IT'S ONLY ONE game into the 2012 season but with Mike Riley taking over the play calling role at…
OSU v. UCLA: Position breakdown, who has edge
Quarterback: Sean Mannion demonstrated good execution of the West Coast offensive attack during OSU's outing against Wisconsin. While his completion percentage to date may leave room for improvement, Mannion looked comfortable in the pocket and made some crisp throws. Brett Hundley is coming off a handful of solid early-season games, and is in command of a potent Pac-12 offense that has put up 30-points in each of its last three contests. UCLA has played three games to OSU's one – that will count for something when it comes to the reaction time each QB displays this coming Saturday. The lack of actual game time experience thus far for OSU could be a major factor for UCLA.
Tailback: Jonathon Franklin continues to impress and help the Bruin offense move the chains. Expect Franklin to see a high volume of plays (both run and pass oriented) in an attempt to counter a potentially overzealous OSU front seven – his endurance will be tested, to say the least. Storm Woods and Malcolm Agnew ran a good game against Whisky, but both had issues with dropped passes in the short game. Woods' initial burst out of the pocket could devastate UCLA – but he will have to maintain that explosiveness all game long, as Agnew will likely see most of the down- hill running assignments.
Tight End: Connor Hamlett and Colby Prince (the latter coming off a career high 42 yards receiving against Wisconsin) played well as a duo in OSU's last outing. Both are big body tight ends that set up some nice open field blocks against Wisconsin, and have shown that they can be a threat in the passing game. Joseph Fauria, however, has got the stats and is experienced – he currently boasts the most receiving touchdowns for UCLA (3) and the third highest receiving total in terms of yardage.
Offensive Line: It's been wobbly at best for UCLA up front. Hundley has been forced to move around a lot in the pocket – it could work in OSU's favor (fast, the Beavers are). What figures to be an unrelenting barrage of blitzes from defensive coordinator Mark Banker will force UCLA pass blockers to stay on the move to protect Hundley, tiring them out late in the second half. On balance, the Oregon State offensive line put up a strong show against a (seemingly) physically superior front seven for Wisconsin - Mannion had plenty of time to make decisions and was the subject of just one sack.
Wide Receiver: UCLA is a passing team – a trait that is only accentuated by the Jim Mora/ Noel Mazzone style of play calling. They also have a QB who is starting to hit his stride in Hundley. And confidence accounts for a lot when it comes to consistency through the air. Steven Manfro and Fauria will not be easy assignments. But is the UCLA defense equipped to handle the sheer speed of Brandin Cooks and Markus Wheaton? We say no. Expect OSU to also have more YAC than UCLA. Additionally, OSU has a slim but talented pool of wide outs to choose from – Obum Gwacham sat out the first regular season game with a foot injury, but if he makes a healthy return, his height can add whole different dimension to the OSU passing attack.
Defensive Line: UCLA's first three matchups haven't exactly been defensive gems when it came to containing the run. The Bruins have allowed 678 rushing yards (and five touchdowns) just three games in. Beaver defenders have allowed all of 35 yards on the ground thus far – Castro Masaniai, Andrew Seumalo and Joe Lopez along with defensive ends Dylan Wynn and Scott Crichton, will look to protect the rep they received as clutch defenders in their home opener. Depth is the friend of the OSU D-line – lots of talent deep into the depth chart for the front four.
Linebackers: Michael Doctor and D.J. Welch are relentless against the run, and Rueben Robinson made some plays in the secondary too in the opener. Welch in particular looked like a stellar linebacker in the making. From where we sit, OSU brings more depth and speed to the table in the ‘backer corps than UCLA. The speed of guys like Doctor and Welch will just be hard to cope with for UCLA.
Secondary: UCLA's secondary is a dynamic one. Collectively, the unit has seven interceptions against opposing QB's, four of which belong to senior cornerback Sheldon Price. UCLA will really have to play some tight zone coverage against the short-n-sweet throws they are bound to see from Mannion if they hope to be successful – Jordan Poyer and Rashaad Reynolds will have their work cut out for them all game long, they will get tired. Will the reserves at corner be able to hold the lines? Will Ryan Murphy get a game-changing pick and will Tyrequek Zimmerman come up with a big momentum-grabbing play?
Special Teams: Both OSU and UCLA own efficient special teams units, but Beaver punter Keith Kostol struggled a bit in his first game and it cost his team yardage.. Frankly, we just haven't seen enough of Kostol overall, (or the 2012 vintage of Trevor Romaine, 1-2 kicking field goals) to determine what they are truly capable of. UCLA's Ka'imi Fairbairn is 6-8 for field goals in a game that could very well come down to clearing the uprights to win the game deep in the fourth.
Coaching: Mike Riley and crew are coming off a big upset and have the benefit of a bye week and plenty of game film to study on UCLA prior to Saturdays contest. Jim Mora is the new kid on the block (kind of) in his third game as a college head coach, but he hasn't needed an adjustment period – so far. Both are adept play callers with NFL experience and a slew of weapons at their disposal. But Banker is the weight that tips the scales in favor of OSU – a tenacious and risky play caller, look for his exotic blitz packages to stir things up.
Intangibles: The outcome of this game will come down to preparation. OSU may not have three games under their belts, but lack of live play can be combated early in a season with smart coaching and fresher legs. UCLA is riding high and steadily keeps moving up in the rankings, now resting at No.19. This may very well be a game that is decided late in the fourth quarter. The teams are evenly matched on many levels. But someone will win this game, and we predict it will be…
Final Thought: OSU takes the cake, but it won't come easy. Look for Mannion to struggle against a tough pass defense led by Price – the sophomore QB is going up against a potent secondary that capitalizes on the little mistakes. The running game will have to be a force all day long - Riley will not be able to rely solely on the passing game here. Despite solid defense across the board for both teams, this game will need to have more offensive fireworks show if OSU wants to grab a W. And they will, putting the Bruins away late in the fourth quarter.
OSU edges out UCLA 28-24
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