Welcome back to Bruins Nation’s opponent preview series for the 2019 UCLA Bruins football season! We are taking a look at an upcoming opponent this year, examining their strengths and weaknesses, and making a bold prediction regarding the outcome.
It’s time to take a look at UCLA’s sixth opponent: the Oregon State Beavers.
Oregon State was bad last year. The end.
Ok, I’ll talk a bit more about it.
Last year was head coach Johnathan Smith’s first year at the helm of the school he had led to a 11-1 record in 2001 and, to be absolutely fair to him, he was walking into an awful situation. Mike Riley got out of Dodge before people realized he was mailing it in during his final few seasons and the coup of grabbing Gary Andersen from Wisconsin turned out to be a curse, as he voluntarily left midway through a 1-11 season in 2017.
The good news for Smith is that the team got “better” in 2018, going 2-10. The bad news is that the defense regressed last year, which is impressive considering the 2017 defense was already one of the worst seen in the last 10+ years. Opponents averaged 45.6 points per game against the Beavers, which gives you an idea of how the games went. The losses weren’t very close — only one of the ten losses was by less than 14 points. The offense looked better compared to the defense, but even that took a step back from 2017. All in all, it wasn’t a great first year for Smith and the Beavers.
Normally, I would start this section by talking about the quarterbacks, but the true headliner for Oregon State is running back Jermar Jefferson. Jefferson ran for 1380 yards last year, a solid number considering he had to carry the offensive load while the Beavers ran through three different quarterbacks last year. Unfortunately, he loses the support of a number of offensive linemen from last year. So, things could be worse for Jefferson in 2019.
Another thing that could hurt Jefferson is uncertainty at quarterback. Jake Luton, who has won the starting job the past few years, is back but, after missing time due to both spinal and ankle injuries in the past two years, you almost have to assume he’ll miss some time this year. Jack Costello saw the field and is returning as well, though he has a worse arm than Luton. Nebraska transfer Tristan Gebbia joins the group this year and has a shot to push for playing time this year.
The receiver corps isn’t much to write home about. Isaiah Hodgins had a productive year whenever Luton was on the field, as did Trevon Bradford, but neither receiver is a threat in the way that some of the premier receivers in the conference are.
So, good news (I guess): mostly everyone from last year’s defense is back! That’s something, right?
Like I said, the Oregon State defense was awful last year. So, the hope in Corvallis has to be that a year of development and comfort with the new defensive system will lead to improvement. There is some new talent here. For example, former UCLA recruiting target and Oklahoma linebacker Addison Gumbs has landed up here but, in general, there’s just a lot of players who got plenty of exercise in 2018 and will probably do so again. If you’re looking for a name to remember, linebacker Hamilcar Rashed Jr. is probably the one you’d want, as he led the Beavers in tackles for loss last year.
I’m not going to pretend UCLA doesn’t win this game, sorry.
Ok, UCLA could absolutely lose this game. Like, that is always in the realm of possibility, especially if everything goes amazing for the Beavers while things break bad for the Bruins. It wouldn’t be the first time that’s ever happened.
But it won’t. UCLA wins 42-20.