The Arizona State Sun Devils look to start the season 3-0 for the first time since 2007 when they face the Illinois Fighting Illini on Saturday afternoon. Ranked in both polls, ASU is coming off a huge victory over then-ranked Missouri, a team that gave the Devils fits on the defensive side of the ball.
Fortunately, quarterback Brock Osweiler rose to the occasion, completing 24 of 32 passes for 353 yards while throwing three touchdowns and running in one more.
Osweiler knows how difficult it can be to prepare for a road game against a tough opponent, playing games against Oregon and Arizona in his young career.
"I have to come in and prepare the same way I do all week long," Osweiler said on Monday at the team's weekly press conference. "Come game day I just have to be locked in. Nothing really changes. We are going to a place where it is going to be a loud, energized environment."
Head coach Dennis Erickson agreed that traveling to face a Big Ten team can be very difficult, even for an experienced group such as Arizona State. He is not concerned about his team's ability to stay focused on a road trip.
"Traveling on the road is different every year. You travel probably better when you have some veteran leadership like we do, as far as focus and attention when you get on the road. We understand why we're going, and we're going to play a football game. When you have a lot of young guys sometimes they have a little trouble figuring that out," Erickson said.
"They get in the airplane, and get on the road for the first time, but this is a pretty good group of veteran players. We'll be focused and ready to go. We leave on Thursday, a day early, which I like. It gives us a chance to be together as a group for a couple of days. I think we get in there Thursday night late, and work out there and spend some time together. That's a good way to travel right now for us."
Erickson and his team will need to get their bearings as they face the Fighting Illini, a team that has outscored its opponents 89-18 and are only a one point underdog to the Sun Devils. Once again, ASU will have to contend with a mobile quarterback, but Nathan Scheelhaase is a special breed -- he can also throw quite well.
"[Scheelhaase is] an extremely good quarterback - very, very athletic," Erickson said. "He came in last year and led them to a lot of victories. He's very talented, has a lot of leadership, very competitive. He moves around a lot. He's not quite as big as [James] Franklin, as far as height and weight, but he's very, very athletic and makes a lot of things happen."
A lot of things are standing in the way of the Sun Devils pulling off a big road victory on Saturday: a hostile Big Ten stadium, an impressive quarterback on the other sideline, being a team that just won an emotional thriller on Friday night against the Tigers.
But ASU is not about to let their dream season go down the drain, and Osweiler summed it up best: "we just have to be locked in when we get on that plane on Thursday and understand what we are going to Illinois to do -- that is, to play a great football game and hopefully come out with a win."
The Sun Devils take on the Fighting Illini at 4:00 PM Pacific time on the Big Ten Network.