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September 13, 2013

Washington-Illinois preview




No. 19 Washington Huskies (1-0) vs. Illinois Fighting Illini (2-0)
Saturday, Sept. 14, 3:00 p.m. PT, Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois
TV: Big Ten Network, Radio: 950 KJR


They are ranked, they are confident, but will the Washington Huskies be consistent? The happy memories from the team's convincing win over Boise State can be erased in a few hours if Coach Sarkisian does not have his team adequately prepared for an undefeated Fighting Illini squad. Washington has seen its fair share of beat downs on the road, including a 41-3 loss to LSU last season. No road game is easy, but if the Huskies can pull this game out, they could potentially enter Pac-12 play with a 3-0 record.

Key Illinois Players

Jonathan Brown, Linebacker (Sr.)


Brown was a 2012 Butkus Award semifinalist and earned All-Big Ten honorable mention honors in his junior year campaign. Despite missing the team's final three games last season, Brown tallied a team-high 9.5 tackles for loss. Brown leads the Big Ten in tackles through two games with 23 stops.

Mason Monheim, Linebacker (So.)

Pairing with Brown in the second level of the Fighting Illini defense is Mason Monheim. An All-American as a freshman, Monheim, became the first ever true freshman to ever lead the team in tackles. Monheim has 18 stops through two games this season.

Nathan Scheelhaase, Quarterback (Sr.)

Rhymes with wheelhouse, Scheelhaase has torched Illinois' first two opponents, throwing for a career-high 416 yards and two touchdowns, leading his team to a 42-34 victory over Southern Illinois. In the team's second game he threw for 312 yards along with four touchdowns. He is one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the country, with 38 career starts, the third-most in the NCAA behind Georgia's Aaron Murray (43) and Nebraska's Taylor Martinez (41).

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

Will Washington's secondary hold up against Scheelhaase?

The Huskies' secondary put up an admirable performance against Boise St., holding the Broncos quarterback Joe Southwick to 152 yards with his longest pass play in the game being a 16-yard reception. There were questions with how effective Washington's defensive backs would be without Desmond Trufant, but sophomore Marcus Peters and senior Greg Ducre both looked solid against Boise State. Ducre has battled fits of inconsistency in the past, so his performance against an offense led by an experienced Scheelhaase will be telling on if he's improved from last year or not.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins' role in the no-huddle offense

ASJ is a weapon that Sark will use, and use often. The only question is how Sark will utilize the best tight end in the country in the team's new no-huddle offense. The Huskies will probably stick with feeding
sophomore running back Bishop Sankey the ball in zone runs, along with attacking Illinois from the perimeter in the pass game.

It'd be a safe assumption that ASJ will have a few plays directed at him in the middle of the field. If the Huskies can get its run game going, it's difficult seeing Illinois being able to stop Washington, especially with a weapon like ASJ back on the football field.

How good is Bishop Sankey?

Though much has been said about Keith Price's resurgence in the team's opening win, Bishop Sankey's 161 yard and two touchdown performance was tragically put on the backburner by most analysts after the game. Similar to the quiet success of Chris Polk when he played with Jake Locker, Sankey might be turning into one of the best tailbacks in the country. The junior scored in all but three games last season for the Huskies. If he can get going on the ground, UW's passing offense will open up. Without a doubt, Illinois has his number circled in their scouting reports.

PREDICTION

There is always the fear of getting high to fast, and if a loss happens in this game, it won't be because Washington has less-talented players, it'll be because this team was not adequately prepared by the coaches in the past two weeks. The Huskies offense is electric, throw in Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and it's just too difficult to see any defense stopping this team. Illinois isn't a team UW is overlooking.

Washington 33, Illinois 20

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