Beat writer Matt Daniels takes a closer look at Saturday's game and picks a winner.
2 Nathan Scheelhaase 6-3 205 Sr. Kansas City, Mo.
4 Munchie Legaux 6-5 200 Sr. New Orleans
Edge: Cincinnati. Scheelhaase is coming off the best passing game of his career, albeit against an FCS school. Legaux picked apart a Big Ten defense (yes, Purdue still is considered a Big Ten football team), with his feet and his arm, but he was intercepted twice. Brendon Kay, who should play some Saturday, is more of a traditional pocket passer. Kay and Legaux have flip-flopped starts the last two seasons, but Legaux’s impressive showing against the Boilermakers makes it seem likely he’ll start against the Illini.
5 Donovonn Young 6-0 220 Jr. Houston
1 Ralph David Abernathy IV 5-7 160 So. Atlanta
Edge: Cincinnati. Aside from the scatback Abernathy is, the Bearcats also can turn to Hosey Williams and Tion Green to pick up the slack. Green is more of a bruising runner, while Williams is a solid all-around back. All three rushed for touchdowns against Purdue. Young struggled mightily for Illinois last Saturday, which could result in more carries for Josh Ferguson. Finding the hole and going north-south is an emphasis Illinois placed on its backs all offseason. But it was a directive that was hardly carried out against the Salukis.
12 Ryan Lankford 6-0 175 Sr. Jacksonville, Fla.
8 Miles Osei 6-0 200 Sr. Mount Prospect
80 Spencer Harris 6-3 205 Sr. Greenwood, Ark.
82 Max Morrison 6-1 173 So. Kenton, Ohio
19 Shaq Washington 5-9 174 Jr. Maple Heights, Ohio
15 Chris Moore 6-1 190 So. Tampa, Fla.
Edge: Illinois. Five Illinois wide receivers caught at least two passes against SIU. Don’t expect the trend to continue against a much-improved Cincinnati secondary, but the Illinois wideouts will have more chances to make plays in Bill Cubit’s pass-friendly offense. Lankford is the featured target for Scheelhaase and could have another 100-yard game. Harris has caught one pass in his last three games for a whopping 1 yard, so don’t envision him having a breakout game. Osei and Martize Barr are nice intermediate options for Illinois, too. Morrison and Moore give Legaux or Kay solid targets, and they have the capability to break a big play.
3 Jon Davis 6-3 240 Jr. Louisville, Ky.
86 Blake Annen 6-5 250 Sr. Upper Arlington, Ohio
Edge: Illinois. Annen had two receptions for 21 yards and a touchdown against Purdue. But Legaux or Kay will utilize the wideouts and running backs more than the tight ends. Davis, Evan Wilson, Matt LaCosse and Tim Clary had a combined six catches for 67 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown from Davis. Bill Cubit used Davis, Wilson and LaCosse on the season’s first play and targeted the tight ends at least once on any meaningful drive Illinois had against SIU.
68 Simon Cvijanovic 6-5 310 Jr. Cleveland
74 Michael Heitz 6-5 305 Jr. Vermont
52 Alex Hill 6-3 315 Jr. Slidell, La.
69 Ted Karras 6-4 300 So. Indianapolis
70 Corey Lewis 6-6 315 Sr. Cresco, Pa.
71 Eric Lefeld 6-6 309 Jr. Coldwater, Ohio
76 Austen Bujnoch 6-5 290 Sr. Cincinnati
59 Deyshawn Bond 6-2 287 Fr. Indianapolis
60 Sam Longo 6-5 305 Sr. Spring Valley, Ohio
78 Parker Ehinger 6-7 292 So. Rockford, Mich.
Edge: Cincinnati. The Bearcats’ unit gave Legaux and Kay time to throw against Purdue, yielding one sack. Illinois, conversely, gave up five sacks. Not going to cut it the rest of the season. Having Karras back after he missed the Southern Illinois game with a left ankle injury should benefit Illinois. But until Illinois proves it can open running lanes consistently for its backs and allow Scheelhaase a bit more time to throw the ball, Illinois won’t have this advantage.
59 Tim Kynard 6-3 270 Sr. Toledo, Ohio
95 Jake Howe 6-3 300 Jr. McHenry
44 Austin Teitsma 6-2 290 Jr. Glen Ellyn
55 Houston Bates 6-3 250 Jr. Covington, La.
92 Silverberry Mouhon 6-4 248 So. Norcross, Ga.
94 Jordan Stepp 6-1 285 Sr. Indianapolis
46 Mitch Meador 6-4 290 Sr. Greenwood, Ind.
93 Brad Harrah 6-5 258 Jr. Marion, Ohio
Edge: Cincinnati. An aggressive, pass-rushing mentality is what the Bearcats have. Illinois is trying to establish that identity. After not disrupting Kory Faulkner much last Saturday, Illinois needs to, somehow, someway, get to whomever Cincinnati has at quarterback much better. If Tim Kynard & Co. don’t, it could make for a long day defensively for the Illini. Cincinnati registered one sack against Purdue, but consistent pressure on Rob Henry flustered the Boilermakers’ offense.
45 Jonathan Brown 6-1 230 Sr. Memphis, Tenn.
43 Mason Monheim 6-1 235 So. Orrville, Ohio
34 Mike Svetina 6-2 235 So. Brunswick, Ohio
43 Nick Temple 5-10 218 Jr. Indianapolis
51 Greg Blair 6-2 252 Sr. Pittsburgh
48 Jeff Luc 6-1 251 Jr. Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Edge: Cincinnati. All three linebackers for Illinois are going to have to put together career-best performances. If the pass rush doesn’t happen for Illinois, Brown, Monheim and Svetina will have to show good discipline in the open field when Cincinnati gets the ball to its playmakers. With Legaux having the ability to run, the Illini will have to stay home on some plays and handle their responsibilities to near perfection. Luc and Blair are big linebackers who combine speed and tenacity to lead an impressive unit.
2 V’Angelo Bentley 5-10 190 So. Cleveland
9 Earnest Thomas 6-2 210 Jr. Orchard Lake, Mich.
3 Taylor Barton 6-1 215 Fr. Orlando, Fla.
27 Eaton Spence 6-0 185 So. Belle Glade, Fla.
11 Deven Drane 5-11 187 Sr. Plantation, Fla.
8 Adrian Witty 5-10 187 Jr. Deerfield Beach, Fla.
25 Arryn Chenault 6-0 208 Sr. Cincinnati
2 Trenier Orr 5-11 177 So. Winter Garden, Fla.
Edge: Cincinnati. Witty returned an interception 41 yards for a touchdown against Purdue. No one on the Illinois roster has done that during his time at the school. Spence played well against the Salukis, coming up with key coverage plays late in the game, and Thomas was a presence against the run. But giving up big plays like Illinois did against the Salukis doesn’t exactly give the fans inside Memorial Stadium the greatest confidence in this unit yet.
17 Taylor Zalewski (K, KO) 6-3 220 So. Orland Park
18 Justin DuVernois (P) 6-1 190 Jr. Plantation, Fla.
54 Zach Hirth (LS) 6-4 220 Fr. Eureka, Mo.
86 Tim Russell (Holder) 6-6 235 Sr. St. Charles
2 V’Angelo Bentley (PR, KR) 5-10 190 So. Cleveland
8 Miles Osei (PR, KR) 6-0 200 Sr. Mount Prospect
14 Tony Miliano (K) 6-2 186 Jr. North Bend, Ohio
24 John Lloyd (P, Holder) 6-2 237 Jr. Cincinnati
61 Kirk Willis 6-2 231 So. Granville, Ohio
19 Shaq Washington (PR, KR) 5-9 174 Jr. Maple Heights, Ohio
1 Ralph David Abernathy IV 5-7 160 So. Atlanta
Edge: Even. Illinois had more chances to return kickoffs and punts last week than Cincinnati did and thrived in the return game. Bentley ran back the first kickoff for a touchdown in five years, yet Illinois also missed five tackles in allowing a 60-yard kickoff return. DuVernois’ punting was shaky at times, great on other occasions. Cincinnati did not attempt a field goal, and though Zalewski made field goals from 33 yards and 31 yards, his 32-yard miss wide right can’t happen against the Bearcats.
Tim Beckman At UI (3-10) Overall (24-26)
Tommy Tuberville At Cincinnati (1-0) Overall (131-77)
Edge: Cincinnati. Tuberville has won before at Mississippi, Auburn and Texas Tech. His move to the Bearcats this offseason was a puzzling one, but maybe folks won’t second-guess it if Cincinnati is playing in a BCS bowl. He’s a coaching veteran who has seen just about everything. Well, this is his first time coaching at Memorial Stadium, but the new venue won’t matter much. Tim Beckman needs to remind his staff countless times this week to stay off the field. Repeat, stay off the field. The penalty against defensive coordinator Tim Banks ultimately didn’t hurt Illinois against the Salukis, but it nearly did.
Don’t anticipate Beckman spouting off countless ‘W’ references after this one. Cincinnati has too much talent, too much confidence and too much to lose if the Bearcats go back to Ohio with a .500 record. Illinois keeps it close until halftime before Cincinnati’s defense stifles Scheelhaase, exposing several of Illinois’ weaknesses. The run game improves a little, but not much, and Illinois will have to stomach a 37-20 loss. (N-G record: 1-0)