A suddenly resurgent UCLA team that is tied for the lead in the Pac-10 might seem like the last thing struggling Washington State needs right now.
But history shows that maybe the Bruins are just the team for the Cougars to face this week.
UCLA has rarely had much fun in the Palouse in recent years, losing five of the seven times it has journeyed there (though the last visit was a victory, a hard-fought 44-41 OT win in 2005).
And WSU has won five of the last six against the Bruins overall, including a 37-15 win last year in Pasadena.
That was the last time the Cougars had much to feel good about. They improved to 6-3 after that win and were ranked No. 25 in the nation. But they lost the following week at home to Arizona to begin a three-game, season-ending losing streak, and they have lost eight of 10 overall and all seven Pac-10 games they have played since then.
WSU coach Bill Doba has no real handle on why the Cougars have had such success against the Bruins of late. He is more worried about how his team will react after a series of tough losses, the most recent a 53-7 shellacking at Oregon on Oct. 13.
The team had last weekend off before returning to practice Oct. 22, and Doba said the team put in a "spirited" workout.
"I see a lot of good things," he said. "I really do."
If there is a matchup that favors WSU, it is its passing game against UCLA's defense. WSU has thrown for 18 touchdowns this season, the most in the Pac-10, while UCLA has allowed 15, tied for the second-most.
The Cougars defense again will get tested on the ground, however, as the Bruins have become even more run-oriented since Ben Olson went down with an injury and was replaced by Patrick Cowan.
What might also give WSU hope is UCLA's propensity for turning in some real clinkers when favored, such as a 44-6 loss at Utah and the home defeat against Notre Dame.
"I see a talented team," Doba said. "A defense that has been more physical than what we've seen in the past from them. I think they've just had some bad breaks in two ballgames that they've played, but that they've played pretty well in the others."
Copyright (C) 2007 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.