As always, a mere week can provide dramatic shifts in perception.
Illinois won 42-34 week 1. It beat FCS-member Southern Illinois. The Illini were boxed around in the media for a haggard performance that left them just one score ahead of the Salukis.
Southern Illinois lost the following week, 40-37, in double overtime, to Eastern Illinois. Here’s the thing about Southern Illinois: it’s not good at football.
Despite that, the Salukis gained 407 yards against Illinois.
Last week, Illinois’ unexpected 45-17 win over Cincinnati stunned most. As it should have. Cincinnati was coming off a 42-7 whacking of Purdue. The same result was anticipated when the Bearcats went to Champaign.
Instead, Illinois’ biggest win in two years.
Underneath the scoreline was this: 456 total yards on offense for Cincinnati, despite a poor night for its quarterback, Munchie Legaux, who left early in the fourth quarter because of injury.
Illinois has stopped no one, a problem it had last season.
The offense was also a problem, but one that seems to be resolved. This game will be a fun exchange between young defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and cagey Illinois offensive coordinator Bill Cubit. Cubit started his coaching career the year Wilcox was born.
I expect Wilcox — and the Huskies’ jamming cornerbacks — to provide enough disruption to quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase for the Illini’s offense to have its lowest output of the season.
I also expect Washington’s offense, as long as it does not turn the ball over, to torment Illinois in all aspects, from Bishop Sankey, to John Ross, to Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
Soldier Field. It should be fun.
Washington 38, Illinois 17.