A Tangle in Tempe - Illinois vs. ASU

TEMPE, Ariz. - Previewing Saturday's PAC-12/Big Ten clash between Illinois and Arizona State.

Illinois (1-0) @ Arizona State (1-0) - 7:30 p.m. (9:30 CST) - ESPN

Spread: Arizona State by 3

Tracking: The ankle of quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. Will the junior start? And if he does play, how close to 100 percent is he? In the event he can't go, both Reilly O'Toole and Miles Osei figure in the game plan. How they'll be juggled remains to be seen.

Also: Defensive end Justin Staples and offensive lineman Simon Cvijanovic return from suspension. Safety Steve Hull should be available to play after missing Week One due to injury. Safety Supo Sanni is questionable (leg).

Of note: Arizona State coaches Ron West and Chip Long were on the Illinois staff a year ago.

Players to watch: Illinois

Senior DE Michael Buchanan - U.S. Presswire

Michael Buchanan - The Illinois defensive end had an interception and a sack in the season opener. The Illini will count on Buchanan to generate pressure on the quarterback and command extra attention from the ASU blocking scheme.

Jon Davis - The sophomore tight end led the team in rushing last week. Could he switch it up and lead in receiving against the Sun Devils? The coaching staff can use Davis in a variety of ways, something ASU must be prepared for on Saturday.

Players to watch: Arizona State

Taylor Kelly - The first year starting quarterback provides another rushing threat for the Sun Devils offense. While he rushed for 49 yards last week against Northern Arizona, he also had an outstanding game passing, finishing 15 of 19 for 247 yards.

Brandon Magee - The senior linebacker returned to the starting lineup last week after missing all of 2011 with an Achilles injury. He had an interception and 1.5 tackles for loss.

Keep in mind: It was Marion Grice who led the Sun Devils in rushing last week -- not starter Cameron Marshall or backup D.J. Foster.

What can't happen: Arizona State effectively running the ball. There's a firm commitment to the ground attack in this re-tooled Sun Devils offense, which plays into the strengths of the Illinois defense. Tackles Akeem Spence, Glenn Foster and Company, joined by the likes of linebacker Jonathan Brown, must force Arizona into long-distance situations on second and third downs by stopping the run early.

What really can't happen: Turnovers. With question marks surrounding the Illinois offense's consistency (even with quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase playing), the unit must not put the defense in bad situations by turning the ball over. That's not to say the playcalling should be conservative, nor should the players play not to lose. But understanding when to go for it and when to concede and live to fight another play will be important.

What needs to happen: Receivers step up. Take away Ryan Lankford's 64-yard touchdown catch against Western Michigan and the stats didn't look good for the Illinois wideout corps - four catches for 28 yards. Regardless of the circumstances, the Big Three, Lankford, Spencer Harris and Darius Millines must have more impact on the game this week.

What really needs to happen: A semblance of a ground game. Illinois averaged 2.80 yards per carry in the season opener. With the quarterback position potentially in flux, tailbacks Donovonn Young, Josh Ferguson and Davis must provide some balance to help whoever is calling the shots in the huddle.

Fun with numbers: Arizona State will win if it rushes for more than 250 yards. Illinois will win if the offense converts on third down at a 50 percent clip (last week: 31 percent).

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