(Sports Network) - The Oregon State Beavers will try to keep pace in the Pac-10 Conference standings when they visit the Rose Bowl this Saturday to take on the UCLA Bruins.
Oregon State is coming off last week's impressive 35-7 win over Cal and has now won three of its last four games. Just like Stanford (7-1, 4-1 Pac-10) and Arizona (7-1, 4-1) ahead of them, the Beavers (4-3, 3-1) are chasing unbeaten and top-ranked Oregon (8-0, 5-0) in the conference hierarchy. OSU has been pretty solid away from home, winning 10 of its last 15 Pac-10 road games.
As for the Bruins (3-5, 1-4), they are just ahead of Washington State (1-8, 0-6) at the bottom of the conference standings. They've lost three in a row, although they put up an admirable fight in last week's 29-21 setback to 13th- ranked Arizona. Following this tilt, UCLA will have a week off before hitting the road to face Washington on November 18th.
UCLA holds a 39-15-4 series edge, but Oregon State has won the last two meetings, including a 26-19 win at home last year.
Oregon State's offense hasn't been putting up huge numbers -- the Beavers rank seventh in the Pac-10 in scoring offense (29.9 ppg) and eighth in total offense (351.1 ypg) -- but the Beavers have a player who commands the attention of any opponent. That player is junior running back Jacquizz Rodgers, who continues to make defenders eat his dust and enters this contest tied for first in the nation with 15 touchdowns on the year. He is averaging more than 100 yards per game on the ground and is coming off a 119-yard, three-touchdown effort in last week's win over Cal. Rodgers also threw for a touchdown, as the Beavers jumped out to a 28-0 halftime lead and never looked back. Ryan Katz managed the offense and, most importantly, did not commit any turnovers as he completed 20-of-27 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown. OSU has just four turnovers this year, which is the fewest in the nation. Remarkably, the Beavers have not lost a single fumble all season long.
The Achilles' heal for OSU has been defending the pass, as the Beavers enter this contest ranked 102nd in the nation in pass efficiency defense (146.4) and 109th in pass defense (267 ypg). However, they put forth their best defensive effort to date last week against Cal. In that game, the defense held the Golden Bears to just 10 first downs and 206 total yards for the game. Cal was also limited to 1-of-12 on third downs and 0-for-2 on fourth down. The OSU defense notched six sacks for the game and knocked starting quarterback Kevin Riley out of the game in the first quarter. Dwight Roberson leads the team and ranks fourth in the Pac-10 with 8.3 tackles per game. He is also tied with Brennan Olander and Stephen Paea for the team lead with three sacks. In the secondary, James Dockery paces the Beavers with three interceptions.
UCLA sophomore quarterback Richard Brehaut has started the last two games in place of injured starter Kevin Prince, who will miss the rest of the season after recently undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. Brehaut was thrown into the fire two weeks ago at top-ranked Oregon, and the result was a 60-13 loss. But last week against No. 13 Arizona, he showed considerable progress, throwing for a career-high 228 yards and a pair of long second-half touchdowns that got the Bruins back in the game. UCLA had a couple of late drives to potentially take the lead or tie, but the first one resulted in a turnover on downs and the final drive ended when Brehaut was sacked near midfield and fumbled. The offense was also without leading receiver Ricky Marvray and starting tackle Sean Sheller, who were both serving one-game suspensions for violating team rules.
On defense, UCLA was also without star linebacker Patrick Larimore against Arizona because of a left shoulder injury. Larimore has averaged nearly six tackles per game (5.0 TFLs) and also forced a team-high three fumbles. However, he is expected to be out at least another two weeks. Bruins' junior free safety Rahim Moore is a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given annually to the nation's best defensive back. Moore is third on the team with 53 tackles and has notched one interception, although opposing quarterbacks have generally shied away from his direction. For his career, he is tied for fourth on the school's all-time list with 14 picks, thanks to a NCAA-best 10 a year ago. Along with Moore, junior linebacker Akeem Ayers (45 tackles, 7.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks, 2 INTs, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries) has performed exceptionally well.
This matchup pits two of the league's top rushers against one another, as Rodgers ranks second in the Pac-10 with 105.3 rushing yards per game, while UCLA's Johnathan Franklin is third with 99.0 ypg. Whichever team can control the tempo will have a decided advantage, and those two will play key roles. Give the edge to the Beavers, who have shown a penchant for taking care of the football, an all-important ingredient when playing on the road.