This game is a huge one for the Beavers season. It is a game that could have big impact on momentum, national perception and the possible bowl game the Beavers hope to be playing in. Win this and a Vegas or better bowl starts to get much more likely. Lose it, and then face a very tough opponent in Arizona the following week and even making a New Mexico Bowl is not certain. Will Oregon State be able to limit Johnathan Franklin (541 yards, 8.2-per-carry), like they did Montee Ball? WIll the DB unit continue to shine with more big plays from Reynolds, Murphy and Poyer? Can OSU get its run game to play with explosiveness? I had a dream last night with Woods in it. On a key fourth down play he tried bouncing a bit too much instead of going north-south as fast as possible in the first opening seen. The easiest way to get 3-4 yards on just about any run is to attack boldly and not hesitate and this is an area where I like Agnew’s game a touch more.
UCLA also has a very good defense. DE Datone Jones leads the conference and ranks fourth nationally with 2.67 tackles for loss per game. UCLA also has a strong secondary led by seniors Sheldon Price (four interceptions), Aaron Hester, Dalton Hilliard, Andrew Abbott, and sophomore Tevin McDonald. They have their own dime package, like OSU is just starting to use, which was highly effective vs Houston. Riley is only 2-7 against UCLA, and even though some may think he is due, only a total effort and some big plays will secure this win for Beaver Nation. I expect OSU will pass on probably almost 60% of plays. A little more than ideal, but I don’t think they are getting the production they want yet from Woods and Agnew. That needs to change, and 120+ yards rushing is important for OSU to have more surprise in their overall attack. This will also help limit the odds for costly turnovers, which the Beavers can ill afford.
I see this game as mostly back and forth but with UCLA leading most of the way. It is good that they only have one week of 2012 film on OSU, but I just don’t think we will have as strong of a defensive showing on the road. OSU traditionally is far too inconsistent on the road and unless we pick up victories here it is hard to be an upper tier team in the Pac-12. Welch and Doctor need to have big games and make tackles in space that hold down Franklin as no doubt they will be looking to give him a lot of carries. QB Brett Hundley has a lingering ankle injury that hopefully will slow him down some and lessen his dual threat. OSU wants to force him into being primarily a passer and make him try to beat them that way. I foresee a halftime score around UCLA 17-OSU 10. In the second half, I think Oregon State plays better and ties it at one point 20 all in the early 4th quarter.
However, I feel UCLA will get the final TD and win the game 27-20. OSU will try to rally, but Mannion will throw a costly interception after staring down his intended receiver a bit too long. For the game OSU will get a modest 101 yards rushing between Woods and Agnew. Not quite enough, which will sum up the day. The good news is that I am predicting against OSU, which may give them a better shot to prove me wrong. Maybe Mannion will be more productive inside the 30 yard line. One thing that frustrates me about OSU is they tend to stall as they approach field goal range and are left wondering if they should try a 48 yard field goal or go for it on 4th and 2 or 3. The kicking and special teams games needs to be on mark for OSU to stay in a position to win.
If OSU does fall a tad short in Pasadena, the road does not get any easier. Arizona will likely be smarting after a tough loss in Autzen. We will get their best effort and OSU could see its great early momentum from the Wisconsin win wilt away. Luckily, after that they have a winnable game against Washington St. at home that is expected to be close to a sellout. I personally anticipate OSU to be at 2-2 after their first 4 games. After that it looks like a long march to the New Mexico, Hunger or Vegas Bowl. Odds are that will be about our peak if we don’t beat UCLA on Saturday.
UCLA 27, OSU 20