LET'S NOT mince words. For both UCLA and Oregon State, the start of the 2011 season has been nothing short of disastrous. The two programs have a lot in common -- both entered the ‘11 season after a disappointing 2010 campaign, and both were counting heavily on breakout seasons from talented, athletic quarterbacks. And a little less than a month later...

...both programs have been turned on their ear. Either UCLA or Oregon State will absorb a critical stab in the heart on Saturday -- how many 0-3 teams come back to make a bowl game?

That's mostly where the comparisons end, though. A bye week for Oregon State to collectively gather their thoughts – both the team and the fans – was just what the doctor ordered.

UCLA limps into Corvallis after being dismantled by Texas in spectacularly brutal fashion. QB Kevin Prince is out due to injury, while Ryan Katz has somewhat improbably been replaced by redshirt freshman Sean Mannion.

The Bruins have experienced tremendous struggles in passing the ball -- but considerable success running the pigskin. Oregon State has had recent troubles running the football effectively but have moved the chains fairly well via the aerial attack.

The Bruins haven't defended the run well, while Oregon State has experienced difficulty with pass defense.

And one last big difference -- UCLA's Rick Neuheisel is likely coaching for his job. Mike Riley's employment remains secure, despite some of the knee-jerk reactions cropping up in cyberspace, and with some in the media beginning to subtly fan the flames of fan discontent. Indeed, less than a year removed from just about any- and everyone fawning over his coaching prowess, has placed Riley at No. 7 this week on their warmest of seats. Please.)

The Keys To The Game:
1. File Under "Duh": Stuff the run. For the Beavers to have a chance at winning this game, the defense will need to keep UCLA's big offensive line from wearing them down as Wisconsin did. The Beavers aren't big up front, and with Castro Masaniai serving a one game suspension, they get even smaller. OSU did, however, smother Wisconsin's powerful running attack before tiring.

2. Find Some Energy: James Rodgers returns for UCLA and should give the team a huge emotional boost, one that should have been building the past several days. Rodgers isn't the rah-rah type but the Beav players and staff absolutely love the guy. His enthusiasm is infectious and he leads by example. Oregon State needs to get Quon the ball early and get the crowd, and the team, into the game.

3. Get Loose: Above all, this is a game where the team needs to come out and just have fun. After Sac State, Mike Riley noted that the Beavers "played tight" and that guys were nervous and pressing playing their first college game. This is an extremely young team with a lot of new starters – when D.J. Welch takes the field he will be the tenth true freshman to play for the Beavs this season. Mistakes are going to be made, but playing tentative is a sure way to rack up another loss.

Final thoughts:
Riley has always seemed to find some magic when things are at their worst, and this year Riley has the opportunity to turn in his finest coaching performance to date by stringing together some wins. With the count now at 15 OSU players who have made their first collegiate start this season, it's a tall order. Lack of experience in the Pac-12 is an absolute killer for most teams, and even more so in Riley's cerebral scheme which relies heavily on timing and execution. But the Beavs are coming off a bye week, with a very beatable opponent, at home. It doesn't get much better than that.

BeaverBlitz Top Stories