UCLA (1-2) at Oregon State (0-2)
After a disastrous start to 2011, it was back to the drawing board for the Oregon State Beavers during their Week-3 bye.
Now, it’s time to find out if Mike Riley’s winless team has learned anything.
As conference play begins this week, the Beavers get UCLA in a home game they’re favored to win. The competition gets considerably stiffer after Saturday’s matchup, so it’s fair to characterize the UCLA game as a must-win for OSU.
Before we address the quarterback controversy, the first question on many of our minds: what will Oregon State do to improve its running game, aside from asking Jacquizz Rodgers to enter a time machine, leave the Atlanta Falcons and return to college?
The Beavers ran for a pathetic 23 yards on 24 carries against Wisconsin during their 35-0 loss two weeks ago. Yes, mathematicians, that is less than one yard per carry. It helps this week that they’ll face a UCLA team allowing 215 rushing yards per game.
On the other hand, top Oregon State rusher Malcolm Agnew is doubtful to play Saturday because of a hamstring injury.
Beavers fans therefore shouldn’t be surprised if Oregon State abandons the run and tries to air it out this week. Riley named Sean Mannion the new starter at quarterback during the bye week. He’ll supplant Ryan Katz, whose job was considered secure by most accounts as recently as three weeks ago.
It would make sense for Oregon State to throw often, as the team needs to know what it has with Mannion. Is he the true starter or just a stopgap until Katz sorts himself out?
UCLA has had trouble keeping points off the board but its offense could threaten Oregon State this week.
The Bruins run the ball well, averaging 215 yards per contest (as many as they allow). Johnathan Franklin is the bellcow but Derrick Coleman’s 7.1 yards per carry and four touchdowns suggest he’s the home-run threat.
Oregon State is the favorite at home, understandably, but this team isn’t out of the woods. UCLA doesn’t look like it will go quietly.
If the Beavers lose again entering next week’s tough road game at Arizona State, will whispers of a winless season begin?