PREVIEW AND PREDICTION: Illinois vs. Washington – Can the Husky Defense have a rebound performance?

The Washington Huskies will once again lean heavily on their running game. Lavon Coleman has played well the past two games and is looking to carry that momentum into this weekend's game.

The Washington Huskies will once again lean heavily on their running game. Lavon Coleman has played well the past two games and is looking to carry that momentum into this weekend’s game.

Game: Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Washington Huskies

Where: Seattle, WA

When: Sept. 13th, 1:00pm

Channel: FOX

Line: UW favored by 13.5 points

Game Storylines:

How will the Husky secondary hold up without Marcus Peters while facing another pass-happy team? To say that the Washington Huskies defensive backfield struggled against Vernon Adams Jr. and the Eastern Washington Eagles would be an understatement. The Dawg’s youth and inexperience was on full display last weekend as the Eagles threw for 475 yards and 7 TDs. Now the Huskies face the Fighting Illini led by an experienced passer in Wes Lunt accompanied by his stable of physically dominant receivers. Add in the fact that Marcus Peters has been reportedly suspended for the game and all signs are pointing to another high scoring affair. Husky Nation and the UW coaches will be placing their hopes of a 3-0 start on the inexperienced defensive backfield of Travell Dixon, Sidney Jones, Budda Baker, and Kevin King. Will these young players step up and show improvement from the disaster that was last week?

 

Matchups:

2014 Matchup - UW vs Illinois

Quarterback. The quarterback position is an intriguing matchup. Cyler Miles has shown he is a dual-threat QB after rushing for 3 touchdowns last week. Miles has plenty of room to develop as a passer, but he has shown adequate arm strength, accuracy, and decision making. Illinois’ quarterback, Wes Lunt, was a highly touted high school recruit and started as a true freshman at Oklahoma State before he was riddled with injuries and ultimately transferred to Illinois. Lunt is your prototypical passer who has excellent arm strength and accuracy down the field. Both QB’s have proven to be very effective in their first two games, therefore this position is a draw in terms of a position matchup.

Running Back. The Huskies stable of running backs have improved each week this season. Dwayne Washington and Lavon Coleman have proven that they can carry the offense down the field and score. The UW offensive line has also helped these running backs establish their physical ground-and-pound running style. Illinois boasts their own “thunder & lightning” package in the backfield. Senior, Donovan Young is a bruising running back who is complemented nicely by the speedy Josh Ferguson. Throughout the first two weeks, the Husky running backs have been more productive and therefore receive the edge at this position.

Wide Reveiver. This is perhaps the most disappointing position after two games for the Washington Huskies. The Dawgs have loads of talent and experience in Kasen Williams, Jaydon Mickens, and John Ross III; however, their presence has not been felt consistently throughout the entire game. Illinois’ receivers on the other hand are big, physical, and dominant. Their starting outside receivers, Geronimo Allison and Malik Turner, are skyscrapers standing at 6-4 and 6-3 respectively. Also, Illinois has tremendous depth with seven players with 5 or more catches. In the end, the Husky wide outs may be more talented, but the superior production of the Illinois receiving corps gets the edge here.

Tight End. Neither team regularly utilizes their tight ends even though each team has capable players at that position. The Huskies have a solid blocking tight end in senior, Michael Hartvigson. He is complemented well by sophomore, Darrell Daniels, who is a vertical threat down the seam. Illinois also has two tight ends in Matt LaCosse and Jon Davis. Don’t expect many impact plays coming from this position on either team, this matchup is a draw.

Offensive Line. The Huskies offensive line has done a good job keeping their QB upright as well as clearing excellent running lanes for the running backs. In each of the Husky’s first two games, the o-line has established their dominance of the line of scrimmage. This group is strong, athletic, and experienced; all signs point to another successful game for the Husky offensive line. The Fighting Illini offensive line has also performed admirably this season only giving up two sacks through their first two games. With that being said, the overall experience and depth of the Washington Huskies earns the edge.

Defensive Line. The Huskies defensive lineman have performed well in their first two games of the season. Danny Shelton has a nation-leading 6 sacks and 24 tackles and is establishing himself as an elite interior lineman. Hau’oli Kikaha is proving that he belongs in a category with the country’s best pass rushers as well. The UW d-line needs to be more consistent and receive more contributions from players outside of Shelton and Kikaha. Illinois defensive line has also shown the ability to get after the passer. Led by their 9-tech, or “STAR” player, Earnest Thomas III the fighting Illini have a respectable five sacks on the season. However, the lethal combination of Danny Shelton and Hau’oli Kikaha will prove to be the difference maker; edge goes to Washington.

Linebackers. Shaq Thompson leads an experienced Husky linebacker unit into tomorrow’s showdown with Illinois. Thompson, Timu, and Feeney have all proven to be reliable tacklers and combined to create the game-winning turnover last week. These three will need to have another solid day patrolling the middle of the field against the pass-happy Fighting Illini. Illinois linebackers are led by Mason Monheim and T.J. Neal Jr. The overall athleticism, depth, and experience of the Husky linebackers get the nod here.

Defensive Backfield. It sure would be difficult to give the Huskies the edge here after such an embarrassing performance last weekend against Eastern Washington. The Huskies secondary allowed 475 passing yards and 7 touchdowns in an absolute shootout. With Illinois’ experienced passing game led by QB, Wes Lunt and his wide receivers, all signs point to another long day for the UW secondary. The Fighting Illini are not getting the edge here because they earned it with their performance, they are getting the edge here because they simply can’t be worse than a Marcus Peters-less Husky secondary. Edge, Illinois.

Special Teams. Washington’s kicking game has been mediocre this season. Korey Durkee has performed well in his punting duties; however, kicker Cameron Van Winkle needs to improve his focus and consistency after missing a PAT last weekend. Freshman Tristan Vizcaino might get his first chance to do some place-kicking this weekend. The Husky return game has been exceptional through the first two games of the season led by the electrifying John Ross III. The edge goes to Washington here; look for John Ross III to score on a kick return this weekend.

Prediction:

UW 48 Illinois 38. The Husky offense will take another step forward as Cyler Miles continues to develop as a passer in Chris Petersen’s new offense. The offensive line will consistently open up running lanes for Dwayne Washington and Lavon Coleman as the Huskies lean on their running attack once again. Wes Lunt and the Illinois receivers will have a field day on the young and inexperienced Husky secondary; however, the Husky defense will have a “bend but don’t break” performance while creating another game deciding turnover at an opportune time.

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