Coming into his fourth season as the head coach of the UCLA Bruins, Chip Kelly was faced with immense pressure to start building the winning program which was promised when he first took over the job. Through his first three seasons, Kelly had gone 10-21 during the regular season with no bowl game appearances to show for. However, the 2021 season was supposed to be the year that things finally turned around for the Bruins, especially coming off a shortened season due to Covid-19.
The season started off great for the Bruins as they beat Hawaii in the opener and then beat down a ranked LSU team at home in the second game of the season. Everything was finally looking up for this football program but as things have so often for the Bruins, it all came crashing back down.
UCLA lost to Fresno State at home and any high expectations for the season along with it. After the Fresno State game, the Bruins rebounded with a win on the road against Stanford but only to get blown out at home the following week by the Arizona State Sun Devils.
They would beat Arizona and Washington before dropping two straight to Oregon and Utah before getting a win this past weekend over Colorado. The Bruins now sit with a record of 6-4 and have a very slim chance of playing for the PAC 12 title. Yet the season isn’t completely lost as they have their cross-town rivalry game this weekend when they take on the USC Trojans in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Due to the lack of success once again for the Bruins, some have speculated and called for them to move on from Chip Kelly after the season which makes this game against the Trojans that much more important. For teams like UCLA, being able to beat your cross-town rival year in and year out is something that you can’t be a value on, and with Kelly at the helm, the Bruins have now lost two in a row to the Trojans.
Another loss this weekend to USC combined with the pure lack of success that this football program has seen over the last few years could be the writing on the wall for Kelly in Los Angeles. There has been speculation that Kelly could be on the shortlist for the now open Washington head coaching job but getting a win over USC may allow Kelly to stay in town for another year.
The Bruins can still salvage their season and if they were to win out over the next two games, they would finish with eight wins on the season: the most since 2015. Yet it all starts with this weekend’s game against USC because this may be the Bruins’ best chance to strike down their rivals. USC has been reeling as of late and has already fired their head coach earlier in the season showing the vulnerability of the Trojans program at the moment.
With UCLA showing that they have been the better team thus far into the season, they should look to take advantage of the down year USC is experiencing. However, a win won’t be easy even against a down USC team because as we all know rivalry games tend to bring out the best in both teams.
Whenever the cardinal and gold meet the blue and gold, it means war and bragging rights are on the line for the entire next year. This battle for the Victory Bell means a lot to both programs but for UCLA, this could be the difference between a successful season or another letdown under the guidance of coach Kelly.