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The Bruins were a raw and inexperienced team heading into Chip Kelly’s first season at the helm of the UCLA football program. It dramatically showed with the team ranking out amongst the worst the Pac-12 had to offer in most pertinent stat categories across the board. But once the season came to a close, 12 total underclassmen ended up locking down starting roles on both sides of the ball. That bodes well for the 2019-20 campaign and it’s reflected in the team’s season win total odds which currently check in at 6 wins with slight juice slanted to the low side of the impost. Doubling up last year’s win tally at minimum keeps the arrow pointed in the right direction for a struggling UCLA program that’s managed a total of 10 wins in its last 30 games played. Now the Bruins won’t be competing for the Pac-12 title or anything like that, but improvement is certain to come in year two of Kelly’s watch with the team looking to build off a solid conclusion to last season when it played ASU, USC and Stanford tough in going 1-2 straight up and 2-0-1 against the spread.
The offense was miserable early on due to never being able to gain any sort of traction or consistency. The fact that the offensive line was a sieve didn’t help matters any. Whether it’s a good thing or not, the front wall returns all five of last year’s starters to go along with top recruit Sean Rhyan who is expected to shine. Hopefully his presence and another year of experience under the belt allows for the unit to do a better job of protecting the quarterback and opening holes for the running game to take advantage of. Should it pull it off, UCLA’s offense could really take shape with running back Joshua Kelly looking to build off a brilliant 1,243 yard and 12 score campaign. If the rushing woes are solved, Dorian Thompson-Robinson will be in line to become one of the conference’s best options under center. UCLA scored 28 or more points in five of its last seven games, so the possibility of a drastic uptick in production is certainly in the cards.
The defense was freaking brutal a season ago. It ranked No. 102 overall and surrendered over 34.0 points per game ( No. 104 ). Most bothersome was the fact that it couldn’t get off the field evidenced by the 7.1 third down conversions allowed per game ( No. 122 ). It also mustered an average of just 1.25 sacks per game. The unit’s inability to halt drives and force the opposition into mistakes saw the stop unit on the field for over 32 minutes of action per game ( No. 114 ). With that, it hardly came as a surprise to see the over cash in seven of the 12 played games. The back seven looks to be the strength of the defense with the secondary returning three starters and the linebacker corps spearheaded by Keisean Lucier-South should he be eligible to play. There is some solid veteran leadership on the roster, and it will no doubt be looking to improve upon last year’s shortcomings.
While nobody would put it past Kelly possibly finding a way to challenge for the Pac-12 South title, it’s tough to envision. The program he took over was in much worse shape than the one he took over in Eugene a decade ago. There’s still a ton of building and learning that needs to be done for the Bruins to once again become conference title contenders. Reality suggests UCLA winning six games and heading back to a bowl game after a year hiatus. While that 400-1 return at offshore sportsbooks on UCLA winning the national championship is certainly enticing, the schedule is unforgiving and won’t allow for the lottery ticket to cash; 2019-20 will be nothing more than a building block for possible greatness down the road.