The Cougars and Bruins basically turned in polar opposite performances last week. Expected to compete well with one of the weaker teams on their schedule, after a good showing against Stanford the Cougars got obliterated against Utah while the Bruins embarrassed an Arizona team that was among the hottest in the country and now find themselves alone atop the Pac-12 South.
With this in mind, Saturday looks like it could be a nightmare situation for the Cougars, but they can find some hope in the fact that UCLA has been one of the most inconsistent teams in the conference in recent history, including this year to an extent. No team in the Pac-12 seems to play well one week and then not show up the next more than UCLA (Okay, maybe Washington). The Cougars should hope that the Bruins end up putting on the same performance that they did when they played at Cal earlier in the year and turned the ball over six times on the way to a confounding 43-17 loss. But these aren't Rick Neuheisel's Bruins, and they will be hungry to prove that they are past let down games and inconsistent play. So taking them down will be a tall task.
The best news for the Cougars going into the game might be the weather report. The game has a 7:30 p.m. start and the low in Pullman for Saturday is forecast as 19 degrees with snow expected to fall the night before. Yes, I know that a very large portion of Washington State's roster is made up of players from California, but I have a hard time believing that the bone chilling temperatures won't affect the team that practices in Westwood more than it will affect the team that practices on the Palouse.
I remember a fairly good and undefeated in conference, UCLA team coming up to Pullman in 2006 to face a losing Cougar team just a week after beating a Top 15 team and getting absolutely hammered 27-7 in a miserable weather game. The Bruins simply looked like they didn't want to be there and more than one player was quoted afterwards complaining about how cold and desolate their entire experience on the Palouse was. I'm sure Mora's boys are probably a little tougher than Karl Dorrell's, but this recent history is one of the few positives I can think of for the Cougars at the moment.
The good news about this is that the weather might help in slowing down the Bruins offense, but at the same time, it might slow down the Cougars offense even more as the Bruins have the ability to grind it out on the ground and the Cougars average a comically abysmal 29 yards per game rushing. So the home field advantage like weather might actually end up being more detrimental to the Cougars than the Bruins.
Weather aside, there aren't many reasons to think that the Cougars will win Saturday, or even really keep it close. The Bruins are a tough defensive team with the best running game outside of Oregon that can really control a game and all the Cougars can really do is try to air it out without their most talented receiver who will not only be out, but on a suspension that could affect the morale of the entire team.
All things considered, it's unlikely that the Cougars will be able to put up much of a fight once again - rain, shine or even snow.