Oram: Oregon State defense is what we expected from Utes

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

We heard all about the defense: The front four that would be dominant and the smothering linebackers.

We knew that defense as described existed, we just didn't know it lived in Corvallis, Ore.

Utah fans were spoon-fed the idea that Utah's defensive line would be perhaps the best in the nation, that teams would not be able to run on tackle Star Lotulelei or young ends Nate Fakahafua and Joe Kruger. The secondary (which in Utah's defense, we still haven't seen at full strength) has been an easy target for opponents.

But this isn't about Utah's defensive struggles. It's about the team from which everyone expected little.

Oregon State is 2-0, a record that doesn't tell us as much as you would expect from an undefeated team at this point in the season. But in those two weeks, the Beavers have beaten Wisconsin, which was ranked No. 13 at the time, and No. 19 UCLA last week at the Rose Bowl.

For the Beavers, it all starts with the defense.

After shutting down Heisman Trophy candidates Montee Ball and Johnathan Franklin in their two games, the Beavers appears to be at or near the top in the conference in defense. The Beavers are No. 2 in scoring defense, rush defense and pass defense. Their opponents have converted just four of 29 third downs.

"They've got some really active and tough football players defensively," Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said.

He should know. His offense — high-powered before its disastrous weekend versus Oregon — is the next opportunity Oregon State has to prove itself.

For Oregon State, the defense begins with D-ends Scott Crichton and Dylan Wynn, who collapsed on UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley and didn't allow him the time needed to exploit the Beavers' secondary (its largest liability).

With the Beavers, we carry a healthy dose of skepticism, despite the impressive results. Each of their wins has come after two weeks of preparation. Don't coaches, usually in bowl season, preach that any team can rise up to topple a superior opponent?

While Arizona is perhaps the least impressive of the three teams the Beavers will have played, it could be the Beavers' biggest test. Playing in Tucson on a special Saturday night for the Wildcats (copper helmets and all), the Beavers will have the opportunity to display whether they are true contenders in the Pac-12 North (or at least for second place in the North), or if they will join the parade of Pac-12 teams to rise to the Top 25 and quickly fall out.

UCLA remembers what that was like. It can thank Oregon State.


Twitter: @oramb