Posted on October 12, 2020
Being born just a few days out from Christmas, the holiday season has always been one of my favorite times of the year.
But college football season tops it.
Seeing as my dream of having a football season has already been granted, it’s time to run through the rest of my wish list for what I would want to see to make this year a special one for UCLA football, despite the circumstances.
Wish No. 1: Finish 4-3 or better
This one needs to be a given for any Bruin fan, at the bare minimum.
The fanbase is starving for a winning season. The Bruins have not gotten one since 2015, Josh Rosen’s first year.
Coach Chip Kelly has struggled out of the gates in both of his seasons at the helm. UCLA is 0-6 against nonconference opponents and 7-17 overall.
With no games out of conference and a start against Colorado—albeit on the road—Kelly does not have an excuse to not hit the ground running. And there are other winnable games, such as Utah and Arizona at home.
No one is asking for a perfect record. Oregon on the road and a Week 6 matchup with USC are tall tasks. But Kelly’s team needs to be at least a contender for the Pac-12 South title.
A bowl game is not guaranteed this season with any record, as no one will know how the pandemic will look come winter. But if Kelly can get the Bruins to over .500, he can assuage some fears and put them on the right track for a full fourth season.
Wish No. 2: A solid defense
The Bruins’ 2019 defense was bad.
Anytime a team finishes the year ranked 112th in yards allowed and 117th in points allowed, they struggled mightily. UCLA turned in some atrocious defensive performances in double-digit losses to Oregon State, Utah and USC, as well as in a miracle victory against Washington State.
The blame does not rest entirely on the defense’s shoulders. Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson committed some costly turnovers that gave opposing offenses great starting field position. The junior is expected to cut down on those, though, so the defense should no longer have that excuse.
For a school that produced the likes of Anthony Barr, Myles Jack, and countless other defensive stars in the 2010s, the current unit has fallen way behind in terms of both intimidation and production. However, with offenses only getting a few weeks of training camp, it will be up to the defense to show improvements and carry the Bruins in the early weeks.
Wish No. 3: Stanford in Week 7
The Pac-12 messed up by not scheduling Stanford and Cal with USC and UCLA. People have feared this would happen ever since the four schools were split between the two divisions, but thankfully the rivalries kept running—until now.
This year, the conference threw that out of the window. There is not one game between a NorCal team and a SoCal team on the current schedule. Not one planned anyway.
If UCLA only gets to face one this season in the TBD Week 7 game, nothing would be better than a matchup with Stanford. The Cardinal were one of the few teams Kelly was able to get the upper hand on in 2019 to break a decade-long losing streak for the Bruins.
Beginning the 2020s with a win over Stanford could begin a run for UCLA that, if things go very well, comes close to matching Stanford’s, and long-suffering fans would have a spark of enjoyment, and a reason to fill the Rose Bowl once fans are allowed back in.
—Recent Jack Perez Stories—
- Perez: Hundley, Rosen, and DTR Define a Decade of Great Quarterbacks at UCLA
- Perez: Mixing Gambling and College Sports a Disaster Waiting to Happen
Perez: Three Wishes for the UCLA 2020 Football SeasonIf granted, the Bruins could be on their way—finally—to a breakthrough season under Chip Kelly - October 12, 2020
Perez: Hundley, Rosen, and DTR Define a Decade of Great Quarterbacks at UCLAWith a better supporting cast, they and the Bruins might have soared much higher - September 28, 2020
Perez: Mixing Gambling and College Sports a Disaster Waiting to HappenColorado's betting partnership with PointsBet opens a Pandora's Box of potential problems - September 14, 2020