I’ve been flipping around on this one from the day after Oregon State upset Wisconsin.

There’s no question UCLA is better than expected in its first season under Jim Mora, if for no other reason that redshirt freshman Brett Hundley already is better than any quarterback who existed at Westwood during the Rick Neuheisel era.

Hundley threw for 300-plus yards in back-to-back wins over Nebraska and Houston and leads freshmen nationally in passing yardage. The kid has good feet, too, and Oregon State’s defense has had trouble with such in recent years.

But the Bruins seem better just about everywhere under the coach who was given only one season by Paul Allen with the Seattle Seahawks. Johnathan Franklin is a load at tailback and the 5-11, 195-pound senior is getting good blocking from a large offensive line. The defense has played well enough to get the Bruins to the gate as winners against Rice, Nebraska and Houston.

Oregon State may be better than projected, too, though the sample size is smaller than that of any team in the country. Saturday’s date at the Rose Bowl will be a litmus test to prove a) the Beavers are a top-25 team or b) Wisconsin isn’t very good.

I was struck by something Jordan Poyer said Monday after Oregon State’s practice.

“I don’t think UCLA has seen as many athletes as we’ll put on the field at the same time,” OSU’s senior cornerback said. The Bruins “have great athletes, but we have great athletes to match up to them.”

Such a thing couldn’t have been said about the Beavers the past two seasons. Maybe it’s true now. They certainly look faster on defense, with Dylan Wynn and Scott Crichton at end, D.J. Welch and Michael Doctor at outside linebacker and just about everyone in the secondary. Tailbacks Storm Woods and Malcolm Agnew and a talented receiver group have plenty of athleticism, too.

If the Beavers contain Franklin as they did Wisconsin’s Montee Ball, limit mistakes and turnovers and get their running game going just a little bit more, they will likely win. UCLA’s run defense, in particular, looks vulnerable. And Oregon State has had two weeks to prepare. That’s an advantage.

I’m picking UCLA, though, on the strength of the home field, the Beavers’ lack of game experience and just a hunch that it’s not going to happen the way the Men in Orange hope.

THE PICK: UCLA 30, Oregon State 20

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