2019 UCLA Bruins Football Predictions and Odds to Win National Championship
Chip Kelly is getting dangerously far removed from genius status at this point. He last coached at Oregon in 2012, going 46-7 in his four years. His three years at Philadelphia never really took off, and his year at San Francisco was a 2-14 disaster without a single positive thing about it. After a year off, he wound up at UCLA, and the first year was ugly 3-9. Sure, there were improvements. But going from horrible to less horrible is hardly something to celebrate. And he did not recruit well this year at all.
What he was doing at Oregon that was so revolutionary is now being done by a lot of teams across the country in one way or another. He might be better than most at it, but that hasn't paid off yet in a long way. At the very least his mojo seems to be long lost, and he really needs to find it again. I'm not willing to write him off just yet - he has lots of resources behind him at UCLA, and they are changing things that needed to be changed at a school that had fallen way behind. But his success is far from the lock that many painted it as when he was hired.
2018 in a Nutshell
Starting out 0-5 is hardly what Kelly hoped for. They lost to Cincinnati in the opener and got crushed at Oklahoma. A home loss to Fresno State - by 24, no less - was totally incomprehensible, and a blowout at Colorado wasn't much better. A loss to Washington was the second most inevitable result after the Oklahoma one, but the game was the closest of the five losses and maybe represented a bit of a turning point. They won big at Cal next time out, then won a squeaker at Arizona - another team coached by a former genius who needs to prove he still has it. The good times didn't last, though, as they got blown out by Utah and Oregon, then lost at Arizona State. They pulled off the closest thing to a signature win they had when they beat USC - another massively underachieving squad, and then played Stanford tight in a loss at the end. In the end they were 3-9 overall, 3-6 in the Pac-12, and 2-5 at home. Yuck.
Key Additions and Departures
The team had just one player drafted, and only barely - tight end Caleb Wilson got the distinction of being Mr. Irrelevant as the last player taken. Wilson was the team's top receiver last year. Wilton Speight, the grad transfer QB from Michigan who struggled with injuries and lost the job to QB of the future Dorian Thompson Robinson, is gone. He had the better stats overall of the two QBs, but still won't be missed. Gone also is Andre James, an OT who was versatile on the line and reasonably effective. There are a few other changes, but none that are worth too much worry.
One departure that is worth mentioning is Jaelan Phillips. The consensus top recruit in the Class of 2017, Phillips picked UCLA over all the top programs in an upset. He struggled badly with injuries in his two seasons, though, and actually medically retired after last season. But that lasted as long as a boxer's retirement, and he has now transferred to Miami.
One move Kelly made that I really like is that Justin Frye, who had been offensive line coach, was named offensive coordinator. Kelly held that title himself last year, but that's just a horrible idea in this age, and giving up the title is a sign that he is aware of the work he has to do.
The recruiting class is just plain not good enough - not for a guy with Kelly's profile. It ranked 40th in the country, down from 19th the year before. And was just 6th in the Pac-12. That's how Toledo or Akron should recruit, not a top school in L.A. with a high-profile coach. They had just one four-star recruit in the class - guard Sean Rhyan - and no other players ranked higher than 410th on the consensus.
Biggest Area of Concern
The defense gave up 30 or more points in nine of 12 games last year and frankly didn't do anything well. They have some solid talent, but they need to be dramatically better if this team wants to make any real improvement. The defensive staff is mostly the same as it was, and there is plenty or returning talent - which isn't necessarily a good thing when things didn't go well last year - but it is uncertain that the team can do the same things they did last year and get a different result.
UCLA Bruins Schedule Analysis
They open with a rematch against Cincinnati, this time on the road. Then they host San Diego State. The third game is against Oklahoma, which is very unlikely to go well. They play at Washington State and Arizona before getting an almost free win against Oregon State - or at least that's what it should be. They play at Stanford next, which could be tough. Then they host Arizona State and Colorado - the first tougher than the second. A game at Utah should be much tougher than a game at USC, though both have their challenges. Then they close at Cal. It's not a horrible schedule, but if they aren't significantly improved from last year it's still not going to be great for them.
2019-20 UCLA Bruins Betting Odds and Trends
Not surprisingly, UCLA is not among the 27 teams for which BetOnline has listed odds to win the national title. At Bovada they are at +3000 to win the Pac-12, which places them 10th in conference, ahead of only Colorado and Oregon State. That is not good company to be in.
2019-20 UCLA Bruins Predictions and College Football Picks
I am definitely skeptical. Very skeptical. There is some decent talent in some spots, but the program doesn't know how to win, they have holes, and there are far more questions than obvious answers. The upside is probably bowl eligibility, but that is far from a lock. What matters most is that we see progress from Kelly and his squad. If not, then it's tough to figure out where the team goes from here.
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