Illinois (1-1) vs. Charleston Southern (0-2)
Sept. 15, 2012 // 11:01 a.m. CT // BTN
Champaign, Ill. // Memorial Stadium (60,670)
Television Broadcast: The Illinois/Charleston Southern game will be televised nationally on the Big Ten Network with an air time of 11 am CT. Matt Shepard (play-by-play), J Leman (color analyst) and Tony Banks (sidelines) will call the action.
Radio Broadcast: The 51-station Illini Sports Network will carry the radio broadcast with the pregame show beginning at10:30 am CT. Calling the action will be Brian Barnhart (play-by-play), Kurt Kittner (analysis) and Steve Kelly (pregame, halftime and postgame). The broadcast also can be heard on SIRIUS (112) / XM (196) satelliteradio.
Charleston Southern players to watch: QB Malcolm Dixon, LB Zack Johnson, DB Elijah Lee, LB Calvin Bryant, RB Teddy Allen, WR Chase Jones
Illinois players to watch:LB Jonathan Brown, DE Michael Buchanan, DT Akeem Spence, RB Josh Ferguson, Star Ashante Williams , RB Donovonn Young, S Earnest Thomas
The Fighting Illini return home to Memorial Stadium on Saturday to take on FCS opponent Charleston Southern of the Big South Conference. Kickoff is set for 11:01am CT.
Illini coach Tim Beckman talked about what to expect from the Buccaneers offensively on Saturday.
"It's fast paced again," Beckman said. "They call a lot of their shots from the sidelines. They are in multiple formations with their personnel. They will have three backs in the football game. So defensive preparing for them, you just have to prepare for the different looks.
They do have that wishbone type stuff. So you have make sure you are taking everything away; the dive, the quarterback, and the pitch."
CSU is coming off of lopsided losses to the Citadel and Jacksonville in their first two games of the 2012 season.
When Illinois has the ball
Look for Illinois to flex their muscles up front and get the running game going with Josh Ferguson, Donovonn Young, and Dami Ayoola. This is game for the offensive to build some confidence and cohesion. The front four along the CSU d-line averages just 260 pounds. Soph DT James Smith is the biggest of the group at 5-foot-11, 281 pounds. In the opening game of the season, a 49-14 loss to the Citadel, the Bucs yielded 479 rushing yards and 27 first downs on the ground.
The status of QB Nathan Scheelhaase is still up in the air heading into the weekend. If he is 100%, then Beckman plans to play him. But no matter who plays QB for the Illini - Scheelhaase, Reilly O'Toole, or Miles Osei - there is plenty to work on after scoring just 14 points against Arizona State last week, and looking rattled in doing so. The delay of game penalties and turnovers have to go. And fans are going to want to see offensive coordinator Chris Beatty takes some shots down the field.
The Bucs should be overmatched in the trenches, but they do have a few playmakers. Linebackers Zack Johnson and Calvin Bryant and DB Elijah Lee each have all-conference potential. But at the end of the day, the Illinois offense should be able to light up the scoreboard.
The X-Factor: RB Donovonn Young - The CSU defense should have trouble with Young's speed and power
When Charleston Southern has the ball
First things first; get the communication issues fixed. The missed assignments against Arizona State sent up a big red flag and had Illini fans questioning the scheme of new defensive coordinator Tim Banks. This is a talented group of Illini defenders who need to be put in a position to make plays, not taken out of plays because of mental errors. The stars on the Illini defense - Akeem Spence, Jonathan Brown, Terry Hawthorne, Michael Buchanan - are going to win most one-on-one battles. We should know early on if the problems have been ironed out.
After two games, CSU ranks 6th in the Big South in total offense (304 yards per game) and are scoring just 12 points per content. QB Malcolm Dixon, a threat to run or throw, ranks 6th in the conference in total offense. Tim Beckman talks about depth. This is a good game to work on it and get playing time for the youngsters if you can take care of business early. Don't be surprised if the Illini defense pitches a shutout in this one.
The Buccaneers will be a unique team to prepare for with the 3-back look and option play. The Illini defensive will need to understand and stick to their assignments and fill their gaps. The key? Don't just rely on a physical advantage. Focus on the fundamentals, get the coverages right this week, and play hard for four quarters.
The X-Factor: DT Akeem Spence - The CSU offensive line isn't big enough to contain Spence.
Keys to the game
1. No missed assignments - has Illinois ironed out their communication problems?
2. Play four quarters - stay focused and play solid football throughout
3. Dominate in the trenches - This game is a mismatch physically
4. Get everyone quality PT - should be an opportunity for the young guys to get experience
5. Stay healthy - you don't want any serious injuries in this game
Charleston Southern is off to a rough start, and Illinois is their first FBS opponent. It shouldn't be close. Illinois 48 Charleston Southern 6
Illinois is 11-0 all-time against FCS teams (formerly I-AA), with an average margin of victory of 29 points per game. All but one of those wins have been by at least 21 points, including last year's 56-3 drubbing of South Dakota State. See page 2 for a full list of Illinois FCS results.
Illinois and Charleston Southern are meeting for the first time on Saturday. In fact, the game will mark the first time the Fighting Illini have squared off against a Big South Conference foe. CSU, which had the most victories in the Big South from 2005-09, is in the midst of a 14-game losing streak.