The unforseen challenges that have arisen for both teams are tremendous, and it should be an emotional and hard-fought game. The Buckeyes come into the game the underdog, and after last week's 28-14 win against Akron -- which didn't win the Buckeyes any respect on a national basis -- the odds seem to be in the Bruins' favor in this one. Let's take a look at what to expect out of this UCLA team:
Overview: UCLA has emerged as what many analysts feel is the best team in the Pac-10 despite being ranked behind Oregon at the present time. There aren't a whole lot of holes on this Bruins' squad, and there is plenty of outstanding talent.
Offensively, the Bruins can produce in many ways. Let's break it down by unit:
Quarterback: Junior QB Cory Paus is unquestionably the starter, but he hasn't gotten off to the greatest start. He has been a bit shaky so far, completing under 50% of his passes on 18 of 38 for 283 yards in 2 games. But he is a talented QB, and he'll be looking to have a big game this week. Ryan McCann and Scott McEwan are the backups.
Running Back: UCLA is often associated with a passing offense, but this year, they have one of the top NFL RB prospects in college football in DeShaun Foster. He has been UCLA's main option so far offensively, rushing for 289 yards on 52 carries and 1 TD. Foster can also be utilized as a pass-catching threat. He may be the most talented running back OSU faces this year, and the Buckeyes face some good ones. Keeping Foster in check will be a big key.
At fullback, you'll see some of Columbus-native Matt Stanley. Ed Ierema-Stansbury is the usual starting fullback, but he has been having injury problems. Both are effective fullbacks.
Wide Receiver: Freddie Mitchell -- a star WR who is now in the NFL -- might have been the biggest loss from last year's team, but the Bruins are not weak in this area at all. They have some tall playmakers who can run in Brian Poli-Dixon and Tab Perry. Perry leads the WRs with six catches, but he is averaging 27 yards per catch. Both are a concern for the OSU CBs and will be tough matchups. The OSU DBs need to make sure that these guys don't get behind them. UCLA has only thrown the TEs direction one time this year; Bryan Fletcher is the starter there.
Offensive Line: UCLA's offensive line is talented, but if there is a weak spot on the offense, this could be it. Four underclassmen man the line, including a freshman in Eyoseph Estaff. C Troy Danhoff is the lone senior. Bryce Bohlander, Mike Saffer and Shane Lehmann are names you recruiting nuts might recognize, but the guess here is that the OSU D should have some success against this line.
Defensively, UCLA has given up some yardage, but only 17 points in each game. The defense has been a bullseye for criticism in recent years, and while it is improved this year, OSU should be able to move the ball.
Defensive Line: This will be a good measuring stick to see where the OSU offensive line is. They will be challenged with DE Kenyon Coleman. Rusty Williams is at the other DE, and Anthony Fletcher and Rodney Leslie will be at the tackle spots. They aren't dominant, but it will be important for the OSU OL to play well.
Linebackers: The LBs for UCLA have been much talked-about, and for good reason. MLB Robert Thomas is consistently referred to as one of the best in the Pac-10, and Ryan Nece has also made a name for himself. Brandon Chillar and Marcus Reese will also be heard from. The LBs are the strength of the UCLA defense, and there's been a lot of debate between OSU and UCLA fans as to which team has the better group of linebackers. We'll see when they take the field...
Defensive Backs: The secondary is led by a fine safety in Marques Anderson. He'll be one to stay away from. The undersized Ricky Manning is at one CB spot, and the talented but very inexperienced true freshman Matt Ware is at the other CB spot. Ware was one of the top overall prep prospects in the country last season.
Special Teams: This is an important facet of the game. UCLA has experience at kicker in Chris Griffith; he's 4 for 7 so far this year. Punter Nate Fikse is also experienced; he was second-team All Pac-Ten last year. OSU's special teams have not proven much so far, and it's a concern. This is the type of game that can turn on a special teams error, so the OSU special teams will have to step up.
Analysis: This is a very tough game to win, and many OSU fans aren't expecting a win to come out of this one. But if the offense can minimize mistakes (hopefully we won't see the fumble problems come up again this week) and the defense can keep the UCLA passing game in check, the Buckeyes can win. The Buckeye offense should be good enough to move the ball on the UCLA D and score some points, but if OSU is to win this game, it has to be on defense. We trust the front seven to keep the UCLA running game under control, so the DBs vs. the UCLA WRs may be the key matchup. Also, the special teams need to play mistake-free.
The Bucks can do it, but they definitely have a tough challenge. Go Bucks!