university of washington blog

What can we expect when the Huskies face Illinois?

Fighting Illini vs. Dawgs

It’s only Thursday, and this weekend of college football can’t come fast enough.

UCLA-Nebraska. The Alabama-Texas A&M rematch. And, of course, a big test for the Washington Huskies, as UW travels to take on Illinois.

There’s a lot more to this game than meets the eye.

The Return of ASJ

All-American Austin Seferian-Jenkins, one of Keith Price‘s favorite targets and the best tight end in the country, is back from his DUI one-game suspension. With Washington traveling to take on a surging upstart Illinois team at Soldier Field, his timing couldn’t be better.

Expect ASJ to be targeted early and often. Opposing defenses had no answer to him last season, and he’s only gotten better. He’ll be integral to UW’s game plan.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins

The return of ASJ will result in big-time plays for the Washington Huskies.

A Hard-Fought Game

Don’t expect Illinois to roll over and play dead just because the Huskies started the season with a bang. Illinois is 2-0 so far and coming off a 45-17 upset win over Cincinnati.

Much like Washington, the Fighting Illini just mauled a team they were favored to lose to and have galvanized their fan base. Soldier Field is a hostile environment. Make no mistake, this will be a competitive matchup.

 A Real Test for Washington’s D

Although the score of the UW-BSU game won’t indicate it, Washington’s tackling was extremely poor against the Broncos, as evidenced by bruising back Jay Ajayi’s 93 yards — many of them after first contact.

The 6’0”, 220-pound Donovonn Young, the Illini tailback of similar size and speed to Ajayi, is looming. Washington’s hyped linebacking corps and so-called improved defensive line will need to bring him down consistently. Defense was a strength for the Dawgs last year, and it needs to be again this year. 

Mr. Do-It-All:

Nathan Scheelhaase. The Illinois offense starts with the dual-threat quarterback ,who’s already passed for 728 yards and six touchdowns in two games. The senior is averaging 9.97 yards per throw, so essentially, a first down every time he completes a pass.

Last year he also rushed for 300 yards and four touchdowns. Basically, Washington can’t slack in the air or on the ground ,or Scheelhaase will make it pay. UW’s secondary, a question mark group in the preseason, will sink or swim in this game.

Spreading The Love

Look for another offensive playmaker outside the big three to have a big day Saturday. Kasen Williams, Bishop Sankey, and ASJ will be the focal points of the offense, but as Jaydon Mickens and Dwayne Washington showed against Boise State, the Huskies have more options on O this year.

Look for Keith Price to take advantage of the greater depth at his offensive skill positions and spread the ball around the same way he did against Boise State.

Don’t be fooled by Illinois being unranked. It’s a good team on the rise that will come into this game gunning for the Huskies. Washington has the pieces to handle the Illini, but if the defense fails, this could turn into a shootout.

Either way, it’ll be an entertaining game.

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