Now in his fourth season at the helm of the UCLA Bruins, Chip Kelly has his best team yet and expectations for a return to prominence are in the air. Heck, the Bruins are just looking for a winning season, something that hasn’t happened in Westwood since 2015. Kelly has all sorts of pieces to work with on offense, led by Dorian Thompson-Robinson, and the Bruins will put up points.
They open the campaign hosting the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors of the Mountain West Conference on Saturday in the Rose Bowl. The Bruins have never lost to the G5 foe in three tries and they are a big 18.5-point favorite to extend the run.
The game between the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors and UCLA Bruins will take place at the Rose Bowl at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, August 28, 2021, and will be televised on ESPN.
Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors vs UCLA Bruins Odds
Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors +18.5
UCLA Bruins -18.5
(Odds provided by BookMaker.eu as of 9:17 am ET)
While the Bruins should be a better team in 2021, so to should the Rainbow Warriors, who finished last regular season at 4-4 then upset Houston, 28-14, as a 7-point dog in the New Mexico Bowl. They ended the year at 4-5 ATS. We started to see a change in philosophy under Todd Graham with the club becoming more or a run-dominant team. That seems odd to say about Hawai’i, but that’s what happened. As a result they played below the closing total in each of their last four games with the UNDER going 7-2.
The time is now for the Bruins, who return a ton of talent off a team that went 3-4 last season. They are still searching for their first winning season under Kelly, but the pieces are there to at least accomplish that in 2021. With a few breaks here and there they could have escaped last season with more wins. Their four losses were by a combined 15 points with their biggest being six-points to USC in a game they led by 18 in the second half. They finished 4-3 ATS.
Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors
When you think of Hawai’i football offense comes to mind, especially the passing game. That part was potent under former coaches June Jones and Nick Rolovich. But times they are a changing on the island. The offense wasn’t bad last season averaging nearly 400 yards per game, but that didn’t always result in points. They scored just 26 points per game to finish 85th in the country. “We were limited last year with a short season and it forced us to be more vanilla. Now we’re really opening up the playbook,” offensive coordinator Bo Graham said.
It helps having Chevan Cordeiro back behind center. The dual-threat quarterback completed 62.3 percent of his passes for 2,083 yards with an additional 483 yards rushing. He had a combined 21 touchdowns. Helping the ground game are Calvin Turner and Dae Dae Hunter making the team more balanced in its approach. There are a bunch of familiar faces back on defense and enough speed across the board to present a problem for the Bruins. But can the group sustain pressure for an entire game?
Last season could have and should have been much better in terms of wins and losses. All four setbacks were by six points or less and the Bruins blew double-digit second half leads in the last two games. As long as they don’t let that carry over to this season they should be fine since a number of players return. The biggest returnee is Thompson-Robinson, who played at his four-star recruit level for the first time last year. And he should be better with a veteran group of playmakers and the entire offensive line back intact. “I don’t want to give away any secrets or anything, what we’ve got going on here, because we’ve got some special stuff coming. Everyone will see what we’ve got on the 28th,” Thompson-Robinson said.
The Bruins ran the ball exceptionally well last year averaging over 230 yards per game. Thompson-Robinson was a big part of that but he’s likely to give the ball to Brittain Brown and Zach Charbonnet to rack up the yards. UCLA should control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football with a combination of experience and size wearing down Hawai’i. While the game could be close for a half, UCLA should pull away after the break with a much better overall squad.
Hawai’i at UCLA Prediction
I was initially hesitant to back the Bruins with the spread climbing to 18.5-points. The bottom line is that UCLA should be much improved with a bunch of starters back on both sides of the football. Their size and depth will be a factor as the game progresses and I expect the home club to pull away for a big cover win.
Odds Prediction: UCLA -18.5 / UNDER 68