Coastal Carolina vs UCLA Odds & Picks: Bruins to Roll in Late-Night Opener
Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images. Pictured: UCLA head coach Chip Kelly.
Coastal Carolina vs UCLA Odds
Coastal Carolina has been the feel-good story of college football since the pandemic.
Led by quarterback Grayson McCall, the Chanticleers are under new management with head coach Tim Beck. The Sun Belt team will head just west of Hollywood, where UCLA is reportedly set to pay Coastal Carolina a sum of $1.1 million for the game.
This is a new age for Bruins football, as Dorian Thompson-Robinson is not on the roster for the first time in the Chip Kelly era. Although UCLA lost to Pittsburgh in the Sun Bowl, Kelly inked a two-year contract extending his time on campus through the 2027 season.
Plenty of questions await in the 2023 campaign, starting with the quarterback competition. Transfers are a heavy part of the new roster, filling holes at running back and in multiple defensive spots.
Both Coastal Carolina and UCLA saw turnover in their rosters and coaching staff, but both will still contend for their respective conference titles.
This game will be highlighted by quarterback play, as McCall looks to elevate an NFL Draft profile, while the Bruins are expected to give the most talented freshman in college football snaps under center.
After a brief trip to the transfer portal, McCall elected to stay at Coastal Carolina and contribute t0 a team with 88% of experience returning, per TARP.
The senior threw 24 touchdowns to just two interceptions during a 2022 season that saw injuries play a factor over the final month.
McCall's big-time throw-to-turnover-worthy play rate was a career low, but the return of preseason All-Sun Belt wide receiver Jared Brown and Georgia State transfer Sam Pinckney will keep the Chanticleers a top-20 team in Passing Success Rate and EPA.
Even after a dominant, near-1000-yard season at Coastal last year, there's a Sam Pinckney highlight that I'll remember forever. This dude can do it ALL.pic.twitter.com/BtqxMDYVyX
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) July 16, 2023
Beck tapped into the Texas Longhorns tenure to hire Craig Naivar as defensive coordinator after he spent a season as SMU's special teams coach. Naivar was last a defensive coordinator less than a decade ago at Houston, calling a heavy amount of nickel and dime packages with a three-man front.
JT Killen returns at middle linebacker, leading the defense with 96 tackles and four pass breakups. The one issue on the 2023 depth chart is a lack of experience and size at the cornerback position.
After exceeding oddsmakers' projections in 2022, Chip Kelly is now tasked with reloading a UCLA roster that lost experience at key positions.
Ethan Garbers will get the start at quarterback, but Kent State transfer Collin Schlee and blue-chip Dante Moore are still expected to receive playing time. Depth is certainly not an issue at the position as Garbers enters his third season, while Schlee produced 16 touchdowns in more than 300 passing attempts in his time as a MAC quarterback.
The real question for the entire season is when Moore will be given full playing time to show off a skill set that produced the highest prospect rating in the nation, per 247Sports.
The portal also brought projected starters on defense in Oregon transfer Keanu Williams on the defensive line and Bowling Green safety Jordan Anderson.
The biggest addition to the defense may be new coordinator D'Anton Lynn from the Baltimore Ravens. Although he doesn't have prior coordinator experience, Lynn comes from an NFL staff that has produced multiple coordinators who have elevated the Michigan defense to national title contenders in Jesse Minter and Mike MacDonald.
Coastal Carolina vs UCLA
Betting Pick & Prediction
UCLA has covered its opening game against Group of Five opponents in Hawaii and Bowling Green the past two seasons.
With the departure of Thompson-Robinson to the NFL, Kelly is not expected to change any offensive play-calling during garbage time with three quarterbacks all vying for the role of starter.
Coastal Carolina projects to have the worst secondary in the Sun Belt, giving each of the UCLA starters a chance to connect on the outside. Cal transfer J. Michael Sturdivant and Kam Brown will get the chance to create highlight plays against the Chanticleers' undersized cornerbacks.
If Steele can draw eight defenders in the box from the Chants' nickel package, the Bruins should connect on plenty of explosives.
“When Crocky-J hit the portal I flew to Muncie immediately and learned about his pet alligator”
Chip Kelly on new RB Carson Steelepic.twitter.com/Xf0git8mDH
— Collin Wilson (@_Collin1) July 21, 2023
On the other side of the ball, Coastal Carolina is expected to move from Jamey Chadwell's offense with triple option elements to more traditional 10 and 11 personnel. Beck called plays for NC State the previous three seasons, implementing a heavy rush rate out of 11 and electing to throw 60% of the time from 10 personnel in known passing downs.
The Chanticleers will have minimal experience on the right interior of the offensive line, giving UCLA the chance to bust up any McCall motion and misdirection play calls. Edge Laiatu Latu created 65 pressures a season ago, leading to a top-30 pass rush ranking.
The Action Network projects the game UCLA -17, making the Bruins the side to play. The Week 1 number took Coastal Carolina money through the summer with low limits, possibly shaping the number for a stiff buyback at 14.
UCLA is expected to field the best offensive line and the third-best group of running backs in the Pac-12. Considering there will be no garbage time for a three-man quarterback competition, look to get the key number on UCLA.