College Football Odds, Picks, Futures: Why to Fade UCLA in 2022
Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images. Pictured: Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
Another Friday, another future.
While we are still a ways away from the start of the college football season, it’s never too late to add futures to your portfolio as the calendar moves closer to the start of the season.
So far this season, I’ve been highlighting my favorite season win totals, division and conference futures and Heisman bets. While the past few weeks have been about why bettors should expect success from those respected teams, this week’s installment goes the opposite direction.
It’s time to fade the UCLA Bruins.
UCLA’s Odd Year Out?
Last year was a great year to be a UCLA fan, as the team finally showed promise for the first time in Chip Kelly’s tenure. Finishing 8-4 last season and cashing one of our bigger season win totals of over 7, Kelly has been awarded an extension to continue coaching through the 2025 season.
Will he continue to find the same success going into this season?
I don’t think so.
One Last Ride For Dorian Thompson-Robinson
After a barrage of injuries and struggles through the first two years, quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson showed some promise in 2020 before taking a much-needed leap in 2021.
DTR really settled into Kelly’s dynamic offense, finishing last season with 2,409 passing yards and 21 touchdowns while adding another 609 yards and nine scores on the ground.
We don’t talk enough about Dorian Thompson-Robinson pic.twitter.com/ZD0A3hDeTZ
— Jack McGuire (@JackMacCFB) November 17, 2019
The Bruins offense ranked 21st in Off. Success Rate, 20th in Off. Finishing Drives and 23rd in Off. Havoc Allowed. Now, they bring back 66% of that unit, per TARP.
While UCLA finished with very impressive metrics, most of them can be attributed to the playmakers around Thompson-Robinson who helped him find his stride.
Going into this season, DTR will be missing his top three pass-catchers. His top two targets — wide receiver Kyle Philips and tight end Greg Dulcich — are both gone after combining for 101 receptions, 1,464 yards and 15 touchdowns. Wide receiver Chase Cota, who ended with 18 catches for 286 yards and one touchdown, has also transferred.
Replacing a whole set of playmakers is never easy for a quarterback — especially if that quarterback has struggled throughout most of his career.
Right Back Where We Started From
While the offense will search for production with a new cast of playmakers, it’s the defense that will make or break UCLA’s season. I’m betting it breaks.
With a Defensive TARP of 51% for a below-average unit, UCLA may have fits trying to keep up with the Pac-12’s style of play.
The Bruins need to fill a void in the secondary with the NFL departure of stud defensive back Qwuantrezz Knight, a feared presence who ended last season as the team leader in tackles (66) and tackles for loss (8.5).
Fellow safety Quentin Lake is also gone after leading the team in pass breakups (6). Jay Shaw, who tied Lake for the team lead with three interceptions, transferred to Wisconsin as well.
Not only will the defense need to fill a void at a critical position in the Pac-12, but it will also be under a new regime with Bill McGovern taking control. That change is a bit of a head-scratching move, as McGovern has limited coordinator experience after spending most of his career as a linebackers coach in the NFL.
He will be hard-pressed to fix a unit that ranked 111th in Def. Rushing Success Rate and 56th in Def. Havoc.
Verdict on the Bruins
While the Bruins were the darlings of my futures portfolio last season, I believe the market is off with its expectations this time around. Kelly has had only one year of success at UCLA and is facing major turnover at critical positions this season.
While the Bruins are gifted three cupcakes to start the season, they face Utah and USC later in the year, and those teams will feast on a weak secondary. To make matters worse, they also take a road trip to Oregon.
With six coin flips left and expected improvement from teams like Washington and Stanford, I will put my money on UCLA’s season win total under of 8.5 as the Bruins take a step back from last season.
Pick: UCLA Under 8.5 Wins (-105)