Here’s a quick Q&A on Saturday’s game against Illinois at Soldier Field in Chicago with the editor of Fansided’s Writing Illini, Ricky Widmer.
1. Who would you say is the most valuable player for the Illinois defense? How key will a good game from him be for the Illini?
I can’t pick one player on the Illini defense to be the MVP. There are two players I’d pick in linebackers Jonathan Brown and Mason Monheim. Illini will need great games out of both if they want to win. One thing the Illini defense has done well this season is control their opponents’ run game and they will need to do the same on Saturday. There are a lot of big players on the Washington offense, but I think the biggest one will running back Bishop Sankey. Because of this, Brown and Monheim will need to clog up any if all running lanes on Saturday.
2. Which offensive player for Washington do you feel will be the biggest issue for Illinois to gameplan against?
Bishop Sankey, hands down. Illinois has had to deal with a good quarterback this season (Munchie Legaux), but they haven’t had to deal with a primer running back yet this season. I think Sankey has the power to beat the Illini defense, but Illinois has been good against the run this season.
3. Illinois was iffy in the win over Southern Illinois but looked great last week against Cincinnati. Do you expect the Illini to execute against Washington like they did against Cincinnati, or do you feel they may revert back to their season-opening struggles?
Better every week. That is what I’m looking for from the Illini this season. With that kind of thinking, Illinois should be better than they were last week against Cincinnati. Washington should be a little worried about Saturday because of how big of a game it is for the Illini. Not only is Washington a quality opponent, but this game is only Illinois’ chance to rival Northwestern in Chicago and make a stance in the recruiting battle for Chicago.
4. Do you feel that Washington is overrated at #19 after the single win over Boise State?
I wouldn’t say that Washington is overrated at all. I mean, the Huskies might not be the Pac-12 champion this season (save that award for Stanford or Oregon). However, the Huskies are a very quality opponent and a good test for the Illini. Plus, I rather Washington be ranked #19 coming into this game because then the Illini can break the Top 25 with a win.
5. If Illinois loses this Saturday, how will you feel about the rest of their season? Do you think they’d still be prepared to build off of the 2-1 start during Big Ten play?
Illinois only won two games in 2012. Anything over that total is a positive in 2013. The Illini have proved that they have an offensive identity to build off of for the future with Bill Cubit, and things are looking up for the team. If the Huskies beat Illinois, I will still feel very positive about this season in the Big Ten. Anything can happen in conference play and Illinois might be that team that surprises some conference opponents this season.
6) Prediction time: Who do you got and why?
Illinois 38, Washington 35
Not only is the Chicago Homecoming game the most important non-conference game for Illinois, but it could be seen as the most important game of their season as well. Illinois and Northwestern have always fought over the city of Chicago and Northwestern even calls themselves, “Chicago’s Big Ten team.” On top of that, Illinois have a chance to win more games than they did a year ago after their first three games of the season. With a win this week, Illinois could also break into the AP Top 25.