UCLA’s fifth-year coach couldn’t have asked for a better start to his 2022 campaign.
After all, the Bruins are 5-0 for the first time since 2013, No. 18 in this week’s AP Poll and are one of the Pac-12’s two remaining undefeated teams. Chip Kelly finally has UCLA surging, which is what the fans expected him to do when he accepted the job.
The Bruins are finally 2-0 in Pac-12 play under Kelly, which is the first time they’ve accomplished that feat in nine years. UCLA’s offense is starting to resemble the dominant units Kelly fielded at Oregon. It’s hard to argue against that when the Bruins are currently second in the Pac-12, and eighth in the FBS in total offense.
Kelly’s squad is averaging a jaw-dropping, 506.4 yards per game. Not to mention UCLA is tied for first in the league with 26 offensive touchdowns. Veteran quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is playing out of his mind and putting up video game numbers. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering he’s in his fifth season as Kelly’s starter.
All of Thompson-Robinson’s experience, leadership and production is paying off big time on the gridiron. The gunslinger is also first in the Pac-12 and 12th in the FBS in passing efficiency. He has thrown for 1,211 yards, 11 touchdowns and an interception, but hasn’t been picked off for the past four games. Great signal-callers make others around them better, and the rest of UCLA’s offense feeds off Thompson-Robinson’s energy.
Junior rusher Zach Charbonnet has been the Bruins’ battering ram. He’s arguably the best running back in the conference. Charbonnet has eclipsed the century mark in rushing yards against Bowling Green, Colorado and Washington. The former Michigan Wolverine has five touchdowns on the ground this season, including four in the last two games.
Senior wideout Jake Bobo has stepped up his game over the last three contests. During that span Bobo has combined for 15 catches, 284 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
On the other side of the ball the Bruins haven’t been as stellar, but they still rank second in the Pac-12 in total defense. No doubt UCLA’s defense has been stout against the run. The unit has only allowed 80.4 yards on the ground per game. The Bruins’ defense has the rest of the league on full alert after allowing just four rushing scores, and 2.64 yards per carry this fall.
Those type of ingredients that Kelly has on both sides of the ball will make a great Pac-12 recipe. UCLA should be able to make a serious run at the Pac-12 Title. However, Kelly must keep his players focused, as they go from being the hunters to being the hunted.
The next two games will solidify if the Bruins are contenders or pretenders. Hosting the reigning Pac-12 champs will have a ton of national appeal, then playing at Oregon is always a crazy experience. Kelly’s foundation has finally come to fruition.
The sky’s the limit to what UCLA can accomplish as it navigates through the Pac-12 meat grinder, and the fans are just sitting back and enjoying the ride along the way.