When: Nov. 8, 4 p.m.
Where: Martin Stadium
TV: Live on ABC
Line: WSU by 10.
THE BRUINS ON OFFENSE
Overview: Statistically, the Bruin offense ranks just above Stanford and Arizona, but the Cardinal would disagree with that assessment. UCLA managed just 14 points against the Stanford defense last week and just 287 total yards for the game. Essentially, the Bruin running game lacks offensive linemen, their passing game lacks receivers, and the whole package is capped off by a quarterback controversy between two struggling sophomores.
Strategy: After a frustrating defeat last week, Wazzu's defense, aka: Damage Inc., must be licking their chops at this week's opponent. UCLA doesn't do anything particularly well on offense but their defense often keeps them in decent field position. It's up to WSU's front four to put tons of pressure on UCLA's quarterbacks to make sure they don't make much of their opportunities. The Bruin offensive line has looked like swiss cheese this year, surrendering a conference high 33 sacks. Run blocking isn't any better for this group, averaging a league worst 2.7 yards per rush attempt. As long the Cougs don't get beat by the big plays it should be pretty simple task to keep the Bruins out of the endzone. The WSU secondary shouldn't feel the need to take chances like they did last week.
Players to Know: Matt Moore, QB: The fact that the Bruin's starting quarterback shares my name as me doesn't bother me at all. And I truly hope he doesn't take offense to the growing collection of Bruin voodoo dolls in my house. Moore sat out most of the first half of the season will a leg injury and was replaced mid-game last week after getting sacked eight times by Stanford (which my lawyers assure me I cannot be held responsible for).
Drew Olson, QB: The less hexed Bruin quarterback has gotten most of the playing time this season amidst a continued stream of freak injuries to Moore (see legal disclosures above). Olsen has looked better than Moore in most respects throwing for 1300 yards and 6 TDs. He is likely to see the field quickly when—I mean if—Moore should develop an unexplained case of boils.
Maurice Drew, RB: WSU lost a heated recruiting battle with UCLA for Drew's services and now the true freshman is leading the Bruins in rushing with 385 yards and five scores. A quick and agile 190-pound back, Drew has the look of a young Ken Simonton.
Tyler Ebell, RB: After a 1000-yard freshman year, Ebell has struggled in his sophomore campaign and has been asked to assume a larger roll of the offense after Manuel White went down with a knee injury. He and Drew offer a similar look to defenses, but there is little depth behind them.
Craig Bragg, WR: Bragg has 50 receptions for 777 yards this year, which is more than the rest of the Bruin receivers combined. If Cougar corner Jason David can keep him wrapped up the Bruin quarterbacks won't have many targets to bail them out of trouble.
Marcedes Lewis, TE: A freakishly talented freshmen who is still trying to find a place in the Bruin's struggling offense. He doesn't have the frame to make much of an impact on the run blocking front, but he is dangerous as a receiver.
THE BRUINS ON DEFENSE
Overview: While their offense leaves a lot to be desired, the Bruin defense is tremendous. They rank No. 2 in the conference in yards surrendered and give up just 15 points per game, if you don't include the blowout loss to Oklahoma. Their most impressive performance came against Washington in week five when they lead a second half onslaught that featured four turnovers resulting in 25 unanswered Bruin points. Their base 4-3 package features battle hardened veterans up front and young athletic rookies in the secondary, but so far they have jelled seamlessly.
Strategy: If the Cougs plan to fix their rushing game they had better do it sooner rather than later. UCLA has the best pass defense in the Pac-10 and they may focus on controlling the WSU passing attack while disrespecting our ability to run the ball. The good news is the Bruin secondary is relatively short on depth so if WSU spreads the field with four receivers like last week, seams should open up. The important factor to remember is how bad the Bruin offense is. WSU quarterback Matt Kegel needs to focus on avoiding turnovers and play within whatever his body allows.
Players to Know: Matt Ware, CB: The Bruins have some key defensive players injured and they are headlined by Ware. The star corner suffered a high ankle sprain that has kept him out of action the last few weeks. He is questionable this week but will likely attempt to play in order to assist the young Bruin secondary.
Rodney Leslie, DT: Leslie is one of the better interior linemen in the Pac-10 but is questionable this week with a knee injury. Bruin coach Karl Dorrell expects him to see limited action. Freshman Thomas Patton may have to start in his place if Leslie can't go.
Dave Ball and Mat Ball, DEs: Dave leads the conference with 12.5 sacks and is a serious threat coming off Kegel's blind side. Brother Mat, who starts on the left side of the line, is questionable with a back injury leaving Bruins with only one working Ball for this game.
Brandon Chillar, LB: Chillar leads the conference with 98 tackles this year. He works off the strong side of the line but makes plays all over the field. Expect to hear his name mentioned often.
THE BRUINS ON SPECIAL TEAMS
The Bruins are pretty decent on special teams especially considering they rely on a freshman kicker. Justin Medlock has hit 10 of 12 attempts this year and has proven accurate out to 48 yards. Punter Chris Kluwe averages 44 yards per punt and Drew has proven to be a deadly kick returner. Their only weakness on special teams has been their punt coverage where they have been burned by some of the nations best punt returners for four touchdowns this year.
My gut tells me Cougar back-up QB Josh Swogger had better be ready to play football on Saturday. After the punishment he received last week, Kegel's body can't have much left to give. While I love his warrior attitude and have been tremendously impressed with his play this season, I worry he is "writing checks his body can't cash." Swoggs isn't ready to run the complete playbook but in light of how toothless the Bruin's offense has been, a more conservative attack may be in order anyway.