THIS WEEK’S OPPONENT:
Oregon State Beavers, Rose Bowl – Saturday, September 22, 12:30 p.m., ESPN Network/ABC
At first glance, there would seem to not be much to talk about when it comes to Oregon State University’s football team.
After all, due to having to postpone their opening game against Nicholls State because of concerns over Hurricane Issac – Nicholls State is located in Louisiana – the Beavers have only played one game so far in 2012.
However, that one game was an absolute doozy as the Beavers scored an upset that outdid UCLA’s triumph over Nebraska, beating then-13th ranked and two-time defending Big Ten champion Wisconsin 10-7 at home in Corvallis, completely shutting down superstar running back and Heisman Trophy candidate Montee Ball as they held him to under 100 yards.
That win over Wisconsin’s Badgers let everyone know, at least for the moment, that not only is this not the 3-9 Oregon State team of last year, their upcoming game against the 19th ranked Bruins at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, which also happens to be the Pac-12 Conference opener, will not be a pushover for Jim Mora’s team.
Coached by Mike Riley, the Beavers are led by quarterback Sean Mannion, who had a solid day against Wisconsin as he threw for 276 yards and completed 62% of his passes. Markus Wheaton leads the receivers with eight catches.
When you give up only seven points to a smash-mouth team like Wisconsin, the defense must be acknowledged. While there are no big names – defensive backs Rashad Reynolds and Tyreque Zimmerman and linebacker D.J. Welch each had seven tackles against the Badgers – Oregon State should be taken seriously as allowing a mere touchdown to an elite Big Ten team is nothing to sneeze at.
The good news, however, is that there are several factors that favor UCLA in this upcoming battle:
1. The game is at the Rose Bowl, featuring the usual home-crowd advantage.
2. The Bruins’ offense is NOT , in any way, shape, or form, the same as Wisconsin’s as they use a quick no-huddle spread, something that will should definitely produce more than ten points – provided that the Bruins execute and not commit turnovers like they did against Houston.
3. The Beavers ony scored ten points in their big win, which bodes well for a UCLA defense that has been quite stingy of late, producing six turnovers versus Houston and nearly shutting out the Cougars in the process, and…
4. The fact that Oregon State has only played one game may well hurt them aganinst UCLA, as they have not only not been tested, the Bruins have more or less had their way with the Beavers in recent years while Oregon State had standouts like James and Jacquizz Rodgers.
So far UCLA, the penalties and turnovers notwithstanding, has done very well as far as offensive stats; Brett Hundley has played about as well as a redshirt freshman can play at quarterback, completing 67% of his passes with eight touchdowns and three interceptions.
Johnathan Franklin, however, has simply been the man for the Bruins as he is currently the nation’s leading rusher, averaging 180 yards a game with three touchdowns, tying him with Joseph Fauria for the lead in that category.
The Bruin defense, compared to last year, has really been a difference maker to this point. As a perfect illustration, after three games they have 23 tackles for losses and 11 sacks. Datone Jones leads in TFL’s with eight and linebacker Anthony Barr has three sacks to lead the team there.
That defense had only 14 sacks all last season.
As long as that unit plays the way it has been since the second half of the Nebraska game, giving up a total of 12 points in the last six quarters, the Bruins will be in good shape.
The Bottom Line: Despite Oregon State’s conquest of the two-time Big Ten champs, this is still a winnable game for the Bruins. If UCLA executes and does not play sloppily – no turnovers on offense nor breakdowns on defense, and a minimum of penalties in general – then there’s no reason why the Bruins can’t earn their fourth straight win to start the season.
We will definitely see how things come out this Saturday.