How Far Can UCLA Go This Season?

Author: Mansi


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The NCAAF season just took a hit with the new rules being announced recently. All the teams this season will be playing against teams within their conferences only. While this is perfect from a safety standpoint, as it will help teams avoid excessive travel, and therefore, exposure to the virus, it changes things for teams completely. Weaker teams will now have a chance of making it to the playoffs if their conference is filled with weaker teams. One of the teams in the spotlight is the UCLA Bruins. 

The team had a poor season previously, with only 4-8 in its favor. Its conference play-stats were slightly better last season, at 4-5. They were a part of the Pac-12 South race last season, around November, but their team wasn’t strong enough to go anywhere. The question on fans’ (and bettors’) minds right now is how much better or worse will they be this season? After the Big Ten announced that they will only play matches within their conference, the Pac-12 also decided the same. UCLA plays in the South division, where it doesn’t have to compete against stronger teams like Oregon. But USC’s form and talent are much better than UCLA’s, which is where they will see some stiff competition. 

Last season, there was quite a craze surrounding the new head coach for the UCLA team, Chip Kelly. Expectations were most certainly running high, and the four wins came as a surprise to everyone including the team. As the season progressed, it became increasingly clear to everyone involved that the team wasn’t going to make it far enough to compete, leave alone reach a bowl. The team will be under higher pressure this season, expecting a comeback from their poor previous season. Kelly will also be under pressure to translate his expertise into results for the team, and it could be the season that determines his coaching career too. 

QB Thompson - Robinson has Miles to Go

The offense last season did show an improved scorecard as they managed to score more points, and they also did improve on third downs. But the issue overall with the offense was that they weren’t as experienced as some of their rivals, and injuries wreaked havoc throughout the season. The new coach couldn’t help with this issue either, but increased game time should have improved things before the next season starts. 

About the Quarterback, Dorian Thompson-Robinson is a dual-threat who has been playing for three years. His stats and previous performances show that he is the perfect guy to make their offense fantastic. But this did not happen last season when his throws clearly lacked accuracy, and he threw 12  interceptions in 11 games last season. He is an important part of the team, and undoubtedly the most important player for the offense of his team. He needs to become consistent this season, as he brings most of the firepower to the offense. His backup is Colson Yankoff who is also a solid choice. The receivers look good right now, with Kyle Philips leading the charge. He set a school record for the highest number of catches by a freshman (60). Chase Cota and Jaylen Erwin are also great players with the potential to ramp up UCLA’s chances. 

How does the rest of the team look?

Azzinaro, the defensive coordinator, is set to return despite UCLA’s abysmal performance last season, giving away 34.8 points per game. He has a lot of work to do, but some potential too, such as defensive lineman Osa Odighizuwa. They did show some improvement against the run but need Tyler Manoa to be injury-free this season. He is likely to shoulder a huge burden for the team on his return. The top cornerback Darnay Holmes will not be playing, but there are quite a few backups who will be ready to play once Brian Norwood has had the chance to train them pre-season. 

The most glaring absence is of a linebacker. One option is for Carl Jones to play. They will need Damian Sellers to play his best to make some impact. Big improvements have to be seen from Caleb Johnson as well as for the team to move forward.

UCLA took the previous season to address issues that were plaguing their team over the years. This should give the team the leeway to concentrate on playing to win. Their goals should be to get to a bowl game. Anyone can tell you that Thompson-Robinson’s form is what will make or break the team this season. 

 


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