Arizona State vs. Illinois Fighting Illini
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The University of Illinois Fighting Illini come to Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday night, coming off an impressive 24-7 victory over Western Michigan. The Sun Devils are looking to keep the momentum going after a 63-6 trouncing of Northern Arizona. The Illini fans have Tim Beckman as their new coach and if their team can come in and walk out with a victory, it will be a big momentum boost going forward. After Todd Graham was hired to fill former coach Dennis Erickson’s vacancy, fans were unsure of how the team would look. After the impressive victory over NAU, fans are excited to come and watch the upbeat team against a quality opponent. A victory for the Sun Devils is also a victory for Sun Devil Nation.
Who to Watch For:
Illinois LB Jonathan Brown (Photo: Jerry Lai/US Presswire)QB Nathan Scheelhaase (Jr.) – Scheelhaase, a three-year starter for the Illini, is a dual threat quarterback with the ability to step back to pass as well as scramble under pressure. The key to Scheelhaase’s success is how well his ankle will hold up after he left late in the third quarter last week against Western Michigan. If his injury becomes worse during the game look for sophomore Reilly O’Toole to replace Scheelhaase.
LB Jonathan Brown (Jr.) – Brown is the leader of the Illini Defense. As a sophomore, he ranked sixth in the nation with 19.5 TFL and was second-team All-Big Ten. If the Illini want keep RB Cameron Marshall in check, Brown will be a key component in stopping the run.
DE Michael Buchanan (Sr.)- The leader of the defensive line, Buchanan was second-team All-Big Ten last year and finished fourth in the Big Ten with 7.5 sacks. If Buchanan can get to QB Taylor Kelly and force pressure, it could force the young quarterback to make mistakes.
ASU QB Taylor Kelly scrambling for yards against NAU (Photo: Rick Scuteri/Associated Press)QB Taylor Kelly (So.)- Kelly, who is coming off of his first collegiate start and win, has to have a game like he did against NAU in order for ASU to have a victory. If he can throw and occasionally scramble for runs, it will force the defense to play close allowing the wide receivers to have one-on-one coverage.
RB Cameron Marshall (Sr.) – The running game had an effective second half but in the first half of the NAU game, Marshall was not able to get going. The senior leader of the team only had 14 yards on nine carries after having 1,000-plus the season before. The ASU offense has to have a balanced attack in order to move the ball effectively.
LB Brandon Magee (RS Sr.) – Magee, who was coming off a torn ACL, had a pick six in his first game in a year and a half. In 2010, he was second on the team with 73 tackles. Now he leads the linebacking core that hopes to keep Scheelhaase from running away with the game.
First-year coaches- Tim Beckman and Todd Graham are both coming off of their first wins with their new teams. Now Beckman has to travel to Sun Devil Stadium for his first real test against the Sun Devils. After an impressive victory, Graham needs his team to shift gears and come out with a purpose against the Illini.
QB Controversies- Both teams are dealing with QB issues. The fighting Illini are dealing with an ankle injury to Scheelhaase while ASU allowed both quarterbacks to have equal snaps in their first game. The question for the Illini is whether Scheelhaase will be able to play the whole game, and if not, how the sophomore O’Toole will be able to handle the pressure. Everyone wants to know what Graham will do with his QBs. Will he show that Kelly is his starting quarterback, or will freshman Michael Eubank get equal snaps?
Matchup to Watch
RB Cameron Marshall vs. Illini Defense
ASU RB Cameron Marshall (Photo: US Presswire)The All-American candidate Marshall is coming off of a sub-par game against NAU, and will have to be on top of his game if he hopes to have and an effect against Illinois. Illinois comes into this matchup leading the nation in rushing defense allowing -6 ypg.