Chip Kelly’s seat was quite warm when Colorado visited the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., on Nov. 13, 2021.
UCLA’s head football coach was in his fourth season and his tenure to that point was nothing short of disappointing. Two consecutive losses had dropped the Bruins to 5-4 in 2021 and 15-25 overall.
Colorado took a 20-10 lead into halftime. Finish the win and CU might have put an end to Kelly’s time in Westwood.
This summer, BuffZone.com will preview each of Colorado’s opponents for the 2022 season and in this installment, we look at UCLA.
Kelly is still leading the Bruins and, in fact, got a four-year contract extension in January.
After halftime on Nov. 13, UCLA outscored the Buffaloes 34-0 and then routed rival Southern California, 62-33, and California, 42-14 in the last two weeks to ensure Kelly’s tenure would continue.
Coming off an 8-4 season — UCLA’s best year since 2015 — the Bruins have high expectations this year.
In addition to Kelly, quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is back for a fifth season. The Bruins return other key players, as well, and reloaded through the transfer portal.
Winning the Pac-12 South is the goal and it won’t be easy. Defending champion Utah and rebuilt USC are the favorites, but UCLA is a possible contender, as well.
If the transfers play as hoped and Thompson-Robinson takes another step forward, this could be Kelly’s best team at UCLA.
Head coach: Chip Kelly, 5th season (18-25; 64-32 career)
2021 season: 8-4, 6-3 Pac-12
Series with CU: Bruins lead 12-5
Who: UCLA Bruins at Colorado Buffaloes
When: Saturday, Sept. 24, time TBA
Where: Folsom Field in Boulder
5 Guys to Watch
- RB Kazmeir Allen: One of the better all-purpose players in the conference, he was top 20 nationally in kick return yards (612) and average (29.1). He also caught 17 passes for 255 yards and scored touchdowns three different ways: four receiving, one rushing, one kickoff return.
- SS Stephan Blaylock: He’s started in all 31 of UCLA’s games over the past three seasons. Last year, he had 53 tackles — including a season-high 11 vs. Colorado — and three tackles for loss. He also had 11 tackles vs. Colorado in 2020.
- LB Bo Calvert: A former four-star recruit, he’s developed into a leader for the Bruins and one of their top players. Last year, he had 38 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and four sacks.
- RB Zach Charbonnet: In his first year at UCLA, the former Michigan transfer finished second in the Pac-12 with 94.8 rushing yards per game. He totaled 1,137 yards and 13 touchdowns and might be the best back in the conference.
- QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson: Slated to start for the fifth consecutive year, he’s coming off his best season. He threw for 2,409 yards, 21 touchdowns and only six interceptions a year ago, while also rushing for a career-high 609 yards and nine touchdowns.
Good to know
- After allowing 30-plus points per game four years in a row, the Bruins gave up only 26.8 per game in 2021. That was still eighth in the Pac-12 and UCLA had the worst pass defense in the conference, allowing 260.2 yards per game. In the offseason, Kelly replaced coordinator Jerry Azzinaro with Bill McGovern. An NFL coach eight of the last nine years, McGovern’s last job as a college coordinator came at Boston College from 2009-12.
- Not counting the 2020 COVID-19 season, this is the first time since 1992 that UCLA doesn’t have any Power 5 opponents (or Notre Dame) on its nonconference schedule. Prior to facing the Buffs, UCLA will have home nonconference dates with Bowling Green, Alabama State and South Alabama.
- The Bruins won’t be packing their bags very often this season. Eight of their 12 games are scheduled to be played at home and nine of the 12 are in California. The only road games are at Colorado, Oregon, Arizona State and Cal.
- UCLA still hasn’t played in a bowl game since 2017. The Bruins were slated to play in the Holiday Bowl last year, but withdrew a few hours before the game because of COVID-19 protocols.
- Last year at Duke, Jake Bobo, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound receiver, caught 74 passes for 794 yards and a touchdowns. In his four seasons with the Blue Devils, he caught 126 passes.
- Two former CU commits — linebacker Carl Jones Jr. and safety Mo Osling III — are expected to play key roles for the Bruins defense. Another key player on defense is linebacker Kain Medrano, a 2019 graduate of Pueblo East High School.
- While UCLA has dominated the series overall, especially in Pasadena (where the Buffs are 1-6), Colorado has won the last three matchups with the Bruins in Boulder.
It’s been a busy offseason in the transfer portal for the Bruins, who lost 21 players and added 14. Among the departures were starting defensive lineman Mitchell Agude and linebacker Caleb Johnson, who both went to Miami; receiver Chase Cota (Oregon), cornerback Jay Shaw (Wisconsin) and punter Luke Akers (Northwestern). UCLA added several proven players, especially on defense. The front seven has been rebuilt from transfers, including twins Gabriel and Grayson Murphy, edge players from North Texas; and defensive linemen Gary Smith III (Duke) and Jacob Sykes (Harvard). Linebacker Darius Mausau was Hawaii’s leading tackler last year and cornerback Azizi Hearn was a three-year starter at Wyoming. On offense, in addition to Bobo, the Bruins signed Ryan Cragun (leading receiver at Penn); receiver Titus Mokiao-Atimalala (UCF); and tackle Raiqwon O’Neal (two-time All-Big Ten honorable mention at Rutgers).