Coming off a 38-6 rout of 19th-ranked Boise State in the opening of the new Husky Stadium, Washington is preparing to kick off in Chicago.
They will take on a rejuvenated Illinois team at Soldier Field at 3 PM PST. Here are some keys to the game.
Win on the road
Seems obvious, right? Well, it needs to be said because the Huskies have been downright awful away from home recently. In the last two years, Washington has gone 3-10 away from Seattle, with two of the wins coming against teams that combined to finish the season 4-20 (California and Colorado).
The Huskies have proven that they can beat almost any team in college football while playing at home, but when leaving Seattle, they turn into a completely different team, and not in a good way.
Soldier Field is pretty much a home game for Illinois, but with a less-than-capacity crowd expected for a team that hasn't generated much interest locally in the past few years, Washington has no excuse for not winning, and proving they can finally win on the road against a quality opponent.
There is no doubt the UW defense has improved dramatically since Justin Wilcox was hired at the start of last season. The Huskies defense under Wilcox has at times looked dominant against top teams, shutting down some of the best offenses in college football. However, Wilcox's defense has struggled against innovative and high-octane offenses.
Arizona and Oregon ran and threw all over the Huskies defense last year, and while Illinois can't be confused for either of the two, the Illini's unusual offensive formations and deep pass offense could be a challenge for the Huskies defense. Wilcox needs to make adjustments and not repeat the same mistakes made during numerous games last season including the Apple Cup.
While the Huskies defense absolutely shut down a Boise State offense that has been consistently one of the best in the nation the past few years, their defensive line struggled at times. The Huskies allowed 171 rushing yards and didn't record a single sack.
The pass rush was non-existent for most of the game, and if the Huskies can't get pressure on Illinois, their secondary is going to be picked apart by the deep ball. UW has a very strong LB core and a solid secondary, but if they can't stop the run and get pressure on the quarterback, the Huskies are going to be in big trouble.
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