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Pregame Guesses: Oregon State Beavers Edition

Stephen Dunn - Getty Images

Pearl Jam And The Supersuckers! (via rontrose)

(This week’s video honors Jim Mora with two of Seattle’s best – The Supersuckers and Pearl Jam – dueting on Neil Young’s "Keep On Rockin’ In the Free World.")

What do 1998, 2000, 2001, 2005, and 2009 have in common?

(Take your time, I’m going to watch the video again … lyrics … lyrics … okay, I’m back)

Did you know?

Did you guess?

You’re right, it’s the last five times UCLA opened the season with three straight wins.

If you’re keeping track, that’s three for Bob Toledo in seven seasons, one for Karl Dorrell in five and one for Rick Neuheisel over four years. (To save you time, the last time Terry Donahue did it was 1988, which means that only seven times in twenty-four season have the Bruins gone into Game Four without a loss.)

Jim Mora is one for one.

In ’98, Toledo ran his 3-0 start to 10-0, before that team lost its last two to Miami and Wisconsin. The 2000 team lost game four (and its last three) on its way to a 6-6 finish. The ’01 team got to 6-0, then lost at Stanford and ended up 7-4. Dorrell’s lone 3-0 season got all the way to 8-0, then got shellacked 52-14 at Arizona, finishing 10-2 (the other loss was to USC, the only time we beat our rivals during the combined Dorrell/Neuheisel era). Neuheisel’s singular 3-0 squad followed ended up losing its next five and finished 7-6, the seventh victory coming against Temple in an oh-so-memorable EagleBank Bowl game.

Now, Jim Mora’s first Bruins team is 3-0 and all he’s concerned about is Oregon State.

Focus, you know. One game at a time.

Except that we’re fans, not coaches or players, and it really doesn’t matter if we just hone in on the Beavers or if we start worrying about the game against Texas in Cowboys Stadium in 2014. (Prediction: We win 30-27 in overtime. Texas will get the ball first in OT and kick a field goal after Ellis McCarthy holds his ground on a quarterback sneak; we’ll counter with a touchdown pass from Brett Hundley to redshirt freshman tackle Kenny Lacy who will report in as eligible on a third and goal from the two. You might want to bookmark this.)

That one game at a time thing often feels like and sounds like "coach speak." It’s sort of like a football cliché. You don’t really hear that in, say, baseball, where a manager seems to have no problem analyzing an upcoming road trip by declaring his team needs a split or a home stand that requires winning two out of three in each series.

I suppose it’s the nature of football. It’s once a week schedule limits the schedule to a dozen games or so, each contest in turn magnified in importance. Let’s face it, as our reeling crosstown rivals bitterly understand, a single loss can derail an entire season.

As a result, it behooves Jim Mora to recite the one game at a time mantra. While some of our past coaches seemed prone to reciting similar bromides with faux enthusiasm, simply pleased to echo memorized platitudes, Mora’s claims feel matter of fact, as in, there is no other way to approach a season.

But I can’t help but look at the next stretch of games as a whole as the conference season commences and expectations begin to morph with reality.

Oregon State kicks off a three game run at home, then we go on the road for a pair featuring trips to Boulder and Berkeley. Quite frankly all three games seem very winnable. We opened as a double-digit favorite against OSU, with heavy Beaver action (yes, I just typed "Heavy Beaver Action." If I put that in the headline, it would really improve our SEO) betting the line down to about a touchdown. The Colorado/Cal spreads should open even bigger.

But what does Vegas know? If Vegas is so smart, why is it in Nevada? I don’t know. But I do know Vegas knows enough to suggest that a 6-0 start seems really in the realm of possibility. And I don’t remember the last time I thought that. I really think it was 1998, when we entered the season on the ten game win streak that closed out 1997.

But now, even I feel like I’m getting ahead of myself.

Of the next three contests, Oregon State seems to pose the most serious threat. They’ve had a game cancelled this year due to inclement weather, so they come into the Rose Bowl a mere 1-0. But that "1" came against Wisconsin and while I’ve heard a few Bruin fans dismiss it because the Badgers are down this year, the Badgers are never that down and to me it represents a legit victory.

I’ve also heard a few UCLA fans speculate that the Beavers one game season translates into them not being sharp, which gives us an advantage with three games already played. I’m not so sure that’s the case. If anything, I’m concerned that Mora and his staff have only one game of film to look at, while Mike Riley has twelve quarters of UCLA game film to peruse. That advantage might eclipse any rust Oregon State is still trying to shake off.

Speaking of Riley, this might be the first time since 2002 that we faced him and didn’t speculate on what might have been had Dan Guerrero hired him instead of Karl Dorrell. The more I consider that, the better is sounds. For the first time in a decade, we’re not wondering if Oregon State hired the guy we should have hired.

I like Riley. But I like Mora, too. A month ago, I liked the potential of Mora. Now, I like the reality.

We’re 3-0. We’re going for four.

And that just doesn’t happen all too often.

If feels pretty good.

With that, here are your Pregame Guesses, Oregon State Edition:

  1. Which number will be higher, Datone Jones' total tackles or Joe Fauria's receptions?
  2. UCLA is currently a seven point favorite. So, I'm making the halftime spread UCLA -3.5. Are you taking the Bruins or the Beavers at the 30 minute mark?
  3. In honor of the NFL's replacement refs, which team will have more penalty yards in the game?