Illini vs. #18/22 Arizona State: Brutally Honest Game Preview

Illini vs. #18/22 Arizona State: Brutally Honest Game Preview

I understand why Illinois isn’t nationally ranked, but not even a single vote? Seriously, I know that was a FCS team the Illini dismantled, but not a vote in either poll? They lead the nation in third-down efficiency, converting 21-of-29 (.724) third downs during the first two weeks- That’s a very important stat!

They can earn a spot Saturday night at 6 pm CT when they welcome #22 ASU to Champaign. The Arizona State Sun Devils aren’t exactly known for their educational standards, or for college football, but we’re not here to discuss that; or the armies of ridiculous hot babes that attend this party school of party schools.

Hey, there’s a reason Tosh.O picked Tempe for the campus invasion. You can see from the video here where all the hotties brutally make fun of the 90 year-old-man who invaded their tailgate, that the ASU ladies are as scorching as the July high temperatures on campus.

But enough of this silliness, let’s talk college football.

This is not a party school versus a college basketball school. This is a good team versus another team that could be good, in an exciting contest that should not be overlooked.

Arizona State cheerleader

ASU Synopsis: Do not sleep on the Arizona State Sun Devils. Who announced their presence with authority Friday night in an exciting overtime victory over #21 Missouri. It was a spirited home night game as the team showed off their new intimidating black uniforms and helmets.

No more cartoonish logo, their “all in” with intimidation and a fresh new look. See their “Fear the Fork” marketing campaign. The fans were instructed to dress in all black too. ESPN (likely mistakenly) showed some fans in black face paint. (I guess they were going for the Al Jolson look?). And black in the summertime in the desert? Well, it was a night game.


Mizzou had won 22 consecutive non-conference games, a streak that dated back to 2005 when their last loss in such a matchup came against New Mexico. Brock Osweiler scored his second career 300-yard game, finishing with 353 yards on 24-of-32 passing with three touchdowns for a 198.6 qb rating. Not bad for a guy who entered the season with just to games of career experience.

ASU Head Coach Dennis Erickson talked about the win:

“I have been in that locker room when we lost those close ones last year and we were able to find a way to do it [this time] which I think is a springboard. Every week for us is hard and our league is so difficult that you just never know what is going to happen. But to be able to have a big lead then blow it then he misses a field goal, I am sure they are talking about that right now and to come back and score right away and to hold them. To hold them from the 25-yard line is hard.
We finally came out defensively and made some plays when it counted.”

Wide receiver Aaron Pflugrad collected a career-high 180 receiving yards and two touchdowns on eight catches. Put into perspective, Pflugrad had a combined 576 total yards of receiving and three touchdowns in his career entering this season, and finished with about a third of his prior receiving yards and two-thirds of his prior touchdown totals. Put into more perspective, Pflugrad had averaged just 16.9 yards of receiving per game during his career entering this season.

For the Full ASU season preview go here

illini logo

Illini Synopsis: If there’s one thing I know in life, it’s that Illinois college football never ever conforms to your expectations. No one saw their two BcS appearances coming (2001, 2007); and since they followed both seasons up with sub .500 choking, both these bowl appearances are now looked upon as fluky. Whenever Illinois has been predicted to do well (2000, 2002, 2008, 2009) they fell flat on their faces. And their bowl wins (last year, 1999) come in seasons when everyone predicts them to finish near the Big Ten basement.

And I know a lot about this stuff.

My first ever sports memory was their destruction at the hands of UCLA in the 1984 Rose Bowl. I attended my first Illini game in 1991. In addition to covering the team for the school paper when I was in school there, two of my older siblings went to UI. In other words, it’s “my team,” and one of the three teams I cover regularly. So I know this stuff!

Illini cheerleaders

QB Nathan Scheelhaase is up for the Maxwell Award, and the dual threat quarterback made huge strides towards the end of last year. He completed his first 12 passes (including all in the first half) of the Texas Bowl, and tossed just 1 interception in his final 7 games. He set a school record for rushing yards by a QB (858) and had a very solid 17-8 TD-INT ratio. In week one, he showed you he can beat you with his arm, in week two with his feet. Who’s house? Scheelhaase has a 15-1 TD-INT ratio over his last nine games.

WR A.J. Jenkins (but he’ll need help from Darius Millines and Ryan Lankford, go here for more on that) has looked sharp so far and RB Jason Ford attempts to become the next Mikel Lehoure/Rashard Mendenhall (go here for more on that).

But so far, we’re seeing he doesn’t need to be the only show in town as Hugh Thornton and Jeff Allen are the most talented of a good OL group opening holes for all ball carriers. Troy “bucket of hair” Pollard went for over a C-Note last week and rookie Donovonn Young looks like he’ll one day be a stud just like the other players who have worn that #5 jersey ahead of him.

The Illini have dropped 10 straight games to opponents ranked in the AP poll, with their last win coming on Nov. 10, 2007 at No. 1 Ohio State (28-21). Last season, the Illini beat Northwestern when they were ranked 25th in the coaches poll, but they were unranked in the AP poll. The last Illini win over an AP-ranked foe at home was on Oct. 6, 2007 against No. 5 Wisconsin (31-26). Illinois has not played a ranked non-conference opponent at Memorial Stadium since beating No. 25 Louisville, 34-10, in 2001.

For the Full Illini season preview go here

Prediction to be taken with an entire truckload of salt, not a grain of salt: ASU 21, Illinois 17 (2010-11 prediction record 22-10)

Saturday’s game will be the first meeting between the two schools in 23 years. Arizona State leads the all-time series 2-0, picking up back-to-back wins over the Illini in 1987 (21-7 in Champaign) and 1988 (21-16 in Tempe). The Illini have not beaten a Pac-12 opponent since 2001, when they topped California on the road, 44-17. Since then, Illinois has dropped five straight to Pac-12 teams, falling to both UCLA and Cal in 2003, UCLA in 2004, Cal in 2005 and USC in the 2008 Rose Bowl. Illinois coach Ron Zook is 0-2 all-time against the Pac-12, falling to Cal in 2005 and USC in 2008.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports, an official Google News site that generates millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports 

He does regular weekly radio spots in Chicago and Cleveland and has appeared on live shows all across the world from Houston to New Zealand. You can follow him on Twitter

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