HQ prediction: Washington 31, UI 23
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)