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November 6, 2010

UCLA to host Oregon State

After facing No. 1 Oregon and then now No. 13 Arizona, the Bruins' schedule gets a bit easier. But only just a little bit. If you don't believe that, take another look at Oregon State's record so far this season.

Yes, the Beavs are 4-3 on the season, 3-1 in the Pac-10. But look whom they've played and how they've actually done.

They lost to No. 7 TCU 30-21; beat Louisville 35-28; lost at No. 3 Boise State 37-24. Then they beat Arizona State by 3; won at No. 13 Arizona by 2; lost (somehow) in OT at Washington by 1; and then last weekend returned home to take Cal apart 35-7. That's the nation's most difficult schedule bar none, according to the experts; UCLA's ranks 4th.

This is an exciting and very solid Beavers team, led by strong-armed sophomore quarterback No. 12, 6-1, 209-pound Ryan Katz and the always exciting 5-7, 191-pound junior RB, No. 1 Jacquizz Rodgers, who is tied with several others - including Oregon's LaMichael James - for first in the nation with 15 rushing touchdowns this season

The Beavs are missing Quizz' brother James Rodgers, a brilliant WR and kick returner, but the other receivers have stepped up for them. These include the two on-going starters, No. 46, 6-0, 185-pound senior Aaron Nichols and No. 23, 6-3, 199-pound sophomore Jordan Bishop, as well as James' replacement, the aptly named and much taller (the Rodgers Brothers stand 5-7) No. 15 junior Darrell Catchings (5-11, 164).

The Beavers tend to do most of their damage through the air, especially on third downs. Of course that includes tossing as opposed to simply handling the ball to Rodgers.

On defense, the Beavers and the Bruins are tied for 6th in conference in terms of yards surrendered. Both teams have played some awfully high-powered offenses on the season but clearly both offenses have to believe they can move the ball against their opponent on Saturday.

Coach Mike Riley's defensive has similar size matchups to some other recent UCLA opponents - they aren't that big along the defensive line but have three linebackers with decent size behind the linemen. The biggest of the OSU DLs is No. 54 Stephen Paea who stands in at 6-1, 311-pounds and is a senior. In fact, three of the Beavs' front four are seniors as are two of the three linebackers and two of the four DBs, the other two both being juniors.

On offense, two of the OLs weigh in around 305-poundsand the other three about 285 (give or take a pound or two). They all stand between 6-2 and 6-4.

Oregon State is proud of its record on the road, having won ten of its last 15 conference road games including the last one in Pasadena, when they beat the Bruins in '08 34-6. Last year's game, up in Corvallis, was a real barn-burner with the home team prevailing with just 44 seconds remaining, 26-19. The winning score was recorded, however, by James Rodgers, who won't be available to the Beavers this time around.

The Rodgers brothers have for a couple years now been among the most exciting shows in college football. They are electric and have blazed the way for what Coach Mike Riley has built into a very solid football program, what Beavers' fans are calling the "resurrection" of Beavers' football.

With James Rodgers down with a knee injury, the load has fallen more to quarterback Ryan Katz whose strong arm has surprised some observers.

Look back at that record again. These guys have been in every game they've played, only the game on Boise State's blue turf field being a double digit affair. Of course, all close games mean their opponents have been in the games as well, a fact to cause the young Bruins to take some heart as they prepare for this game.

Whatever the reasons, Richard Brehaut was slow to master the offense and didn't mount much opposition to Kevin Prince in the QB competition a year ago. This year, with Prince returning and looking outstanding over the summer, Brehaut once again was sidelined - until injuries to the starter thrust him onto the field. Here's ball, take it and throw - ready or not.

As the team's starting quarterback now, Brehaut figures to show improvement week to week. While UCLA lost another receiver to injury last week, they get one back from suspension in the electric Ricky Marvray. The running of Derrick Coleman has been a high point in the Bruins' suddenly struggling ground attack recently; it's hoped that Johnathan Franklin can rediscover the edge that elevated him to among the top three in the conference in rushing - pretty rare territory when you consider that the other two are LaMichael James and Jacquizz Rodgers.

The Bruins' defense went to the blitz more last weekend (as Arizona's sack-happy defense held back to better defend the pistol). With UCLA playing three true freshmen on its front four and so many new starters on defense, you wonder what the game plan might be to take on an opponent with a wildly dangerous scat back in Rodgers but a solid and quickly improving quarterback in Katz, a team, moreover, that likes to throw the ball but is happy to get rid of it quickly and allow the receivers to gain the yards after catch.

So that's it. Another difficult opponent, but that's what you get in a conference that's strong and getting stronger. It's the only game the Bruins have this week so it's the one they have to find a way to win, to open the door for continued improvement as the season goes on.


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