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Oregon State vs. UCLA Football Prediction and Preview

Oregon State vs. UCLA Football Prediction and Preview

Oregon State vs. UCLA Prediction and Preview

Is Oregon State finally poised to turn a corner in Pac-12 play when it hosts UCLA on Saturday?

That's a relevant question facing the Beavers (1-3, 0-1 Pac-12) after a fourth-quarter rally came up short in a 31-28 loss to Stanford. Oregon State trailed 21-0 late in the third quarter before scoring four touchdowns in a 15-minute stretch. The Beavers tied it up 28-28 on a 1-yard run from Artavis Pierce with 1:55 left before Jet Toner's 39-yard field goal with a second remaining helped the Cardinal escape. Oregon State has one win in its last 19 league contests but seems on the cusp of climbing the ladder.

The Bruins (1-4, 1-1) came back down to Earth after falling 20-17 to Arizona. UCLA's struggles on offense resurfaced against the Wildcats. The Bruins did not score over the final 15 minutes after taking a 17-13 lead into the fourth quarter. Outside of a 67-point outburst against Washington State — fueled in part by excellent special teams play and an opportunistic defense — UCLA has had difficulty getting much done on offense. The Bruins have scored 59 total points in four losses.

UCLA leads the all-time series 43-16-4 and has won four of its last five games against Oregon State. The Beavers last beat the Bruins in 2012, which also marks their most recent road victory in the series.

Oregon State at UCLA

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 5 at 9 p.m. ET

TV: Pac-12 Networks

Spread: UCLA -5.5

When Oregon State Has the Ball

A persistent ground attack is the bread and butter for the Beavers on offense. Oregon State ranks third in the Pac-12 with 213.0 rushing yards per game. It has helped open up the passing game where the Beavers rank sixth in the league with 269.5 yards per contest.

Artavis Pierce and Jermar Jefferson have the potential to be an effective one-two punch in the backfield. Pierce stepped up after ankle problems caused Jefferson to not play against FCS opponent Cal Poly and see limited plays against Stanford. The senior totaled 141 yards and two touchdowns against the Cardinal. Pierce is averaging 8.4 yards per carry — the best among all Pac-12 running backs. Jefferson totaled 270 yards on 47 carries in his first two games before injuring his ankle and is expected to play against the Bruins.

Jake Luton has found a way to stay healthy thus far. Having a pair of top-notch runners in the backfield should make it easier for the senior quarterback to give UCLA something to worry about. Luton has thrown for 1,012 yards and nine touchdowns. Luton is one of three starting quarterbacks in the league — along with Utah's Tyler Huntley and Oregon's Justin Herbert — who has not thrown an interception yet this season.

When UCLA Has the Ball

It seemed like the Bruins finally turned a corner on offense against Washington State after putting up 50 second-half points. That all feels like a mirage now after struggling to move the ball against Arizona a week later.

A leg injury knocked quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson out of the game against the Wildcats and his status remains uncertain heading into Saturday. Thompson-Robinson practiced with the Bruins on Wednesday but had limited reps. He has thrown for 1,243 yards and 11 touchdowns through five games, but has totaled 200 or more passing yards in only two of those contests. If Thompson-Robinson can't go, Austin Burton will likely get the start. Burton threw for 48 yards on 5-of-9 passing in the fourth quarter of the loss to Arizona.

The Bruins need to get something going in their backfield to inject life into the offense. They rank 10th among Pac-12 teams in rushing offense with 120.2 yards per contest. UCLA has scored four rushing touchdowns in five games. Joshua Kelley is a capable runner when healthy. Kelley has tallied 321 yards and a pair of TDs on the ground in four games. He had his first 100-yard game of the season against Arizona and is averaging 4.6 yards per carry over the last two weeks.

Final Analysis

UCLA has played approximately two quarters of good football on offense this season. The Bruins are a mess on that side of the ball. Oregon State is mediocre on defense, but the Beavers have progressed quite a bit from a year ago when that unit couldn't stop any team with a pulse from reaching the end zone. This game will be another close one for both teams, but UCLA looks like it has a slight edge at the moment to finish as the Pac-12's worst team in 2019.

College football rankings: Oregon State

Prediction: Oregon State 31, UCLA 28

— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.

(Top photo by Karl Maasdam/Oregon State Athletics)