(CORVALLIS)—In previous matchups this season against the nation’s top offenses, the Oregon State Beavers defense has struggled mightily. The University of Arizona Wildcats put up 644 yards and 44 points against OSU, while the Washington State Cougars gained 520 yards on their way to 52 points against the Beavers. Those two offenses currently are ranked No. 13 and No. 16 in the college Football Bowl Subdivision.
In the next two weeks, Oregon State gets to face the UCLA Bruins (No. 26-ranked offense) and the California Golden Bears (No. 18), although the Beavers did catch a break in Pac-12 scheduling by avoiding the USC Trojans (No. 22) this season. With all these crazy awesome offenses in the conference, you either have to outscore them or hold them down a little bit. Oregon State, with its young roster, probably is capable of neither in 2015, although home and recent results have been more positive.
The Beavers host UCLA this weekend and travel to Berkeley next Saturday, and perhaps the home game can give the Oregon State defense a boost. After all, the Beavers played the Stanford Cardinal and its No. 43-ranked offense close for two quarters here at Reser Stadium in late September before holding Colorado Buffaloes and their No. 37-ranked offense to just 17 points in a loss here two weeks ago. That’s progress the coaching staff and the fans can measure and see for themselves.
Despite playing all these highly ranked offenses, the Oregon State defense is still ranked 70th in the nation. After holding the Buffs to just 328 yards in that last home game, perhaps the Beavers can repeat the effort against the Bruins today. However, they will need help from the offense, and that’s where OSU’s issues really reside this season.
Quarterback Nick Mitchell is the leader now of an inconsistent offense that ranks just 113th in the country. The Beavers average 179.1 yards per game on the ground, but the Utes held Oregon State to just 108 yards last week on 30 attempts. Mitchell threw 35 times, but he averaged less than six yards per attempt. Generally, he will need to be better than that against a UCLA defense that ranks 83rd in the country, giving up 416.6 yards per game. The Bruins are 6-2 and ranked No. 22 in the Associated Press poll because of their offense, obviously.
Mitchell is just a freshman, of course, but UCLA has a freshman quarterback, too. The talent levels are very different in Westwood than they are in Corvallis, and perhaps the QB comparison is the most striking example of that reality. While Seth Collins was more of a double threat at the position for the Beavers, Mitchell is much more one-dimensional—and he needs to prove that one dimension is worth the starting position. If Oregon State can’t move the ball, score and keep its own defense off the field, the team faces another long Saturday afternoon.
The last two weeks (at home against Colorado and on the road against Utah), the Beavers defense has given up just 350 yards per contest. With a season average of 398.5 yards surrendered per game, this does really show a different side to the Oregon State defenders. Even with the proximity in offensive rankings, however, the Bruins are much better than the Buffaloes, and the Beavers really struggled in Utah despite not giving up that much yardage.
If Oregon State struggled to stop Devontae Booker and Travis Wilson on the ground, it will struggle to stop Paul Perkins. If Wilson could complete 82 percent of his throws against the Beavers, then Josh Rosen can probably light up the OSU secondary as well. The home-field boost can really only go so far, as the UCLA offense is just significantly better than anything the Beavers have seen recently when firing on all cylinders.
OSU will have to disrupt that rhythm, pick off some passes and convert them into scores. There’s not much else to be said here for the Beavers and their chances to keep the Bruins down. UCLA averages over 35 points per game, and they’ve been held under that twice, basically, in eight games. Strangely, those two bad games came at home in the Rose Bowl. On the road, the Bruins are posting 42.7 points per contest.
Comparative scores don’t mean much in college football, as emotions run higher and lower than in professional football on a week-to-week basis. However, UCLA beat Colorado by four points at home last week, and Colorado beat Oregon State on the road by four points the week before. Taking into account a standard three-point swing for the home team, those two scores could translate to an approximate five-point victory for the Bruins over the Beavers.
However, until the OSU offense proves it can move the ball and score points—right now the Beavers ranked 115th in scoring at just 19.4 points per game—it’s hard to pick them to win a game. Last week, our score prediction was just two points off. This week, we see UCLA running up the score on the Oregon State defense, on its way to a 45-24 victory. The Beavers will lose their sixth straight; it’s just a matter of by how much.