What to watch: No. 22 UCLA at Oregon State

Jim Mora has never beaten Oregon State. This is not because the Beavers have been at the top of the Pac-12, or that they have held some special insight in how to exploit UCLA’s game plans. The two teams simply haven’t played each other since 2012.

OSU was the team that handed Mora his first loss with the Bruins, delivering a 27-20 upset at the Rose Bowl in his fourth game as a college football coach.

That was before anyone realized that UCLA was on the ascent, en route to a 29 wins in three seasons — including three straight over rival USC. Before anyone realized that Mike Riley, thought by many to be a Corvallis lifer, would win just 19 more games with the Beavers before leaving to Nebraska.

Oregon State hosts UCLA (6-2, 3-2) at 1:30 p.m. today in the midst of a difficult first season under Gary Andersen. Despite the 51-year-old’s success at Wisconsin and Utah State, he has yet to guide the Beavers (2-6, 0-5) to a win over a Pac-12 opponent.

When UCLA has the ball

In his six years as Utah’s defensive coordinator, Kalani Sitake orchestrated what was perennially one of the most aggressive and effective schemes west of the Rocky Mountains. Through his tenure, the Utes averaged more than 35 sacks per season, peaking last year with an FBS-leading 55 sacks.

Getting Oregon State to that level will take some time. Continue reading “What to watch: No. 22 UCLA at Oregon State” »

Five questions: The Oregonian’s Gina Mizell on Oregon State

UCLA appears to have found its course again after back-to-back losses in October, and is now riding consecutive victories over Cal and Colorado. The Bruins still have their issues — the most glaring of which is a banged-up defense — but Saturday’s trip to Oregon State gives them a chance to build momentum into the final stretch of the season. The Oregonian‘s Gina Mizell answered five questions about the Beavers, who are still searching for their first conference win under new head coach Gary Andersen.

1. What are the biggest changes that Gary Andersen has instituted in the program since taking over after Mike Riley’s departure?

For starters, he changed the base scheme on both offense and defense. OSU is now running a spread offense that requires a dual-threat quarterback, rather than the pro-style system that the Beavers ran under Riley. The defense has also switched from a 4-3 base to a 3-4 (though you’ll still see a fair amount of packages with four down linemen and/or five defensive backs). Philosophically, Andersen’s motto is “Players make plays. Players win games.” Not saying that Riley’s staff did not put the players first, but Andersen really, really emphasizes that. He’s also tried to instill toughness and accountability with this young team, and has noted multiple times this season that the grind was going to test certain players’ commitment and if Pac-12 football was truly for them. Obviously, all of this has not translated to a whole bunch of wins this season, but the coaches still believe in the foundation they are building.

2. How does Oregon State’s offense change with Nick Mitchell at quarterback instead of Seth Collins?

Mitchell obviously is not as dynamic as a runner as Collins, but he’s athletic enough to still run the zone-read and scramble on the fly if necessary. Continue reading “Five questions: The Oregonian’s Gina Mizell on Oregon State” »