Thinking about last night’s game, I think most Bruin fans expected Utah to win, but I don’t think anyone expected it would be as bad as it was last night.
Of course, this was another example of how the UCLA Bruins have been embarrassed on national television, but this was different than many of the other times.
Well, for starters, the Utah Utes are a very good football team and, frankly, after the Chip Kelly Talent Drain, the Bruins didn’t have the skilled athletes they would have needed to compete with the Utes last night.
That’s not excusing last night’s loss, though it may sound like it. It’s not an excuse because, ultimately, every single time Chip Kelly utters the words “We’re a young team. We’ve got all these freshmen and sophomores,” we need to remember who is responsible for the fact that we have all those freshmen and sophomores in the first place. And, that’s Chip Kelly.
Chip Kelly failed to re-recruit a lot of the four-star and five-star recruits that had been brought into the program under Jim Mora. Instead, Kelly opted to go the total rebuild route.
That might not be such an issue if he were convincing top-notch recruits to join the program, but he hasn’t to this point. With the recent recruiting burst included, just two members of UCLA’s 19-member 2020 recruiting class are four-star recruits. That’s 10.5% of the recruiting class.
Even the great and powerful Chip Kelly cannot win a Pac-12 South title with a team filled with mostly three-star recruits.
Let me put this another way. Chip Kelly will not be able to win the Pac-12 South title if blue chip recruits continue to consist of just 10.5% of his recruiting class.
So, where does that leave UCLA after last night’s loss to Utah?
I think we need to wait and see until what happens over the next two Saturdays. I think that two wins puts the Bruins on the right track. That would put UCLA at 6-6 for the season. The team would be bowl-eligible and they will have won five of the last six.
On the other hand, if last night’s game sends UCLA into a tailspin, it may be time to move on from Chip Kelly. That’s because UCLA will have had two three-game losing streaks to go with the three-game winning streak. The team will have finished 4-7 and the improvement in the won-loss columns from Year One to Year Two is not significant enough to keep Kelly moving forward unless...and that’s a BIG condition...there are signs that recruiting is improving. At this point, recruiting remains morbid, which means that Kelly could have two morbid classes in a row. That’s not the way to rebuild a program and the combination of a subpar on the field performance with morbid recruiting results is enough to say, “Enough!” and move on from Kelly.
That brings me to the final possibility. What should happen if UCLA wins one and loses one in their final two games of the season? Well, for starters, the team would not be bowl-eligible at 5-7. That would be terrible for the program because, frankly, even if the team is crushed in a bowl game, the team could use the extra practices a team gets for going bowling in the first place.
Does it really matter which of the final two games UCLA wins? It shouldn’t but it might.
Before the three-game winning streak, I wrote repeatedly how I thought Kelly’s job was safe under a lame duck athletic director and it probably still is. I don’t see Dan Guerrero deciding to fire Kelly while he has one foot out the door.
There is, of course, one exception under which I can see that happening.
That exception is if the Bruins lose to Southern Cal this coming week. While it should come as no surprise that beating the Trojans is important, it’s critical to remember that Dan has fired his last two football coaches following losses to Southern Cal.
If a bad Southern Cal team finds a way to beat the Bruins, Dan could decide to make a change. I still don’t think it’s very likely, but the results of Saturday’s game will certainly play into his decision. If it’s close, it’s easy for Dan to say “We’re improving and I’m going to let the next AD figure it out.” But, if it’s anything like last night, Guerrero could surprise even this Bruin fan.
While I hope Kelly and his team find a way to win both of their last two games, last night’s loss has made that a lot less certain. In another words, things are back to what has been the new normal under Guerrero’s “leadership.”
Go Bruins!! Beat ‘SC!!