What can you say about 2020? It has been a year to really forget from all angles. With sports at a standstill and college football swaying back and forth from wanting to start, the Pac-12 was the most hesitant to begin their season. Just about every other major conference has played a few games, but not without cancellations or teams massively short players.
With the Pac-12 starting their season this weekend, they will be the only conference not participating for a chance at a national championship. To be fair, it is somewhat hard to believe that every team in the Pac-12 was even worrying or considering having a chance to do so, as each team in the conference has stressed health and safety.
Said Bruins head coach Chip Kelly to a reporter in Oregon: “I’m just hopeful in Week 3 we get the opportunity to get on a plane and play a game because nobody on either team has contracted the virus.”
It is true though. Many major programs have either lost key games or key players due to COVID-19, with Clemson sensation quarterback Trevor Lawrence recently the next to go down. Still, either way, there is still plenty for the Bruins to be riding on and with a revised schedule.
Each team in the conference will be playing just seven games, five within their division and at least one outside. Historically the Pac-12 South has been arguably the most competitive but in a very awkward way, where division leaders cannot seem to hold on to their lead for consecutive weeks. UCLA last season fared against the Pac-12 South with a 2-3 record, but they did have a close loss to Arizona last season.
Overall, UCLA is a team that can swing either way, where they can either shock many teams within the division, or play predictable football and fall in the bottom of the pack. Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is going to be one of those quarterbacks who will be a lot of fun to watch this season. He has legs (nearly 200 rushing yards with four touchdowns), and a strong arm (averaging a 58 percent completion percentage with 28 touchdowns in two seasons). However, he has been at times inaccurate (16 interceptions in two seasons) and can be prone to make bad passes. What will help DTR is his receiving core returning. Four of his top five receivers will return, which includes Kyle Phillips that hauled in 60 catches for just under 700 yards.
At the same time, the running game will have some question marks. With Josh Kelly leaving, this means Demetric Felton should take the majority of the snaps in the backfield. Chase Cota could also make a case to trade snaps with Felton, but they have some major shoes to fill.
The offense overall should be fine. It will be the defense that will have plenty to prove that the Bruins can show off as contenders. Other than all Pac-12 defensive end Osa Odighizua, that is pretty much it. Last season the Bruins gave up at least four touchdowns in six games last season, as well as two score or more losses in all but one. If the Bruins want to contend, this has to be their bread and butter.
UCLA starts their 2020 campaign with Colorado. They are expected to win with Utah on the schedule at home next week. The Utes are not the same team like always, which means a 2-0 Bruins season to start the year can clearly cause some feathers to ruffle.