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Illini up next for Huskies

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By Todd Dybas
The News Tribune
SEATTLE -- Word has reached the Midwest.
"That's just what they do in the Pac-12," Illinois coach Tim Beckman said.
The 'that" Beckman was referencing was up-tempo offense. Washington has joined the ranks of the manic this season, leaving plodding Stanford as an efficient but aging relic.
The Huskies will speed on over two time zones this weekend when they go to Chicago to play Illinois (2-0) in Soldier Field. Washington will leave Thursday for the 3 p.m. Saturday game.
Upon checking out Illinois, Washington will see surprises. The Illini were brutal in 2012, closing the season with nine consecutive losses. Lopsided scores of 45-0, 52-22 and 50-14 dotted that streak.
A miniature resurrection has occurred for the Illini two weeks into this season. After a cringe-worthy opener, where Illinois beat FCS opponent Southern Illinois 42-34, the Illini smacked Cincinnati 45-17 on Saturday.
Suddenly, words like "believe" and "bought in" were being used in Monday's press conference by Beckman.
In a lot of ways, Beckman sounds like Steve Sarkisian circa 2010.
Sarkisian's rebuild appears complete while Illinois embarks on its. The 19th-ranked Huskies (1-0) spent last week cleaning up details from the opening 38-6 win over Boise State.
Tackling, going faster on offense and doing some roster shuffling with special teams was on the agenda. Sarkisian said there was no lull.
"We had a great bye week," Sarkisian said. "I haven't felt it's been difficult (to motivate); I was prepared for that. I was prepared for it to be difficult to keep our guys ready, fired up and going.
"They watched the game Saturday morning. They know Illinois is good, as well. They know it is going to take a really good week of preparation, mentally, physically and emotionally to go on the road and play the way we're capable."
Washington didn't have a bye week until after Week 4 last season. That gave it two full weeks to prepare for Oregon. It didn't matter. The Ducks won 52-21.
Sarkisian likes this set up because he now has evidence from a game of what works. Training camp is filled with weeks of projections. The Huskies have a full game film of tangibles now.
As a result, they want to go faster on offense. Tackle better on defense. Figure out the proper starters on special teams.
Much of last week was dedicated to those things prior to an extended weekend off for players.
During that downtime from Friday through Sunday, many of the players watched football, including Illinois' upset of Cincinnati. Sarkisian said he wasn't surprised since he feels this roster is filled with football junkies.
"I'm glad we're finally at this point," Sarkisian said. "I don't know if we were that way five years ago."
Another point of pleasure for Sarkisian is the team's health. He said this week starts with his group in very good shape. Preseason All-American tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins will be ready Saturday following being suspended for the opener. Offensive lineman Erik Kohler (foot) is creeping his way back.
"I feel good about where we're at," Sarkisian said.
Story tags » Huskies Football

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