This year, Illinois heads to Huskie territory, as this time, Illinois heads to Seattle for the 2nd installment of the home and home with UW. Last year, the Huskies were led by now USC head coach Steve Sarkisian. At the helm now for UW is former Boise State coach Chris Peterson, who built Boise State into a consistent bowl contender.
Cyler Miles, the highly-rated dual-threat quarterback who at one time was heavily considering Illinois, served his suspension for a violation of team rules in the opener for the Huskies and made his return last week against Eastern Washington. Miles was an average passer, going 14-24 for 180 yards and a touchdown, but he's a dangerous runner with speed to burn. Last week, Miles scored on three of his twelve rushes and compiled a total of 58 yards rushing. Illinois will need to keep contain on him and not let him get the edge.
Glad He's Gone
Last year, now Tennessee Titan running back Bishop Sankey burned Illinois for 208 yards on 35 carries. Illinois had no answer for Sankey in combination with Keith Price's 342 passing yards. Those two are both gone now. And while Washington has reloaded, those two caused big problems for the Illinois defense. A much more run-oriented Washington offense will help the Illinois defense key in and slow the attack.
Blood in the Water?
For the Illinois offense, some of the best news they got all week was the suspension of star UW cornerback Marcus Peters. The next two corners in line are senior Travell Dixon and freshman Sidney Jones, but losing Peters puts a lot of extra strain on a defense that will have to defend the pass a little more short-handed than usual.
Even in the absence of Peters, Illinois will need to know where star safety Shaq Thompson is at all times. If Illinois can keep him out of the play, they can potentially take advantage of a reeling Washington secondary.
Both Illinois and Washington have had to grit out some games this season that probably ended up closer than they should have. In a week 1 matchup with Hawaii, Washington came away with just a one point win. The following week, Eastern Washington came within one touchdown in a total shootout that finished in a 59-52 win (Eastern Washington passed for just short of 500 yards in the game).
Illinois has had their own struggles, too. A week 1 win against Youngstown State was close until late in the fourth when the Illini were able to put away YSU for a final of 28-17. The week 2 match with Western Kentucky was also a shootout, but the Illini prevailed 42-34 to also move to 2-0.
This game has the potential to be a huge stepping stone for the winner. For Illinois, it brings them one step closer to a big goal of returning to a bowl game. For Washington, it would mean added momentum for Chris Peterson heading into his first season in the Pac 12.
Will the time zone throw off the Illini? Or will the Illini throw all over Washington?