Chip Kelly has done a fantastic job in his time at UCLA. His tenure started out like a nightmare after coming back to college from the NFL, going just 7-17.
Since then, however, he’s 20-12. In his last two seasons, he’s 17-8 and the Bruins have been one of the better programs in the Pac-12. A big reason for the improvement was the development of star quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson who has since graduated and is hoping to start a career in the NFL.
Zach Charbonnet’s breakout was also a reason for the Bruins’ success over the past two seasons as he was one of the best running backs in the nation.
With both guys gone, the Bruins will have some big shoes to fill and it would take a lot to surpass the nine wins they achieved a season ago.
Realistic expectations for UCLA football in 2023
After finishing 9-4 last season, UCLA should be back near the top of the Pac-12 in 2023 and there’s a decent chance the Bruins will be competing for a conference title.
Sure, the Pac-12 is more loaded now than it’s been in years with Utah, USC, Washington, Oregon, and Oregon State all spending time in the AP Top 25 last season, but the Bruins are as talented and well-coached as these teams.
Plus, five-star quarterback Dante Moore will be a heck of a replacement for Dorian Thompson-Robinson and there shouldn’t be much of a drop-off, if any, in 2023 on offense.
Looking at the schedule, it’s not going to be easy to replicate last year’s success, especially after replacing a multi-year starting quarterback and all-conference running back.
I think the Bruins start the year 3-0 before going to Utah and being handed their first loss right before a Sept. 30 bye. They’ll come back to beat Washington State, lose at Oregon State, and then win the next four games over Stanford, Colorado, Arizona, and Arizona State. At this point, they’ll be 8-2 and facing a critical matchup at USC with revenge on the mind. They’ll lose a close one and then finish the season with a win over Cal.
A realistic record prediction would have to be 9-3 but there is a possibility they steal 1-2 on the road against Oregon State, Utah, or USC and finish with at least 10 wins and a Pac-12 title berth.
Worst-case scenario, however, I think they go 8-4 with a loss at Arizona added to the mix.
Not a bad encore performance after Kelly’s best year as UCLA’s head coach.