Fight for five. That's the motto Tim Beckman has been instilling in his players this week, and it's a meaningful one. If Illinois were to beat Washington on the road this weekend, they would become just the fifth Illini squad in the past 25 years to start the season with three straight wins. It will certainly be a tough test, as Washington is also undefeated with wins against Hawaii and Eastern Washington to start off their 2014 campaign. This will certainly be an excellent Big Ten vs. Pac-12 matchup and will tell us a lot about what the Illini are made of. Can they come away with a surprising road victory? Below our staff writers give their predictions for who's going to win the game, but we want to hear from you too! Be sure to give us your pick in the comments section.
Jim Vainisi --- Illinois 38, Washington 35
I think this game will be eerily similar to last year's contest. However there's one key difference-we have Wes Lunt now. I predict that Lunt will orchestrate some more 4th quarter magic as Illinois wins it on a late FG.
Mark Primiano --- Washington 42, Illinois 35
Washington's defense has struggled mightily against the passing game so far. Illinois' offense is nothing but a passing game. Illinois' defense has been completely unable to handle running backs. Washington's offense is essentially little more than "give the running back the ball and keep moving". This might be the ugliest defensive game of the 2014 season. If it were a home game, maybe I'd have more confidence in the upset. It's not and I don't.
Matt Silich --- Washington 37, Illinois 28
Matt's prediction comes straight from his excellent and in-depth preview article (check it out):
Illinois has the tools to take advantage of [Washington's] weaknesses, and Wes Lunt could certainly carry the team to a victory here. Still, while I believe that Illinois has a better chance to win than most are expecting, the Illini could still definitely get blown out if they can't stop the run or create plays in the passing game. The most likely outcome seems like a one-score or two-score Washington win, under the 13.5-point spread.
Aaron Rench --- Washington 31, Illinois 21
There's going to be one quarter where everything is coming up Illini. Lunt's long passes connect, Dudek makes another one of those "wow" catches, and the defense makes some of plays that force the Huskies to punt from deep inside their own territory. But over the course of the whole game, Washington works itself into a lead and quite possibly creates a more dominant quarter than the one the Illini have.
Colin Whitchurch --- Washington 54, Illinois 48
It'll be a back-and-forth shootout where the teams trade the lead multiple times. It's basically going to come down to who has the ball last and, in a coin flip, I'll say Washington. Who the hell knows?
Bryce Smith --- Washington 43, Illinois 34
I think the Illini will keep it close, but ultimately U-Dub will come out on top. I do see a possible upset though.
Brandon Cain --- Washington 31, Illinois 24
The Illini's run game actually comes alive and for the first time the offense shows they are not one dimensional. Wes "The Comeback kid" Lunt leads a late really in the fourth quarter, but the Illini come up short by one score.
Trevor Vallese --- Illinois 35, Washington 31
The Illini put together another late comeback on a scoring drive that includes a connection from Lunt to Dudek for a game-winning touchdown. And though there is always something on the line (a road win over a Pac-12 team would probably be Beckman's first big win here), the Illini will certainly be heading into the game with a "nothing to lose" mentality. Which is why I have a feeling they'll be slinging the ball all over the place against a UW defense that has struggled against the pass. Plus we're wearing the all-white unis. We can't lose in the all-white unis, right? Call me crazy, but I think the Illini emerge victorious.
BONUS PREDICTION: My week one bonus prediction was a long V'Angelo Bentley kickoff return for a touchdown against Youngstown State. Well, a 70 yard return was close enough, right? Let's see if I can nail it this time around... Mikey Dudek will catch the game-winning score with less than three minutes to go from Lunt, and the defense will seal it with a late and crucial stop.
What say you?? Drop by below and let us know how you think the game is going to play out!