All eyes will be on Chip Kelly when the UCLA Bruins begin their season on September first against Cincinnati. After taking the 2017 season off, Kelly has returned to the Pac-12, a conference he dominated while at Oregon.
The Bruins, who have won six or more games in six of the past seven seasons, will also be breaking in a new quarterback and hoping to win a bowl game for the first time since 2014.
Bruins 2018 regular season win total
UCLA 2018 regular season win total
Over 5.5 (-125)
Under 5.5 (-105)
Odds courtesy of BetDSI Sportsbook.
What Happened Last Year
The Bruins struggled to generate any momentum in 2017. UCLA got off to a strong start with a thrilling come-from-behind win over Texas A&M and then beat Hawai’i to improve to 2-0. However, the Bruins then lost back-to-back games to Memphis and Stanford and esstetially traded wins and losses to rest of the way, finishing the regular season 6-6. The Bruins did earn an invite to the Cactus Bowl, but lost to Kansas State.
Josh Rosen threw for over 3,700 yards and led an offense that averaged 458 yards per game. However, Rosen struggled to stay healthy. Defensively, the Bruins struggled to get stops and gave up of 480 yards per game, 287 of which came on the ground.
What Will Change This Year
Kelly is obviously known for offense, but in order for the Bruins to improve, they need to shore up the defense. Jerry Azzinaro, who worked under Kelly at Oregon, Philadelphia and San Francisco, helped lead Cal to a huge defensive improvement in 2017 and will be looking to do the same with UCLA in 2018.
But back to the offense — replacing a quarterback as talented as Rosen isn’t easy, but the Bruins do have some intriguing options. Devon Modster, who went 21-for-34 for 196 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in the Cactus Bowl, impressed in the little bit of action he got last season and will compete with Dorian Thompson-Robinson for the job. Thompson-Robinson, a freshman from Nevada is a dual-threat quarterback that seems to fit Kelly’s system. Thompson-Robinson threw for 3,278 yards, 38 touchdowns and three interceptions in his senior season, while also rushing for 425 yards and seven touchdowns.
Outlook & Prediction
The Bruins get their first real test in week two as they head to Oklahoma for a Pac-12-Big 12 showdown. UCLA opens the year against Cincinnati and also faces Fresno State in non-conference play before an early bye week, meaning they play nine straight weeks to finish out the season.
The Bruins do finish the season with back-to-back home games – USC and Stanford – and have a home game against Arizona before hosting Utah on a short week. The Bruins schedule isn’t simple, but it doesn’t appear daunting either. The over-under is set at a reasonable 5.5 and given the schedule and Kelly’s resume, six wins seems safe. Bet the over.
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