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2021 UCLA college football preview: Is this the year it all comes together for Chip Kelly?

It’s the offensive mastermind’s fourth year in Westwood, and the pressure is heating up.

Cal v UCLA
Head coach Chip Kelly of the UCLA Bruins looks on during the first quarter against the California Golden Bears at Rose Bowl on November 15, 2020 in Pasadena, California.
Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

The UCLA Bruins have never quite been able to replicate the success they found early in the Jim Mora era, although Chip Kelly was supposed to boost their status after his exploits at Oregon. The offensive-minded coach has not been able to rack up wins in Westwood, but this could be the year it all comes together for the Bruins.

2020 Season Review

  • 3-4, 3-4, 5th in Pac-12 south
  • A lot of close losses. The Bruins lost all four games by one possession, including a brutal 48-47 double overtime loss against Stanford. Two of those losses came against ranked teams and two were on the road. If a couple of those games flip, the Bruins are going to a bowl game.

2021 Talent

2021 247Sports Composite Ranking: 4th in Pac-12
ESPN Returning Production: 91% overall (2nd): 95% offense (3rd), 88% defense (8th)
Returning Talent Index: Positive, 2nd in Pac-12
Returning starters: 7/11 offense, 4/11 defense
* All rankings out of 130 FBS schools

Key Player

Quarterback: Dorian Thompson-Robinson (Jr.)

Thompson-Robinson is a dual-threat quarterback, the type of player that typically thrives in Kelly’s system. He’s had some bumps in the road, but has steadily improved as a passer in his career. This could be a breakout season for him, especially with UCLA coming into the year under the radar. He’s currently +6000 to win the Heisman, which could be tremendous value.

Offense (non-QB): WR Kyle Philips (So.)

Philips was solid last season with 370 yards on 38 receptions in the shortened season. He could be the primary option for Thompson-Robinson, even with TE Greg Dulcich rising. Expect the sophomore receiver to have a big season offensively if he stays healthy.

Defense: LB Caleb Johnson (Sr.)

The linebacker led the team last season with 5.0 sacks and 44 combined tackles. He’ll be tasked with anchoring a suspect defense, but UCLA’s offense should be explosive. If Johnson and company can make a few plays here and there, the Bruins are going to be a threat.

Team Stats Projections

2020 SP+ final: 46th overall: 23rd offense, 81st defense, 36th special teams
2021 SP+ projection: 21st overall: 7th offense, 58th defense

Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

To win national title: +15000
To win Pac-12: +1200
Win total: 7 (Over -106, Under -121)

2020 Against The Spread: 4-3
2020 Point Total: Over 4-3

2021 UCLA Schedule

2021 UCLA Football Schedule

Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Spread/Total
Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Spread/Total
Saturday, Aug. 28 Hawaii 3:30pm/ESPN UCLA -17/70.5
Saturday, Sep. 4 LSU 8:30pm/Fox UCLA +4/69.5
Saturday, Sep. 11 OPEN 10:45pm/Pac-12N N/A
Saturday, Sep. 18 Fresno State TBA N/A
Saturday, Sep. 25 at Stanford TBA UCLA -6.5
Saturday, Oct. 2 Arizona State TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 9 at Arizona TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 16 at Washington TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 23 Oregon TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 30 at Utah TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 6 OPEN TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 13 Colorado TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 20 at USC TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 27 California TBA N/A