-- UCLA travels to Corvallis, Oregon, to take on Oregon State Saturday.
-- The game is at 1:00, but will be a delayed telecast at 3:30 on FSN Prime Ticket and FSN Northwest.
-- UCLA is 3-4, reeling after a 4-game losing streak, with all four losses coming at the hands of its first four Pac-10 opponents.
-- Oregon State is 4-3, and 3-2 in the Pac-10.
-- The series between the two schools dates back to 1930, with UCLA holding a 39-14-4 advantage.
-- UCLA had a five-game winning streak going before the Beavers snapped it last season, when they beat the Bruins in the Rose Bowl, 34-6.
-- OSU has lost three straight to UCLA in Corvallis. In those three UCLA wins, the Bruins have scored a total of 121 points.
-- Mike Riley is in his ninth year at Oregon State, with a 60-45 record at the school. He's well on his way to being the most successful head coach in OSU history, trailing only Lon Stiner (74 wins) and Tommy Prothro (63 wins). He first was hired in 1997 and was credited with turning around the program, then left for the NFL for a few seasons before returning in 2003. He has the second-best record of any coach in the Pac-10 over the last three seasons (32-15). Riley, you might remember, was a finalist for the UCLA job when Karl Dorrell was hired. The 2008 Pac-10 coach of the year, Riley has a rep for optimizing the talent he has.
-- Oregon State's three losses this season have come against teams (USC, Arizona, and Cincinnati) that have a combined record of 18-3. In this week's AP Poll, USC is No. 4, Cincinnati is #5, and Arizona is #23.
-- OSU is 2-2 at home for the season, having lost to Cincinnati and Arizona at Reser Stadium, while beating Portland State and Stanford.
-- Against Cincy, Arizona and Stanford at home it's given up an average of 31 points per game.
-- Oregon State has out-scored its opponents 256-85 in the first quarter of its last 47 games.
-- If OSU can accomplish a winning season in 2009, it will be four in a row, which would be its longest winning-season streak since 1966-1970 when it put together five straight winning seasons.
-- The Beavers have five sets of brothers on the team, which is the highest among FBS teams.
-- Oregon State is playing to remain in contention for one of the Pac-10's upper tier bowl games. UCLA is fighting to accomplish a non-losing record with an outside chance at a bowl game.
-- In the Oregon papers, OSU's coaches and players are emphasizing, after losing to USC last week, that the Beavers will not have a letdown game against UCLA, and that they shouldn't take UCLA lightly, which is a back-handed compliment.
-- In the USC game, OSU's star wide rceiver James Rodgers sustained a cracked tooth when USC's safety Taylor Mays ripped off his helmet on a touchdown pass, and no penalty was called. The Pac-10 suspended the official for one game for missing the face-mask call.
-- According to the Sagarin rankings, UCLA has the third toughest schedule in the country, behind Arkansas (3-4) and Washington (3-5).
-- It's homecoming for Oregon State and, fittingly, since their colors are black and orange, Halloween.
-- Saturday's weather calls for 61 degrees and a 70% chance of rain in Corvallis.
UCLA'S OFFENSE V. OREGON STATE'S DEFENSE
Oregon State's defense isn't a great one and has had to deal with substantial turnover in the last two years. It's replaced a total of 16 starters in the last two seasons.
It's definitely taken its toll, on particularly its pass rush and pass defense.
OSU is 118th in the nation in sacks, averaging .57 sacks per game. And they're 111th in the nation in pass defense, allowing an average of 264 yards per game through the air.
It actually hasn't been very good against the run lately either. It allowed USC to run for 227 yards and Stanford for 149 yards in its last two games.
It really has been a case that whatever is the forte of the opposing offense – whether it emphasizes the run or the pass – is what Oregon State has been greatly vulnerable to that week.
Perhaps its biggest issue defensively is getting very little penetration from its defensive line. To go along with the woeful sack stat, OSU is also 109th in the nation in tackles for loss (averaging 4 per game).
OSU is really missing its superior DLs from last season, Victor Butler and Slade Norris, who had 22 sacks between the two of them. Its best current lineman is junior tackle Stephen Paea (6-1, 285), but opposing OLs have been able to double-team him because the Beavers simply aren't getting a push from anyone else on the DL. The four starting linemen have one sack between the four of them, and just 3.5 tackles for loss. The other DT, Mitchell Hunt, is out for a year with a dislocated knee cap, so junior Brennan Olander (6-1, 276), a former walk-on, steps in.
|Linebacker Keaton Kristick.|
OSU's secondary has been struggling throughout the season. It had to break in four new starters, with senior cornerback Tim Clark (6-0, 180) being the veteran of the group. Last week USC worked the secondary, particularly the safeties down the middle of the field, taking advantage of blown assignments and poor coverage. Both safety starters, Cameron Collins (6-2, 220) and Lance Mitchell (6-2, 205), are inexperienced sophomores that have been thrown into the fire.
I said above that OSU's defense has been susceptible to whatever opposing offenses do well, either pass or run. The issue for UCLA's offense is it really doesn't do either very well.
UCLA has generally run the ball fairly decently, but the offense just hasn't been on the field enough to produce big numbers. UCLA is looking for a spark, and hopefully back-up tailback Milton Knox might provide it this week. Starting tailback Johnathan Franklin is still a big banged up, and Christian Ramirez, after his poor performance and fumble last week, has been taken out of the rotation, for the most part.
|UCLA's Terrence Austin.|
The veteran receivers, like Terrence Austin, haven't made many plays this season and have been particularly poor in gaining yards after the catch. UCLA has consistently gone to its tight ends, Logan Paulsen and Ryan Moya, as the two guys they believe can actually get some yards down field.
Much has been made this week of Rick Neuheisel saying publicly that freshman quarterback Richard Brehaut is going to get a couple of series in the first half. It's a tough enough order for redshirt freshman Kevin Prince to go into Reser Stadium and perform efficiently, so it will be quite a challenge for Brehaut.
Advantage: Oregon State. UCLA's young and inexperienced offense, on the road, in a tough environment, in the rain, isn't a great scenario.
It's patently clear that UCLA will need to come out throwing in this game. OSU has a poor pass rush, so the young UCLA quarterbacks should have the time they need to not make too many mistakes. And the OSU secondary has been particularly vulnerable. Also, again, if UCLA is going to win this game it's going to have to do it with touchdowns and not field goals, and grinding it out on the ground, in the mud, isn't going to get it done.
OREGON STATE'S OFFENSE V. UCLA'S DEFENSE
If you're a UCLA fan, there isn't much consolation when you analyze OSU's offense.
They have the #1 passing game in the Pac-10, better than Arizona's or USC's. Statistically, you could then say that OSU's offense isn't very balanced, since it only has the #7 rushing offense in the league.
So, you'd think that maybe OSU's running game isn't great. But how can it not be when it has the #10 running back in the nation, sophomore Jaquizz Rodgers (5-7, 191)?
Rodgers is averaging 115 yards per game, and last week he ran for 113 yards against USC's defense, which is the #5 rushing defense in the nation, allowing just 79 yards per game.
He's run for 1,089 total yards and 15 touchdowns, which is more than the entire UCLA team.
Truly the only bit of consolation is that Rodgers is a bit banged up, nursing an ankle injury that may keep him out of practice this week, while he's expected to play.
Rodgers might be the toughest running back in the conference to tackle, since he's so small he's difficult to find among the big linemen and tacklers struggle to get a piece of him.
If "Quizz" is out, OSU mainly goes to what they do best and that's throw the ball. Senior lefty quarterback Sean Canfield (6-4, 214) is a considerable success story; a one-time starter who had a poor season in 2007, Canfield had to step in this year when senior starter Lyle Moevao (5-11, 225) wasn't completely recovered from shoulder surgery, and OSU has never looked back. Canfield is probably having the best season among Pac-10 quarterbacks, having thrown already for 1,700 yards and 11 touchdowns, and completing 68% of his passes. Last week he might have had his best game as a Beaver against USC, throwing for 329 yards on 30 of 43, for three touchdowns and no interceptions.
|Wide receiver James Rodgers.|
It helps if you have the best receiver in the conference, too. Quizz's brother, junior James Rodgers (5-7, 185) leads the Pac-10 in receptions per game (7.1) and yards (85). He's much like his brother, using his slightness to find seams in the defense and then being very tough to get a piece of after the catch.
James is the team's second leading rusher, and Quizz is the team's second leading receiver. They'll also use them in the Wildcat.
Oregon State truly has accomplished the Pac-10 recruiting coup of the last decade in pulling the Rodgers brothers out of Texas; Quizz was ranked the #22 best running back in the country for 2008, and James was an unranked prospect in 2007.
Senior receiver Damola Adeniji (6-3, 213) is a pretty good target for Canfield, too, offsetting the two little Rodgers brothers with some size.
If that's not enough, sophomore H-back Joe Halahuni (6-2, 249) had a break-out game against the Trojans, collecting 9 receptions for 127 yards.
Going into the season, it was thought OSU's offense might have the skill guys, but could be limited after the offensive line lost some key players, but OSU's O-line has performed way beyond expectation. It starts with veterans, junior center Alex Linnenkohl (6-2, 297) and senior right guard Gregg Peat (6-3, 295). True freshman Michael Philipp (6-3, 313), who was a big UCLA recruiting target, is starting at one tackle spot.
UCLA's defense is reeling. In its last two games it's allowed Arizona 456 yards and Cal 494 yards.
UCLA's bend-but-don't-break defensive philosophy has been bend-and-break.
It's given up yards on both the ground and in the air. You could say it's a balance defense.
|Safety Rahim Moore.|
In the back, UCLA has been attempting to plug in true freshman Sheldon Price to the one cornerback spot that was left open when starter Aaron Hester broke his leg a month and a half ago. Hester is now back, but considerably rusty, so it will be interesting to see who gets the snaps.
Rahim Moore, the talented sophomore safety, has continued his ball-hawking ways and is the one true bright spot.
Advantage: Oregon State. It's a bit disconcerting to envision OSU throwing against UCLA's young and beleaguered secondary, but it's almost just as nauseating to think about Quizz jitterbugging his way around UCLA's front seven, which has had trouble with gap integrity and tackling.
UCLA Defensive Coordinator Chuck Bullough has established a pattern to his defensive play-calling: Sit back in the first half and then make adjustments by the second half. It has, though, been a bit of too-little-too-late. Witness Arizona's fly sweep last week. Even after the adjustments, however, the defense hasn't been very aggressive in pressuring the line of scrimmage or the quarterback. When it did so last week against Arizona it seemed like it was the few times when the defense had a jump on the Wildcats.
OSU also doesn't turn over the ball, having lost only one fumble all season. So, it's unlikely the Bruins will get some help in the turnover column.
Where would UCLA be this season without field goal kicker Kai Forbath and punter Jeff Locke? Well, they'd be getting less points through field goals and they'd be getting a lot worse field position – really the two definite bright spots to the season so far.
OSU's punter, Johnny Hekker, has done pretty well so far this season, averaging 42.8 per punt. The Beav's place kicker, Justin Kahut, is second in the Pac-10 behind Forbath, mostly because OSU's offense gets them in scoring position so often. Like Forbath, he's only missed 2 field goals this season.
James Rodgers gives them a threat on kick-off and punt returns.
OSU's punt and kick-off coverage haven't been particularly noteworthy, which gives UCLA's good return teams a chance to impact the game. Not to be to harsh on a well-respected senior, but it would seem that UCLA's Terrence Austin has been impacting games far more in his punt and kick-off returns than he has as a receiver. UCLA could really use Austin setting up UCLA's offense with good field position.
I really, really respect the guys on the BRO Premium Message board who unflinchingly pick UCLA to win this game, and some by decisive scores.
There is so little, here, though, that points in UCLA's direction. Even given the woes of the defense in recent weeks, if UCLA was getting even decent effectiveness out of its quarterback spot you might give them a chance since OSU's passing defense is so poor. But you know it's not good in the UCLA quarterback department when you have a struggling redshirt freshman quarterback and then the coaching staff says it's going to give a true freshman a chance – on the road, probably in the rain.
There's no place for UCLA to get some cheap scores either. OSU's offense takes care of the ball, and its special teams, while they've given up some yards, have allowed just one touchdown on punt and kick-off returns.
This very well might even be the game where Kai Forbath isn't as automatic as he's been, trying to kick 50-yard field goals in the rain.
Canfield is surely licking his chops when anticipating facing UCLA's secondary. But the nightmare is really the Rodgers brothers bobbing and weaving their way through UCLA's would-be tacklers like it's a bad Disney movie.
UCLA's best chance is to come out throwing the ball, and not taking the conservative approach of just trying to limit quarterback mistakes. The Bruins need to throw the ball down the field and exploit OSU's suspect secondary. If it doesn't do this successfully, there is very little chance UCLA will be able to put up enough points to stay in the same neighborhood as the Beavers.
Oregon State 38