21.Sep.2011 UCLA @ Oregon State (Pre-game)
Saturday's game features two coaches at risk of losing both their teams and fan bases. Welcome to the Desperation Bowl, folks.
The Beavers have performed dreadfully under pressure and desperation. And while most fans consider this game winnable, I have doubt for one simple reason: The Beavers now have a mark on their backs; they are thee winnable game on every crappy team's schedule.
You know how the Ducks will get every decent team's best shot? Well, equally, the Beavers will get every crappy team's best shot. There's blood in the water. We already saw this play out versus Sacramento State, and we are going to see it again on Saturday (and vs WSU). Bad teams know they can get one of their few wins versus the Beavers. This has been happening for several years now. It's time we acknowledge and admit it.
So, how do the Beavers counter this? Well, my guess is they won't since they'll be blindsided and clueless that opponents see them in this light. In other words, mentally, the Beavers won't be prepared for their opponent's mindset. No shocker there.
However, emotionally they have an edge. The return of James Rodgers (and Joe Halahuni) should fire up the fans, and that will translate onto the field, for a little while at least. I'm not convinced emotions win games, though. In fact, I'd say emotions tend to lead to irrational or distracting behavior that's counter-productive.
In terms of football matchups, I think the Beavers advantage is at wide receiver. The UCLA corners tend to play off the ball, so quick passes with run-after-catch could be effective, especially given the Beavers speed at the position. However, I can also see the Bruin corners showing that look to bait Mannion and then jumping the route. Dare I predict the UCLA secondary returns an INT for a TD? Hmm not quite, but watch out for it. Additionally, will Langsdorf even have the awareness to take advantage of soft corners? It's hard to have faith in that.
The Beavers run game is shot. Jordan Jenkins isn't a legit Pac-12 back. Ward has shown nothing. Clear advantage to UCLA's run game and their defensive line here. The Bruins issue is at QB, but the Beavers aren't much better there. UCLA is also considering using their mobile, redshirt frosh QB. Ruh roh.
I think the Beavers can ride the emotional high for a quarter or two, but in the end the lack of preparation and mental fortitude once again prove the bane of this team's existence. The Beavers simply don't have tough players. They don't have leaders. They've assumed the identity of their coach. As bad as Neuheisel is, he has more passion and intensity, and thus I give him the edge. The Bruins secondary will bait Mannion and his slow delivery into several interceptions, and their run game will produce just enough.
Until the Beavers show me discipline and mental fortitude, I cannot predict a win. The Bruins come to Reser confidently believing "Hey, we can win this game" while the Beavers are hoping for the best while thinking "we don't want to screw it up and choke again", and that difference in mentally is all it takes to determine an outcome.