HQ prediction: Washington 31, UI 23

QUARTERBACKS
2    Nathan Scheelhaase    6-3    205    Sr.    Kansas City, Mo.

17    Keith Price    6-1    202    Sr.    Compton, Calif.
Edge: Washington. Look up and down the Washington passing records and Price’s name will jump out. Repeatedly. He already has the most career touchdown passes in Washington history at 56 and is incredibly accurate. In his career, he has completed 64 percent of his passes going into Saturday, tops in program history. The three-year starter picked apart Boise State in the opener, throwing for 324 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. Nathan Scheelhaase has put up video-game-like numbers in his first two games (728 yards, 74 percent completion rate, six TDs to only one interception). If Illinois was playing Washington State this week instead of the Huskies, Illinois would have the edge. But Steve Sarkisian’s quarterback has a better track record.

RUNNING BACKS
6    Josh Ferguson    5-10    195    Soph.    Naperville

25    Bishop Sankey    5-10    203    Jr.    Spokane, Wash.
Edge: Washington. Sankey is the dynamic running back Illinois coaches want to see play for the Illini in the future. He rushed for 1,439 yards last season and did damage against Boise State with 161 rushing yards on 25 carries. He’s fast. He can run over defenders. He can elude defenders. Sankey’s presence is the reason Illinois defensive coordinator Tim Banks might have had trouble sleeping this week. Ferguson or Donovonn Young could start for Illinois and will handle the majority of the carries Saturday. Young got going late against Cincinnati but needs to live up to his No. 5 jersey against Washington. Ferguson gives Illinois a difference-maker in the passing game as evident by a touchdown catch in each of the first two games.

RECEIVERS
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.

2    Kasen Williams    6-2    212    Jr.    Sammamish, Wash.
1    John Ross    5-11    173    Fr.    Long Beach, Calif.
8    Kevin Smith    5-11    214    Sr.    Compton, Calif.
Edge: Washington. Williams, a former Parade All-American Player of the Year, caught 77 passes last season for 878 yards. And he wasn’t even Washington’s leading receiver against Boise State. Jaydon Mickens had nine catches for 109 yards. Price won’t target nearly as many with his throws as Scheelhaase will. The even distribution Scheelhaase has shown so far under Bill Cubit’s watch means no Illinois wide receiver has hit double-digit reception totals yet, with Martize Barr’s nine leading the team. Illinois might have more depth at this spot than Washington, but Williams alone makes up for that issue.

TIGHT ENDS
89    Evan Wilson    6-6    250    Sr.    Woodstock, Ga.

88    Austin Seferian-Jenkins    6-6    276    Fox Island, Wash.
Edge: Washington. Years ago, they used to call Seferian-Jenkins an offensive lineman. In fact, the Mackey Award finalist from a year ago is bigger than Washington’s starting right guard. Seferian-Jenkins had a turbulent offseason, getting arrested and charged with a DUI, which caused Steve Sarkisian to suspend his standout for the season opener against Boise State. Not that he should need any introduction to Illinois because he holds every school record for a tight end. Wilson, Jon Davis and Matt LaCosse have provided a steady presence so far for Illinois, but all three combined don’t compare to Seferian-Jenkins.

OFFENSIVE LINE
68    Simon Cvijanovic    6-5    310    Jr.    Cleveland
69    Ted Karras    6-4    300    Soph.    Indianapolis
52    Alex Hill    6-3    315    Jr.    Slidell, La.
74    Michael Heitz    6-5    305    Jr.    Vermont
70    Corey Lewis    6-6    315    Sr.    Cresco, Pa.

72    Micah Hatchie    6-5    305    Jr.    Haleiwa, Hawaii
76    Dexter Charles    6-4    289    Soph.    Camano Island, Wash.
78    Mike Criste    6-5    306    Jr.    Mission Viejo, Calif.
64    Colin Tanigawa    6-3    275    Jr.    Pasadena, Calif.
59    Ben Riva    6-6    300    Jr.    Seattle
Edge: Washington. Both units should rest comfortably Saturday night in Chicago. No matter the result. That’s because both offenses like to get in as many plays as possible. Washington snapped the ball 85 times against Boise State despite each team having the ball nearly the same amount of time. Illinois is not quite that prolific yet, averaging 72 plays in its first two games. Having Karras back (check out how he got downfield on Lankford’s touchdown run off a reverse) gave the line — which did not allow a sack against Cincinnati — a renewed sense of confidence in pass blocking and run blocking. Still, questions linger for a unit that has as much to prove as any other positional group in this game.

DEFENSIVE LINE
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.

8    Hau’Oli Kikaha    6-3    250    Jr.    Laie, Hawaii
80    Evan Hudson    6-5    277    Jr.    Bothell, Wash.
71    Danny Shelton    6-1    327    Jr.    Auburn, Wash.
42    Cory Littleton    6-3    230    Soph.    Spring Valley, Calif.
Edge: Illinois. Shelton is a mountain of a man. He should help clog up his fair share of running lanes Saturday. Making sure he doesn’t disrupt plans is paramount if Illinois wants to have the same success running the ball like it did against Cincinnati. Kikaha has proven to be injury-prone during his time at Washington, while Hudson, a former walk-on, moved from tight end to the defensive line before the start of fall camp. Kynard and Bates showed good get-off on certain plays against Cincinnati and continue to make strides. The key is how well Howe, Teitsma and the rest of the interior linemen can do in containing Sankey inside the tackles.

LINEBACKERS
45    Jonathan Brown    6-1    230    Sr.    Memphis, Tenn.
43    Mason Monheim    6-1    235    Soph.    Orrville, Ohio
34    Mike Svetina    6-2    235    Soph.    Brunswick, Ohio

41    Travis Feeney    6-4    224    Soph.    Richmond, Calif.
10    John Timu    6-1    235    Jr.    Long Beach, Calif.
7    Shaq Thompson    6-2    224    Soph.    Sacramento, Calif.
Edge: Illinois. Just like Brown is the playmaker for Illinois on defense, so is Timu for the Huskies. Brown looks like the Brown of 2011 with his consistent play and on-field leadership at this point in the season. Have to think NFL scouts are paying close attention to see how he will fare against the up-tempo offense the Huskies will unleash on Illinois. Monheim came through with 10 tackles against Cincinnati and will need another solid game against Washington. Having Eric Finney back and healthy could benefit Svetina, who likely will drop into coverage more than he has all season and stay fresh when he’s on the field.

SECONDARY
2    V’Angelo Bentley    5-10    190    Soph.    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    Soph.    Belle Glade, Fla.

21    Marcus Peters    5-11    193    Soph.    Oakland, Calif.
13    Will Shamburger    6-0    192    Sr.    Compton, Calif.
1    Sean Parker    5-10    195    Sr.    Los Angeles
18    Gregory Ducre    5-10    178    Sr.    Los Angeles
Edge: Washington. Starting three seniors is a bonus for the Huskies. Parker came down with a key interception against Boise State. Washington limited Broncos quarterback Joe Southwick (25 of 40) to only 152 passing yards in stifling any sort of passing game to develop. Forcing turnovers will help Illinois immensely, although intercepting passes isn’t the Illini’s greatest strength. Barton has the lone turnover through two games after intercepting Cincinnati’s Munchie Legaux last week and is the best bet to come down with another pick this week. Thomas will most likely be a busy man, splitting time on stopping Sankey from running wild and trying to keep Price contained. Good luck.

SPECIAL TEAMS
17    Taylor Zalewski (K, KO)    6-3    220    Soph.    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

46    Travis Coons (K, P)    6-2    199    Sr.    Alta Loma, Calif.
77    Ryan Masel (LS)    6-0    216    Soph.    Phoenix
45    Korey Durkee (Holder)    6-4    221    Soph.    Gig Harbor, Wash.
8    Kevin Smith (KR)    5-11    214    Sr.    Compton, Calif.
1    John Ross (PR, KR)    5-11    173    Fr.    Long Beach, Calif.

Edge: Illinois. If DuVernois punts consistently (he’s had four punts travel 35 yards or less, but one was on purpose and pinned Cincinnati inside its own 10-yard line). If Osei and Bentley continue to make smart and solid returns. Sometimes getting a kickoff 3 or 4 yards deep in the end zone requires a touchback to set up field position at the 25-yard line. Osei has provided a calming influence to Bentley when he’s not ripping off significant gains on punt returns. Washington wasn’t tested much in the return game against the Broncos, but Ross came through with a 33-yard kickoff return.

COACHES
Tim Beckman    At UI (4-10)    Overall (25-26)

Steve Sarkisian    At Washington (27-25)    Overall (27-25)
Edge: Washington. It’s offense against defense, with Sarkisian bringing a versatile offensive mind while Beckman’s roots are on the defensive side of the ball. Both coaches have much to prove. The outcome of Saturday’s game by no means defines the season for either team. But Illinois moves halfway toward bowl eligibility with a win. And Washington, while playing in three consecutive bowl games, could satisfy its fan base with a win that should allow the Huskies to start 3-0 (Washington hosts Idaho State on Sept. 21) before Pac-12 play arrives. This is Sarkisian’s fifth season in Seattle, and after three straight 7-6 seasons, the next step needs to take place.

PREDICTION
Illinois goes a long way toward showing it is Chicago’s Big Ten team. For at least a half. The play-calling of Bill Cubit helps Illinois get off to another quick start in the first two quarters. But Washington doesn’t let the early deficit deter it. Price plays like a potential NFL draft pick on Jay Cutler’s home field once the second half starts. Illinois — gaining more respect each week — doesn’t gain a win and will head into its bye week having to ponder missed opportunities in a 31-23 loss. (N-G record: 1-1)


 

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Bwp 5P wrote on September 13, 2013 at 9:09 am

Hate to do it......BUT

 

Huskies  38

ILLINI 27

 

Hope I'm wrong like last week!!!

206 Cardinal wrote on September 13, 2013 at 11:09 am

Nice write-up.  The only mild whiff here (totally forgiveable for an intersectional game) is on the linebackers. You're right that Timu is the senior "quarterback" of their LB corps, but Shaq Thompson could be the best player on the field tomorrow, full stop.   

The main trouble for Illinois here is that Washington's receivers will overwhelm the Illini secondary.  If not for that mismatch, Illinois' good defensive front could load up against Sankey, but they're not going to be able to do that (this was the same matchup problem Boise had).  Washington is as good as anyone in the Pac-12 at the offensive skill positions (in a conference that doesn't lack for skill position talent). Their O line is just slightly-above-average at pass blocking (better at run blocking), but their offense de-emphasizes line play to some extent.  

41-24 Washington.

GoDawgs wrote on September 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Agreed on the LBs.  Shaq Thompson was a freshman all-american and is a beast.  Don't let their youth fool you, these guys have all played a bunch of games.  Timu is a 3 year starter. The Dawgs have too much fire power and speed.  42-14.