambiance.