The Chip Kelly Era Gets Off to a Rocky Start, But Don’t Panic

The Chip Kelly era has gotten off to a rocky start at UCLA.

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After Fresno State scored 22-unanswered second-half points to roll UCLA 38-14, the Bruins found themselves 0-3 and panic buttons were being pushed in Westwood.

More Bad News

When the Bruins last went 0-3, it was in 1971 under new coach Pepper Rodgers.  That team actually went 0-4 before finishing 2–7–1 (with the tie coming in the final game against 15th ranked USC).

This season is likely to be no better since UCLA has the hardest schedule in the country according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.  There is no easy win in remaining schedule, as UCLA which has an RPI rank of 118, faces higher ranked opponents throughout and RPI top 40 teams in all but one game.

Colorado Washington @
RPI – 32 RIP – 13 RPI – 31
Arizona Utah @
RPI – 111 RPI – 35 RPI – 26
@ USC
RPI – 37 RPI – 38 RPI -8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For example, UCLA is a 9-point underdog in Friday’s matchup against Colorado (3-0) in Boulder.

The Glass Half Full

Pepper Rodgers’ transition as a new UCLA coach, however, is instructive.  The next season, UCLA opened the season at home against top-ranked Nebraska and beat the two-time defending national champion, ending their 32-game winning streak under new quarterback Mark Harmon.

UCLA finished the 1972 season 8-3 and ranked 15th.  The Bruins would finish in the Top 20 in 12 of the next 16 seasons. By 1975, they were Rose Bowl champs again and ranked #5.

 
Rk Year
W L T AP High AP Post Coach(es) Bowl
1 1971 2 7 1 15 Pepper Rodgers (2-7-1)
2 1972 8 3 0 6 15 Pepper Rodgers (8-3)
3 1973 9 2 0 8 12 Pepper Rodgers (9-2)
4 1974 6 3 2 12 Dick Vermeil (6-3-2)
5 1975 9 2 1 5 5 Dick Vermeil (9-2-1) Rose BowlW
6 1976 9 2 1 2 15 Terry Donahue (9-2-1) Liberty BowlL
7 1977 7 4 0 11 Terry Donahue (7-4)
8 1978 8 3 1 8 14 Terry Donahue (8-3-1) Fiesta BowlT
9 1979 5 6 0 17 Terry Donahue (5-6)
10 1980 9 2 0 2 13 Terry Donahue (9-2)
11 1981 7 4 1 6 Terry Donahue (7-4-1) Bluebonnet BowlL
12 1982 10 1 1 5 5 Terry Donahue (10-1-1) Rose BowlW
13 1983 7 4 1 17 17 Terry Donahue (7-4-1) Rose BowlW
14 1984 9 3 0 4 9 Terry Donahue (9-3) Fiesta BowlW
15 1985 9 2 1 7 7 Terry Donahue (9-2-1) Rose BowlW
16 1986 8 3 1 4 14 Terry Donahue (8-3-1) Freedom BowlW
17 1987 10 2 0 3 9 Terry Donahue (10-2) Aloha BowlW
18 1988 10 2 0 1 6 Terry Donahue (10-2) Cotton BowlW
Rk Year W L T AP High AP Post Coach(es) Bowl
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 9/22/2018.

 

Reasons for optimism in Westwood include the fact that their 2018 recruiting class was ranked 18th overall, despite the hiring of Kelly after the end of the 2017 season.  Like the 1972 Bruin team, this team has a promising young quarterback in true freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson who fits the Chip Kelly prototype.

Then there is Kelly’s pedigree, with an amazing  46-7 record at Oregon, including a bid to the BCS Championship.  UCLA hired Kelly with the expectation that he could replicate that success in the Californa sun.

Bottom Line

UCLA could very well lose at Boulder to fall to 0-4, then lose to Washington and Cal etc. to finish a bleak season for a program in transition.  With Chip Kelly at the helm and Dorian Thompson-Robinson at quarterback, however, I see UCLA Blue skies in the future.

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