Both UCLA and Oregon State already have marquee victories under their respective belts heading into one of the most underrated games of Week 4. The Bruins knocked off Nebraska in Week 2, while the Beavers are coming off a win over Wisconsin.
It's only the second game of the season for Oregon State, which had its opener against Nicholls State postponed. The Beavers showed no signs of rust against the Badgers, though, and should be in good shape after a bye week.
The Bruins should be feeling awfully good about themselves. Not many people were talking about them heading into the season, but their play speaks for itself so far. They have some big games on the schedule, so they will make an impact before season's end.
Here's a look at the key information you need to know before Saturday's clash, followed by a preview and prediction as Oregon State visits UCLA.
Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
When: Saturday, Sept. 22 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Watch: ABC or ESPN2 (regional) and ESPN3.com
Listen: KEX 1190 AM (Oregon State) or KLAC 570 AM (UCLA)
Betting Line: UCLA (-10) (Vegas Insider)
Injury Report (via USA Today)
Clayton York (questionable, undisclosed)
Anthony Watkins (questionable, hip)
Brett Hundley (questionable, ankle)
Ian Taubler (questionable, ankle)
Key Storyline: Is UCLA for Real?
The Bruins turned a lot of heads when they upended Taylor Martinez and Nebraska. Now that they have cracked the Top 25, there are more people paying attention to their games on a weekly basis. It will be interesting to see how they handle the added pressure.
Since UCLA doesn't face another ranked team until Arizona in early November, the opportunity is there for them to put together a terrific season. The Bruins pose a tough challenge because they can control the pace with their running game.
Facing an Oregon State squad that already has a win over a ranked team will be a good measuring stick. It's a home game in front of a national-television audience, which should give fans a good indication of what the Bruins are made of.
Top 25 Implications
It's pretty straight forward for this game: The winning team will be ranked, and the losing team won't.
UCLA currently sits at No. 19 in the AP poll, and Oregon State was the first team out of the rankings based on total points.
The only disappointing thing for the Bruins, if they win, is that it won't count toward the popular “wins over ranked teams” stat. Regardless, it would be a quality win and should allow them to move up a couple spots.
What They Are Saying
Oregon State head coach Mike Riley knows his team is in a weird spot given the schedule quirks, but he won't allow his team to let it affect them, based on a report from Yahoo! Sports:
"I don’t know what to think about it anymore," OSU coach Mike Riley said of the odd schedule. "It is what it is right now. We’ll just take the bye."
UCLA has allowed some strong starts to evaporate in recent seasons. It's something head coach Jim Mora says that he is attempting to avoid in 2012 (via Baxter Holmes of the Los Angeles Times):
When you're on track or off track, it's about maintaining focus so you can either get back on track or stay on track. So that's what we're going to do.
Oregon State Player To Watch: Sean Mannion
Mannion started his season on a high note by completing 62 percent of his passes for 276 yards and a touchdown against a tough Badgers defense. The Beavers threw the ball 47 times as opposed to just 30 runs, making their offensive approach crystal clear.
Luckily, Mannion has no shortage of potential targets, led by wide receivers Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks. They combined to catch 14 passes for over 160 yards in the team's opener and should be the main targets moving forward.
In order to pull off another upset, Mannion will have to maximize every possession the Beavers get. The Bruins will attempt to keep Oregon State off the field with long drives, making efficiency the key to success.
UCLA Player To Watch: Johnathan Franklin
Franklin leads the nation in rushing through three weeks with 541 yards. He has topped the 200-yard mark twice already and has scored four total touchdowns, including one on a reception, showing off his versatility.
The senior is averaging more than eight yards per carry and has the game-breaking ability every coach looks for in a running back. He's the type of player that can make up for other deficiencies throughout the roster by carrying the offense on his back.
If there's one thing to worry about, it's Franklin's workload. He has touched the ball nearly 30 times in each of the past two games, which could lead to fatigue as the season wears on.
He should be fine for now, though.
Key Matchup: Oregon State Run Defense vs. UCLA Running Game
Oregon State held Wisconsin superstar Montee Ball to 61 yards on 15 carries and no touchdowns. By shutting down the Badgers' biggest playmaker, it gave the Beavers offense enough time to get points on the board against Wisconsin's tough defense.
The same plan will be in place this week. The Bruins are going to run Franklin as much as possible, so it will be up to the Beavers run defense to step up again to keep it close. It's a battle that will be won in the trenches.
If Franklin's allowed to run wild like he has in the first three weeks, UCLA should win handily. Oregon State can't let that happen if it wants another upset victory.
UCLA 27, Oregon State 14