This 'n' that
Staff writer Bob Asmussen spent Monday talking to the Illinois players and coaches. Here's what he learned:
Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, who briefly left Saturday's game with a sore shoulder, returned to practice Monday and will play against Western Michigan. Scheelhaase said his shoulder wasn't hurt by a hit from one of the Sun Devils. Instead, the pain came when he went hard into the turf near the Arizona State sideline. "It was awkward landing," Scheelhaase said. "Fortunately, it wasn't too bad so I was able to come back in the game. It's feeling better and better day by day. It's just sore now."
For the second time in three weeks, Illinois has a Big Ten Player of the Week. And both times, it has been a linebacker. Houston Bates earned Freshman of the Week honors after his performance against Arkansas State. This time, Jonathan Brown won the Defensive Player of the Week award after his seven-tackle, 1.5-sack, one-interception performance Saturday night against Arizona State. The sophomore from Memphis drew the praise of coach Ron Zook on Sunday.
After moving into the Top 25 for the first time this season, Illinois saw an uptick in ticket inquiries Monday. Ticket manager Jason Heggemeyer said there was a spike of sales during the weekend. While none of the Big Ten games are sold out yet, tickets for Northwestern, Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin are going at a fast pace. A projection for Saturday's game against Western Michigan will be available later in the week.
Illinois, which ended up being a small favorite against Arizona State, is a 13.5-point pick against Western Michigan, according to Las Vegas oddsmakers. With upcoming games against Northwestern, Indiana, Ohio State and Purdue, Illinois could be favored all the way until the Oct. 29 game at Penn State. Or beyond. Of the eight Big Ten teams playing against FBS schools Saturday, all but Indiana (North Texas) and Michigan (San Diego State) are favored by double digits.