Beavs vs. Bruins: Let's get ready to rumble

PERMIT ME TO mix my football metaphors with the sport of boxing, "the sweet science." This weekend's OSU-UCLA matchup will see a bloodied and punch-drunk UCLA team readying for their heavyweight bout against the surging Oregon State squad. Stung by criticism, plagued by injuries, crippled by suspended players – it appears UCLA is lined up to be a tomato can for the Beavers. And styles make fights.

Don't be fooled. The "Crummy Little Bruins", as L.A. Times columnist T.J. Simers refers to them, are a deceptively dangerous opponent for the Beavers.

They have a massive offensive line, anchored by Micah KiaMike Riley and o-line coach Mike Cavanaugh wanted him desperately a few years back during the recruiting wars.

UCLA has arguably the third best running back in the Pac-10. And in the latest example of how statistics so often don't just tell lies but rather damned lies, they sport a talented defense, anchored by a pair of Bruins found on my preseason first team Pac-10 list -- LB Akeem Ayers and safety Rahim Moore, the latter being a DB who can ballhawk with the best of them.

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OREGON STATE TRADITIONALLY has struggled with the Bruins – and that may be more than simple coincidence.

The very things that Oregon State tends to be vulnerable at defensively – a power rushing attack and tall, fast wide receivers who can get vertical – are virtually the only two weapons that UCLA has this season.

Styles make fights.

ON THE OFFENSIVE side of the ball, teams with active defenses who feature talented linebackers (see Tank Carder, TCU) and solid secondaries have given the Beavers a lot of trouble.

Dominant defensive lines don't seem to be as much of a problem for the Beavers, and the o-line is improving. Against Arizona, the Beavers were able to take the excellent Wildcat linebacker corps out of the game by simply going over the top and getting vertical -- attacking the secondary. That's not as easy of a task against UCLA, Rahim Moore roaming the back forty.

Styles make fights.

PUT IT ALL together, and UCLA traditionally has featured tall, fast wide receivers, plus excellent safeties and linebackers. And those matchups are why OSU has struggled against the Bruins. Just look at last season.

The Beavers in '09 hosted a seemingly overmatched UCLA squad. Oregon State was supposed to pummel them, everyone in the media said so. And the Bruins proceeded to give Beaver Nation one hell of a scare with Kevin Prince catching fire and throwing the ball all over the yard. A furious fourth quarter comeback knotted the score at 19-all late in the game.

Sure, James Rodgers eventually slammed the door on the Bruins with his 17 yard fly sweep for paydirt in ‘09. But still the Bruins kept their foot in the door, and the other foot was on the gas pedal. Taylor Embree was dragged down at the Beaver 27-yard line as time expired. OSU won a 26-19 nailbiter, and no one on the victorious side felt all that great about it.

This game on Saturday won't be easy for the Beavers. Don't be fooled for a second. Let's get ready to rumble.

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