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With Jim Mora’s time ending after a 6-7 season, Chip Kelly comes in with never-ending hype. The former Oregon (and Philadelphia Eagles) coach is expected to immediately turn the program around to reach national heights like the Ducks did when he was there. But that’s easier said than done, especially as he inherits a team that lost quarterback Josh Rosen and a defense that was one of the worst in the country. The Pac-12 Champion odds (+2800 at 5Dimes Sportsbook) and an over/under of 5.5 wins show that Kelly has a long way to go as the Bruins are expected to fight for second place behind USC in the South division.

There’s no telling how quarterback will look for UCLA this season with three guys and possibly four in the mix to start in the opener. Devon Modster has experience as last year’s backup, but has plenty of competition from freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Michigan transfer Wilton Speight. No matter who is at quarterback, the Bruins need to improve one of the worst rushing attacks over the last couple years and that’s exactly what Kelly’s run-pass option offense does. Bolu Olorunfunmi (542 yards, 5 TDs) and Soso Jamabo (447 yards, 6 TDs) have experience at tail back, although some youngsters could see time. A couple new receivers are set for bigger roles with Theo Howard (475 yards) and tight end Caleb Wilson (490 yards) leading the way. The underlying issue is that only two starters return on the line and that was often a strength in Kelly’s Oregon teams. 

Improving the defense could also take time after allowing 36.8 points and 282 rushing yards per game. The addition of coordinator Jerry Azzinaro should help, but there’s only so much he can do with a group that got torched by almost every offense last season. The secondary is probably the strongest suit, although it wasn’t tested much last year because everyone ran on this defense. Safety Adarius Pickett is in line for a huge season, while senior Nate Meadors is the top corner. Linebackers Krys Barnes and Josh Woods are expected to be the glue in an aggressive defense. That will only work if guys like Jaelan Phillips and Keisean Lucier-South to do something on the edges.

The schedule is workable for UCLA, but it’s by no means favorable with an early trip to Oklahoma standing out. Kelly will be hoping for eight wins out of this team and that’s only possible because the Bruins get Washington, USC and Stanford all at home. In fact, outside of the trip to Oregon, all of UCLA’s Pac-12 road games are against inferior competition. That can only get you so far, though, especially with quarterback still up in the air. Six or seven wins is a decent bet for this team, assuming the defense improves and Kelly gets the ground game rolling. If it takes the defense time to improve, this team may be battling for a bowl in its final two games against USC and Stanford.


2018 UCLA Bruins Football Schedule

Sept. 1 vs. Cincinnati

Sept. 8 at Oklahoma

Sept. 15 vs. Fresno State

Sept. 28 at Colorado

Oct. 6 vs. Washington

Oct. 13 at California

Oct. 20 vs. Arizona

Oct. 26 vs. Utah

Nov. 3 at Oregon

Nov. 10 at Arizona State

Nov. 17 vs. USC

Nov. 24 vs. Stanford

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