Illinois @ Washington
Husky Stadium, Seattle, Washington
9pm Irish Time September 13th 2014 (FOX Network)
The scoreboard operator could be kept mighty busy on Saturday when Illinois visits Washington in nonconference play. The Huskies had to score 59 points to hold off pesky FCS foe Eastern Washington last week, while the Fighting Illini ripped off 21 fourth-quarter points to produce a 42-34 win over Western Kentucky. Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt is off to a fantastic start while Washington’s Cyler Miles played well in his return from a one-game suspension.
Fighting Illini coach Tim Beckman has won just eight games in two-plus seasons at the helm but is now aiming to have Illinois start 3-0 for just the fifth time in 25 years. “Our motto this week will be Fight for Five,” Beckman said at his weekly press conference. “Our players are focused in on how we’re going to get ourselves better, how we’re going to travel out to the West Coast and play a very good Washington football team.” The Huskies are still trying to find their groove under new coach Chris Petersen.
Wes Lunt, a transfer from Oklahoma State, has passed for 741 yards and seven touchdowns and his 456 yards against Western Kentucky are fourth-most in school history. His early-season mastery of the offense has been so prolific that the Illini have converted 17-of-28 third-down attempts (60.7 percent to rank ninth nationally) and 7-of-8 fourth-down attempts. Middle linebacker Mason Monheim and free safety Taylor Barton (77-yard interception for touchdown against Western Kentucky) share the team lead with 21 tackles while cornerback V’Angelo Bentley (13 tackles) is averaging 26.4 yards on kickoff returns.
Cyler Miles passed for 180 yards and one touchdown and ran for three scores while energizing an offense that struggled to score 17 points against Hawaii in the opener. The defense will be without a key player as cornerback Marcus Peters was benched in the second half of the Eastern Washington game after drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and has reportedly been suspended for the Illinois game. Standout nose tackle Danny Shelton (nation-leading six sacks) will be on the field after becoming the fifth player in program history to record four of more sacks in a game in the Eastern Washington contest.
PREDICTION: Illinois 38, Washington 45