In an ideal world, every game the Huskies play turns into a 38-6 blowout, but that’s not going to be the case. This game may have the closest chance to repeat history, however.
While the Fighting Illini aren’t a carbon copy of the Broncos, there are some similarities between the teams. Ultimately, the biggest difference may end up being that the Huskies are playing on the road, rather than opening up a brand new stadium.
The first comparison is obvious. Both teams employ a fifth-year senior at quarterback. Boise has Joe Southwick, while Illinios has Nathan Scheelhaase. Both are mobile quarterbacks, but rely on their arms first.
Scheelhaase has torn up defenses this season, making practically a 180-degree turn around from last season. In less than a third fewer pass attempts, Scheelhaase has thrown two more touchdowns passes (six versus four) and over half the yards he threw for last season.
The Illini have struggled to find a running game to complement Scheelhaase dominance in the first two games. The Broncos have a known commodity in Jay Ajayi, whom they rely on consistently. The Illini, on the other hand, don’t have a running back with more than 22 carries. Junior Donovonn Young has 22, while sophomore Josh Ferguson has 18. It was apparently such an issue versus Southern Illinois, nearly half of the Illini’s yards came on one carry. It was far more effective against Cincinnati, but nearly half the Illini’s 210 yards on the ground came via a few long runs.
Now that Boise State has cut down much of its playbook, it runs more of a generic pistol offense. If the Broncos still had a wide-open playbook, it would look a lot more similar to Illinois’s. The Illini tend to line up in crazy sets to try to confuse the defense. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a trips set on the far side of the field, and sometimes as complicated as half the offensive line setting up on the opposite hashmark.
Ultimately, the Illini don’t have a lot in common with this year’s Boise State team, but actually look very similar to some of the older Broncos teams. The way Illinois uses Scheelhaase and the different formations it uses on offense looks a lot like how Kellen Moore was used at Boise State.
That’s not to say Illinois is gimmicky – scoring 42 and 45 points to start the season is no gimmick – but there just doesn’t seem to be the talent that Boise State possesses. With a one-dimensioned offensive attack, and a defense that is far from dominating, the deciding factor to whether this game will end 38-6 or on a last-second field goal will be how the Huskies fare on the road. If this was being played at Husky Stadium, I see no reason as to why is wouldn’t turn out the same as the Boise State game.