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Behind Enemy Lines: Washington Huskies

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Illinois has have huge success to start the season after beating both SIU and Cincinnat, and now the Illini will get ready for their much anticipated Chicago Homecoming game against the Washington Huskies. Today, we talk with Jesse Kennemer. Jesse is the lead editor of thehuskyhaul.com and he give us a preview of the Washington Huskies.

Ricky Widmer: The Illinois offense has been the hot topic of the team to start the season. New offensive coordinator Bill Cubit has “shocked the world” and has the Illinois offense playing at a high level. How will the Washington defense try to slow down Nathan Scheelhaase and the Illini offense and will they be successful?

Jesse Kennemer: Washington defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox has remarked on Bill Cubit’s love for chaotic offensive play, especially lining up in irregular formations. He has been scouting back several years to Cubit’s past job at Western Michigan and said that if he were to put together a list of “gadget plays” for his team to watch for, it would be 120 plays long. Eye discipline was an emphasis for Wilcox’s defense against Boise State, and that may be even more key against someone as creative as Cubit. Aside from that, it’s all about limiting Nathan Scheelhaase. Against Boise State, Wilcox chose to focus on keeping QB Joe Southwick in the pocket so that he couldn’t make plays out of the pocket, running or throwing. Against someone as athletic as Scheelhaase, I would expect a similar approach, which would sacrifice pass-rush but help keep the Washington defense in control.

Ricky: Simply, who will be the most important offensive player for Washington against Illinois?

Jesse: Keith Price. Bishop Sankey is hugely important for the Huskies, but he’s also very consistent. Sankey is almost certainly going to run for at least 100 yards as he has in five of his past six games. Meanwhile tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and wide receiver Kasen Williams are stars and big match-up nightmares for Illinois, but their success depends largely on Price. He struggled mightily in 2012, especially on the road, and it’s really just the one great game against Boise State separating him from that period in his career. If he plays in Chicago like he played in the home opener, Illinois will probably lose.

Ricky: Special teams has been big for the Illini this season. Does the Illinois special teams unit scare you at all in this game?

Jesse: Something I noticed during the Boise State game, but had since forgotten until reading this question, is that Washington used a surprising number of defensive starters in special teams coverage. Shaq Thompson, star linebacker, was running around wrapping up kick off returners. Special teams hasn’t always been a bright spot for Washington under Coach Sark, but I’m confident in their ability to limit big-time special teams plays as long as they are willing to use starting players in kick and punt coverage.

Ricky: If Illinois beats Washington, how will Husky fans feel going forward? Do you think an Illinois win will get the Illini more respect from teams outside the Big Ten?

Jesse: I absolutely do think that a win would boost the level of national respect for Illinois. A 3-0 start and a win over a ranked opponent would be a totally unexpected level of success for the Illini. Though this is one of those Catch-22 type situations for Illinois. If Washington wins this game, it will prove that they can win on the road and will probably boost them towards top-15 status. But if Illinois wins, even though people will be impressed, it will lead many to believe that Washington was overrated at #19 anyway, which will lessen the impact of the win for the Illini. But I still think that a win would get Illinois in at #24 or #25.

Ricky: Prediction time: Who do you got and why?

Jesse: UW 35, Illinois 21. I’m going with Washington in this one. The Huskies have struggled to win on the road, but I’m thinking this is finally the year for Coach Sark to bring his team over the hump. Illinois is a dangerous team, but Washington is riding a ton of momentum and their offense looks wonderful. I think they will score early and often while the Husky defense does an acceptable job against a creative coordinator and a veteran quarterback.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter @RickyWidmer.

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Tags: Football Illinois Fighting Illini Washington Huskies

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