Welcome to Pregame Guesses. The UCLA football team sits 3-6, having to win its last three games to become bowl eligible. A daunting task considering recent history. First up is Oregon State (2-7) at the Rose Bowl tomorrow evening at 6 p.m. PT.
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I am sick and tired of this four game losing streak. It’s worse that being blown out.
As Nakatomi has pointed out around the middle of the fourth quarter every week for the past four weeks, UCLA will tease you just enough to allow that winning mentality to creep in . . . and then promptly crush your soul. That's worse than complete domination where it is clear your team has no chance.
It’s time for a break. Will the Oregon State Beavers offer that respite? UCLA football sure don’t need no more trouble.
"No more trouble" is a great and simple yet elegant song from Bob Marley and The Wailers' 1973 album "Catch a Fire." It seems not only apropos for UCLA football at this point in time, but may, for many, have larger connotations at this same point in time. Let's get to the Guesses.
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I want to first talk about special teams, a unit that doesn’t get enough attention in PGG. It is getting attention this week because I can’t say I have ever experienced a UCLA team that was this bad in all phases of special teams.
Long returns for touchdowns, poor and/or short punts, missed field goals, musical punters and kickers, false starts on punts (really?!?), penalties on returns. About the only positive has been that UCLA has made some good returns a few times. At least Coach Mora has announced that J. J. Molson and Austin Kent will be the kicker and punter for the remainder of the season, ending the merry-go-round in that respect.
Special teams as a whole is hard to quantify, but here is the metric for this week’s first guess:
- A kick return of 40 or more yards=contributing to a touchdown.
- A punt return of 20 or more yards=contributing to a touchdown.
- This amount of yards also takes into consideration a penalty on the play. So if a UCLA punt return of 10 yards is aided by a 15 yard unsportsmanlike penalty on Oregon State, the 20 yard punt return threshold has been exceeded and, if UCLA drives for a touchdown, the special teams would be entitled to 7 points for "contributing to a score."
- Since a field goal is already entitled to 3 points, there is no double dipping for contributing to a field goal.
- The metric applies to both UCLA and Oregon State.
PREGAME GUESS #1: With the metric in mind, how many points will UCLA’s special teams score or contribute to a touchdown using the above-referenced metric? How many points will Oregon State’s special teams score or contribute to a touchdown using the same metric? The difference between the two will yield a net positive or negative of UCLA’s special teams against the Beavers.
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As stated by Anteaters&Bruins in BN’s preview of the Oregon State offense, the Beavers have major issues on that side of the ball, including but not limited to, the following:
- The Beavers will be starting their third string quarterback;
- Oregon State’s offensive line has been decimated by injuries and circumstances outside of football, and some players are playing new positions;
- OSU's every down running played tight end last year (although he broke the 200 yard barrier this season in an overtime win, 47-44, at home against UC Berkeley); and
- The Beavers do not have a star wide receiver, although several players are having decent seasons.
Last year, UCLA’s defense, which we can all agree was a lesser version of this year’s squad, pitched a shut out against the Beavers in Corvallis.
Can UCLA keep a more-than-underwhelming Oregon State offense off the scoreboard this season? The UCLA defense is much better but the offense or the special teams could gift the Beavers points, either directly or through field position. PREGAME GUESS #2: How many points will Oregon State score?
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Takkarist McKinley is a beast. He is having a breakout season and, knock on wood, appears to have potentially played himself into being a first round draft pick. He is a joy to watch--one of the few bright spots this season--and I can’t wait to see him tearing it up in the pros.
Despite missing time early in the season due to injury, McKinley has nine sacks on the season, 40 tackles, and 3 forced fumbles. All of the forced fumbles came in the last two games, in which McKinley has 13 tackles and five sacks.
Usually drawing a double team himself, Eddie Vanderdoes makes it tough for anybody else to double team McKinley, who can take most tackles one-on-one. Oregon State’s line is battered. It could be Takk’s third straight game in "one-man-wrecking-crew mode." PREGAME GUESS #3: Predict the number of tackles, sacks, and forced fumbles that Takkarist McKinley will cause in the Oregon State game.
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UCLA has lost four straight. Many have written off the season already, with the exception of beating Southern Cal at home next weekend. Barring a miracle three-game winning streak to end the season, the Bruins will miss out on a bowl game for the first time in the Jim Mora ear. The fan draw of Josh Rosen is not there. Sorry, Scotty, but Oregon State is not a big draw at the Rose Bowl either. Further, UCLA fans cannot wear brown bags over their heads in the stands because of Rose Bowl’s clear bag policy. All signs point to a low turnout. Will UCLA fans prove me wrong? BONUS GUESS: In light of these factors, what will be the attendance at the Rose Bowl this Saturday?
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Finally, we have the Crowd's Line prediction widget to let you predict the final score of the game.
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I hope that you enjoyed this week’s Pregame Guesses. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.
For those of you going to the Rose Bowl tomorrow, enjoy the game and be safe!