UCLA Heads To Oregon State For Tough Road Matchup

An interesting ranked matchup is on the horizon this week for UCLA as the 18th-ranked Bruins head to Corvallis to take on the 15th-ranked Beavers. Jonathan Smith has done a great job building at Oregon State, and this may be his best team yet. Oregon State plays great defense and is always a tough out at home, and DJ Uiagalelei was a nice addition for them at quarterback.

But more interesting–and honestly, unexpected–is what the Bruins look like at this point in the season. Typically, the Chip Kelly-coached Bruins have been a good offensive team and a poor defensive team. They score a lot of points, and they give up a lot of points. That lack of defense has ultimately been their downfall in recent years, particularly when they go up against elite competition.

But this year’s team has been different. Since conference play has begun, the UCLA offense–and in particular, their passing game, led by 18-year-old Dante Moore–has not looked good at all. But the defense has looked borderline elite. UCLA has not allowed more than 17 points a game this season.

It’s a breath of fresh air for Bruins fans, who have been tired of watching their defense lose the Pac-12 for them. There have been plenty of examples of this, but none is more apparent than the inability of the Bruins to get a stop against USC and Caleb Williams last year, in a game they lost 48-45. And of course, after, that, the Bruins defense gave up a massive comeback to a Pitt team playing mostly backups in their bowl matchup.

There’s no doubt about it that the D’Anton Lynn hire seems to be a good one, and certainly was a hire that inspired much more confidence than those of Jerry Azzinaro and Bill McGovern. But again, on the flip side, the UCLA offense has not looked nearly as good as it has in years past. This has been a surprise to me. Dante Moore is of course, quite young, but considering his recruiting profile and his hot start to the season, I expected better. It’s one thing to struggle at Utah, but Moore followed it up with another clunker last week at the Rose Bowl vs Wazzu. He did help give the Bruins the lead, but he still struggled overall with accuracy and decision-making. The arm talent is there, but the nuance is not.

I tend to be skeptical that UCLA can beat USC without putting up a lot of points on the board. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. For now, UCLA is in an interesting position against Oregon State, a team whose identity they now mirror somewhat. Both of these teams run the ball and play defense well, and both of them have talented but inconsistent quarterbacks.

I’d expect this game to be a low-scoring, defensive battle. Oregon State is favored by 3.5, which sounds about right to me. UCLA hasn’t shown enough on offense yet, and they typically don’t play great on the road. Oregon State, meanwhile, is tough to beat at home. I don’t expect either quarterback to light it up, but I think the QB who messes up the least is most likely to come away with the win. These teams are about evenly matched, and it should be a good game and a good test for both of them.