This Saturday, the UCLA Bruins return home to take on the Oregon State Beavers. To get a better idea of how things are going up in Corvallis, I sent some questions over to Travis Johannes at our sister site Building the Dam and he was kind enough to answer them.
1. Oregon State seems improved over recent years. Is that just our eyes deceiving us or is there noticeable improvement?
Travis Johannes: In my opinion, this is the best team we have fielded in three years, which obviously isn’t saying much, but there is definite progress. Unfortunately, the record hasn’t entirely reflected that progress. You can look back at the Stanford and Hawai'i games and find a play or two here or there that completely changes the outcome. There is still a lot of room for growth, but I think this game is a big chance to get some momentum.
Our fearless leader at BTD, Marcus Russell actually just broke down some of the improvements in this column. (Editor's note: Go check this out. It basically helped me get a good read on OSU prior to the game).
2. Oregon State’s offense seems to be very good, ranking 21st in Offensive SP+ after Week 5. What stands out about the offense to this point?
Travis: The Luton to Hodgins connection has been absurdly productive and the Beavs have two NFL running backs in Jermar Jefferson, if healthy, and Artavis Pierce. The offensive line play is improved as well. The only issue with the offense is the fact that it tends to be a little streaky. The two 3-point losses both saw the offense look great for a half and disappear in the other.
3. I’ve seen rumors of Oregon State making a switch at QB despite the offense’s performance so far. Is there any truth to these rumors, or do people just not like Jake Luton for some reason?
Travis: I don’t see it happening and I don’t think Jake Luton has done anything that warrants benching. In my opinion, there are two main reasons people want to see him hit the bench. The first reason is the backup, Tristan Gebbia, was fairly hyped coming over via transfer from Nebraska. He is thought to be the future at the position, so some want to see him get the chance to develop. I get that reasoning to a degree, but at this point, I think the coaching staff should still put out the QB who gives them the best chance to win, which I believe is Luton. (Full disclosure I was on Team Gebbia preseason, but I haven’t seen anything from him in his limited time to suggest he is at the level of Luton at this point). The second reason is people are unwilling to admit they were wrong about Luton. I know I was and many (completely unfairly) blame him for the fact that Marcus McMaryion transferred a few years back and had great success at Fresno State.
4. The Oregon State defense seems that it has been a problem so far. What should UCLA fans know about this unit going into the game?
Travis: The defense is improved from a year ago but it is definitely still the weak link. The past few years the front seven has been a huge issue while the DB’s were adequate. This year, the script has flipped. The front seven has improved and the defensive backfield has struggled mightily.
5. Prediction for the game?
Travis: This is 100% hope mixed with bias, but I am going to say the Beavs get the W, 35-32.
6. We have a final question in our Roundtables called the Extra Point, where you can talk about anything. So here’s the Extra Point - Sound off!
Travis: Yo, State of California, I wanna say kudos on the recent passing of the law to allow student-athletes to benefit from their own likeness. While I can definitely understand both sides of the schools paying players’ argument, I don’t understand the thought that athletes shouldn’t be able to benefit from their own name or image. I think this will start an avalanche with several states following suit to the point where the NCAA has to compromise. Some argue that it will be the end of amateurism and competitive balance, but those went out the window years ago when boosters started pouring millions of dollars into athletic departments, coaches started making absurd salaries, and gargantuan TV contracts were handed out to every conference except the Pac-12 (Way to go, Larry). Also, if this leads to them bringing back the NCAA video games, then it’s all worth it. Screw amateurism. I’m going to bring a virtual national title to Corvallis.
Again, thanks to Travis Johannes from Building the Dam for taking the time to answer our questions and being one of our SBN friends on Twitter. Go check out their site to get caught up on the game from an Oregon State perspective, and check out our answers to their questions.