As we enter the home stretch of the 2021 College Football Season, the UCLA Bruins will return to the Rose Bowl this upcoming Saturday to face off against the Colorado Buffaloes. It’s a game that UCLA has a pretty good chance to win. Colorado is 3-6 on the season. Five of those losses were by multiple scores, and the three wins came against Northern Colorado, Arizona, and Oregon State. UCLA is currently a 17.5 point favorite, according to MyBookie, going in. It’s hard to see UCLA losing this game unless something goes horribly wrong.
What I’m more concerned about is the bigger picture. Is UCLA’s season already dead, and do they have anything left to play for?
Full disclosure, I consider myself a Michigan fan. And if you pay attention to the college football world at large, you know that two weeks ago, Michigan lost their biggest game of the season in an absolutely embarrassing and seemingly improbable fashion. Against their in-state rival, the Wolverines blew a 30-14 second-half lead and gave up 5 rushing touchdowns to Kenneth Walker. It was quite the bummer of a game if you’re a Michigan fan, as they seem to have made collapsing in big games somewhat of an art form.
This past week, Michigan returned to Ann Arbor to host Indiana in primetime. But I felt very little interest in watching this game and ultimately ended up switching to another game. The State loss still stung hard. I pretty much knew Michigan was going to beat Indiana, but what good is beating up on the little guys if you can’t win the games that matter?
This is similar to how I feel going into Colorado vs UCLA. I am in no way advocating being a fair-weather fan or abandoning your team when the going gets tough. All I’m saying is, once you know you’re out of it, it just becomes a little bit harder to care.
Don’t get me wrong, UCLA still has many things to play for. A Victory Bell win and a bowl appearance/win would be huge for this program. But even so, I can’t help but feel like this team has already blown its biggest opportunities.
Coming into this season, it was very clear that this year would be a referendum on Chip Kelly. With no excuses left, a senior team, and no winning record to prop him up, Chip Kelly’s team was expected to, at the very least, be a meaningful competitor in the Pac-12 in order for this season to be successful. This meant being able to navigate through the most difficult conference matchups (Arizona State, Oregon, Utah, and USC) and having at least some measure of success.
UCLA has now played three out of four of those games and they are 0-3. The Oregon game was a great game, one you could argue may have been a win if DTR had been able to stay healthy. But the other two were losses by a similar score: 42-23 and 44-24. Despite a promising start to the season, UCLA is now 5-4, and in this case, they are what their record says they are: average.
A Victory Bell win would be great for this team, but I question if that alone would be enough to keep Chip Kelly’s job considering that USC is pretty bad this year. I think UCLA needs to win either that game or a bowl game but preferably both. Losses against Colorado or Cal it seems would pretty much be it for Kelly.
I have already seen (unconfirmed) whispers on the internet that the decision not to retain Kelly has already been made. If that were the case, it would be tough to argue against. The results just haven’t been there.
I hope UCLA beats Colorado, and I hope it’s a good game. But on some level, and considering the expectations that have been there since the start of this season, the year already feels like a failure for UCLA.
Maybe the marginal improvement of a likely 7 win season will be enough for the new AD. Or, maybe he’ll decide that it’s time to pull the plug on the Chip Kelly experiment. Only time will tell, but things certainly don’t look great at the moment.