CU at UCLA: “T.I.P.S.” for Buffs’ Attempt To Go 3-1 Against Chip Kelly’s Bruins

… Related … If you prefer your predictions verbally, “CU at the Game Podcast: “T.I.P.S.” for CU at UCLA / Oregon State Recap: High Water Mark for Buffs … Or Just the Beginning? can be found at Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or pretty much wherever you download your favorites. Or, if you would prefer, you can find the podcast here or here.

Sometimes, perceptions follow the uniform.

This is the fourth year of the Chip Kelly era at UCLA, but his record over that span (15-25) is worse that what Colorado has posted over that same time frame (20-22) … with three different head coaches setting up shop in the Champions Center.

Oh, and the Buffs are 2-1 over Kelly’s Bruins since the wizard came to Westwood.

And yet, the perception is that UCLA is a much better team than Colorado. The Bruins were installed as a 17-point favorite over the Buffs, and the ESPN Power Index gives UCLA an 86.8% chance of victory … with CU given a 13.2% chance.

The Buffs were a 12.0-point underdog against Oregon State, but, in playing their most complete game of the season, were able to come away with a 37-34 double-overtime victory.

Can the Buffs make it two upsets in a row?

Let’s find out …

 

This Week’s “T.I.P.S” for CU at UCLA – Saturday, 7:00 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks

T – Talent

Last November, in the season opener for both teams, Colorado defeated UCLA, 48-42. The Buffs got the win, but it wasn’t by stopping – or really even slowing down – Bruin quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson. Robinson completed 20-of-40 passes for 303 yards and four touchdowns. DTR also had 109 yards rushing, adding another score.

In 2019, Thompson-Robinson led UCLA to a 31-14 win over Colorado in Pasadena, completing 75% of his passes, going for 226 yards and two touchdowns.

In 2018, with Thompson-Robinson making his first Pac-12 start, the Buffs ran away to a 38-16 win in Boulder, with DTR picking up 138 yards passing and a touchdown.

So, in three games against the Buffs, Dorian Thompson-Robinson has 667 yards passing, with seven touchdowns and two interceptions.

This season, DTR, like his 5-4, 3-3 Bruins, has had his ups and downs. Thompson-Robinson has thrown for 1,639 yards and 13 touchdowns (with only three interceptions), but has completed only 59.4 percent of his passes (compare Brendon Lewis: 1,186 yards passing, with ten touchdowns and three interceptions – 59.6 percent completion rate).

Where DTR can be dangerous to defenses like CU’s is when he takes off and runs. Thompson-Robinson has 97 carries this season (over ten carries per game) for 364 yards and six touchdowns.

Now, Thompson-Robinson suffered a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter of UCLA’s 34-31 loss to Oregon, and did not play against Utah the following weekend (freshman Ethan Garbers started in the 44-24 loss to the Utes, with 265 yards passing, two touchdowns and one interception). But UCLA had a bye week to heal up for the CU game, so, unless we hear otherwise, expect to see DTR for the fourth time.

Leading UCLA’s 29th-ranked rushing offense is a two-headed monster. Zach Charbonnet leads the team with 797 rushing yards and eight touchdowns, but don’t discount senior Brittain Brown, who has 558 rushing yards and six touchdowns.

The Bruin passing attack is not as scary, but has still been effective. On the outside, junior Kyle Phillips is the main threat, with 39 receptions for 528 yards and six touchdowns. But … Buff fans should be wary of junior tight end Greg Dulcich. Colorado’s defense has been susceptible to quality tight ends, and Dulcich has 31 catches this season, going for 477 yards and four touchdowns (compare: CU’s leading receiver is Brenden Rice, with 18 catches for 285 yards and three scores).

While the UCLA offense has been productive, that has been required to keep the Bruins in games, as the defense has been suspect. The Bruins have been stout against the run – 19th in the nation, giving up only 116.4 yards per game – but that stat is partially skewed by the fact that the Bruins have been susceptible to the passing game. UCLA’s defense is 120th nationally in pass defense, surrendering over 278 yards per game.

So … If the Buffs are going to win, it’s likely going to be because Brendon Lewis is continuing his development as a passer, and has a good game Saturday night.

Worthy of note … With the 26-yard punt return by Oregon State in the final seconds of Saturday’s game still fresh in our memories, it bears noting that UCLA has one of the best return units in the country. The Bruins are 5th in the nation in punt returns, and 7th in the nation in kickoff returns.

 

I – Intangibles

The Buffs, if they want to go bowling in Karl Dorrell’s first full season in Boulder, will have to win out. Colorado is 3-6, and while the win over Oregon State was a “feel good” moment, the reality is that the Buffs would have to defeat UCLA on the road, then Washington at home, then Utah on the road, in order to qualify for the post-season.

Slightly more possible scenario than a week ago, but still verrrrrry unlikely.

Meanwhile, in Westwood …

This was supposed to be the year that the Bruins broke out. Dorian Thompson-Robinson was a senior, and would put it all together. It was the fourth-year for Chip Kelly at UCLA, and he finally had a full roster of his own players. Plus, all of the other Pac-12 South contenders had question marks.

After UCLA defeated LSU in September, the prognosticators looked like they had it right. The Bruins raced up the charts, coming in at No. 16 in the Associated Press poll.

And then … UCLA lost to Fresno State. The Bruins clung to a national ranking for the next few weeks, but a 42-23 home loss to Arizona State dropped the 3-2 Bruins out of the polls for good.

Presently, the Bruins are 5-4, 3-3 on the season. That would sound pretty good to a CU fan right about now, but it’s another season of disappointment for the Bruin Nation.

Hard as it may be to believe: The five wins Chip Kelly’s Bruins have posted in 2021 represent the most games UCLA has won in the past four years.

Chip Kelly’s record at UCLA … 3-9; 4-8; 3-4; 5-4. That works out to 15-25 … Unhappy numbers even at CU (the Buffs, during Kelly’s run, have posted records of 5-7; 5-7; 4-2; and 3-6, which works out to an overall record of 20-22, which includes a 2-1 record over UCLA).

And it’s not as if the Bruin faithful aren’t aware of Kelly’s  record. An article in the Los Angeles Times this past week was entitled: “Commentary: Chip Kelly is nowhere close to elite, and UCLA can do much better“:

Elite is not going 15-25, a .375 winning percentage that is the worst in school history for any coach who did not hold an interim tag.

Elite is not hoping to finish with a record above .500 for the first time in Year Four.

Elite is not keeping a failed defensive coordinator, at $700,000 per year, because of loyalty to a friend.

Elite is not losing three consecutive home games. 

Elite is not hoping to make the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl.

Elite is not touting how your team never gives up and intends to correct the same mistakes it makes week after week.

Elite is not talking about having a really good Wednesday when Saturdays are all that matter in college football.

Elite is not Chip Kelly.

Yikes.

 

P – Preparation/Schedule

One thing the Bruins have going for them this week is that they are coming off of their second bye week of the season.

UCLA played in Week Zero, defeating Hawai’i, 44-10. After taking out LSU to climb into the rankings, the Bruins took a week off … before falling to Fresno State at home, 40-37.

Now, you could make the argument that UCLA’s first bye week worked against them, as they lost to a lesser foe the week after their bye. A more likely explanation: The Bruins spent their off week reading their press clippings about how great they were, and overlooked the Bulldogs.

A bye week in early November, though, is a godsend. It allows players a chance to heal, and get injured players back into the lineup (See: Thompson-Robinson, Dorian). It also gives UCLA coaches a chance to clean up their game plan, and extra time to prepare for the next opponent (See: 1-4 CU, which defeated Arizona, 34-0, after its bye week).

Put another way … Would the CU coaches love an extra week to heal up their roster and get more time to prepare for UCLA? Um … you bet.

Now, there may be one upside to the schedule for the Buffs, and it has to do with next weekend’s games.

No, not CU v. Washington (1:00 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks), but UCLA’s opponent next weekend … USC.

Both teams are major disappointments, with UCLA at 5-4, 3-3; USC languishing at 4-5, 3-4.

With both programs looking to play for a Pac-12 title this fall, and with no hope of that happening, goals have to be adjusted.

Bowl-eligibility has to be attained (USC needs to beat Cal this weekend to get to win No. 5, then beat either UCLA or BYU to get to six wins; UCLA has to beat CU, USC, or Cal). Assuming both teams feel they can get to six wins, the next biggest goal (and perhaps even a greater goal than getting to a minor bowl) would be beating your greatest rival.

If UCLA fans have to be miserable at what Year Four under Chip Kelly has produced, it can at least be a warm off-season if they make USC fans even more miserable.

So, while Buff fans can safely assume that UCLA coaches were focused on beating CU during their bye week … the UCLA players may have been looking ahead to November 20th and their battle with the hated Trojans.

 

S – Statistics 

Otherwise known as the car accident section. You know you should look away, but you just can’t …

Stats to make you smile … Every team at this time of year has warts, and the Bruins haven’t been as great as forecast …

  • On offense … Nothing in the 100s, though the Bruins are very similar to the Beavers in their stats. UCLA is 86th in passing offense (the Beavers were 94th) … The Bruins are 29th in rushing offense (the Beavers were 11th);
  • On defense … Again, similar to Oregon State. UCLA is 120th in passing defense (OSU was 114th). UCLA is 121st in third down percentage defense (OSU  was 127th in third down percentage defense … UCLA is 81st in first downs allowed (OSU was 103rd …
  • Other … 105th penalty yards per game … 121st in red zone defense …

Stats to make you cringe … You can feel free to skip this one, if you are squeamish … Categories wherein the Buffs are ranked 100th in the nation or lower include:

  • On offense … 128th (not last!) in total offense (266.7 yards/game) … 126th in passing offense (134.8 yards/game) … 119th in scoring offense (19.1 points/game) … 113th in third down conversions (.339) … 128th in first downs (136) …
  • On defense … none … CU’s defense has fallen from 36th in scoring defense two weeks ago (20.7 points/game) to 66th (25.7 points/game) … and has fallen from 63rd in total defense (376.6 yards/game) to 87th (408.9 yards/game) …
  • Other … 113th in third down conversions, offense (.339) …122nd in time of possession (27.06) …

Stats to watch (i.e, stats which will decide the game)Beating DTR at his own game … This is Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s fourth season, while this is Brendon Lewis’ tenth start. Yet there seems to be reason to hope that Lewis will have an even higher upside. Lewis has to take care of the ball (been very good at that so far), while creating plays when things break down. DTR averages about ten carries per game, with some of them designed runs, some on scrambles. If Lewis has more passing and rushing yards than does DTR, the Buffs have a good chance of winning … Winning third downs … Just like last week, it’s a study of contrasts. Colorado is terrible at third down conversions (.339; 113th nationally), while the opposition has a tough time stopping their opponents (.466; 127th nationally). It worked last week for CU, with the Buffs converting 7-of-16 third downs, with two of those conversions being touchdowns.

Prediction … 

Colorado has lost three straight games on the road … UCLA has lost three straight games at home … something has to give there.

Colorado hasn’t beaten UCLA on the road as a member of the Pac-12 (Buffs’ one win in Pasadena coming in 2002), with the average score being 36.6-19.2.

Those aren’t good numbers if you are a Buff fan … the Rose Bowl simply hasn’t been good to Colorado football.

The Buffs were well prepared to take on DTR and the Bruins last year in Boulder. CU raced out to a 35-7 first half lead (before having to hold on for a 48-42 victory). The Buffs had 525 yards of total offense, with Jarek Broussard going for 187 yards and three touchdowns. The Buffs also enjoyed the gift of four UCLA turnovers, making for an enjoyable debut to the Karl Dorrell era.

It would be nice if the Buffs were able to post those kinds of numbers this weekend, but it doesn’t seem likely.

The Buffs are starting to win back their fans. They are starting to build hope for the future.

There seems to be reason to have renewed excitement about the Buffs, not only for this weekend, but for the upcoming seasons.

I’m just not convinced that we are there yet.

Last week, I thought the Buffs were better than the 12.0-point spread Vegas put on the game, but I wasn’t convinced they would win.

This week, I think the Buffs are better than the 17.0-point spread Vegas put on the game, but I’m not convinced they will win.

I hope I’m wrong about the outcome of the game … again.

Prediction … UCLA 34, Colorado 24

Previous predictions …

  • Colorado 38, Northern Colorado 17 … Actual: Colorado 35, Northern Colorado 7
  • No. 5 Texas A&M 38, Colorado 17 … Actual: No. 5 Texas A&M 10, Colorado 7
  • Colorado 21, Minnesota 20 … Actual: Minnesota 30, Colorado 0
  • Arizona State 27, Colorado 13 … Actual: Arizona State 35, Colorado 13
  • USC 27, Colorado 17 … Actual: USC 37, Colorado 14
  • Colorado 24, Arizona 17 … Actual: Colorado 34, Arizona 0
  • Colorado 24, California 17 .. Actual: California 26, Colorado 3
  • No. 7 Oregon 48, Colorado 3 … Actual: No. 7 Oregon 52, Colorado 29
  • Oregon State 27, Colorado 20 … Actual: Colorado 37, Oregon State 34, 2OT

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10 Replies to ““T.I.P.S” for CU at UCLA”

  1. I had a lucky straight up Buffs win prediction last week. Not feeling it now but happy with the progress the team is making. Hoping for a continuation this Saturday. Not expecting a win but beating the spread. UCLA 38 CU 27. Go Buffs!!

  2. So I have seen actual changes in the offensive line both scheme and technique. I posted a long post in another thread on the specifics. So I suspect the buff offense will continue its improved performance. Which is good. I also think that Lewis is improving and while he is not really seeing the field he is at least got his first read down and throwing the ball most of the time if it is there.

    Strangely enough the question is now the defense. Can the defense hold UCLA? Especially without Landman. With Landman we beat Utah last year…. We won our first game without him against OSU. But the OSU qb was not throwing well and I am not sure we will get that lucky again.

    Where is Lang? Johnson and Sami show up regularly, we need Lang to start making a difference.

    I am not sure about the line backer platooning. It is hard to get into the flow of a game. I suspect we will see more. Perry is doing solidly but Barnes/Lamb/Hamm will need to do a better job.

    We need Blackmon back…. The freshman are actually pretty good but Blackmon is a shutdown sort of guy.

    We will have to see which defense shows up. If Landman plays I think we have a shot. Without him we would need a big step up by our linebackers….. not impossible but it would need to be a big step.

    I refuse to pick against the buffs…..so no prediction…..as I hate being wrong as well. 😀

    OSU overlooked us. UCLA will not.

  3. Stuart, would it be possible to get stats to see how the Buffs stack up nationally since pulling the trigger on Rodrigue? I am curious how much progress the Buffs have made relative to national before and after that change.

  4. The back-off of daylight savings time is killing me. Get up at 3. Can’t go back to the sack. Pounding the coffee………….then read the on line suffaroonie, etc…………and hear I am……………”Stuck in the middle with you”

    Buffs.

    Note: Hey Stuart, I was perusing you predictions. Other than the first game, they pretty much suck krushed kornkobs.

    1. I think what you meant to say was: “Thanks, Stuart, for all the time you put into CU at the Game, and for allowing me to criticize you and everyone else who posts on your website”.

      1. Nah,

        That’s not it.

        I do appreciate your site. And recall again when you were trying to build your site back in the day by promoting it on the buffzone comment section that I helped you even when you were figuring out trackers etc etc with your start up site admin. And I got a hat too.

        Just like anything in life you get some good and you get some bad (perspective) so there is that.

        So don’t forget to say thanks eh?

        Buffs.

        Note: You are sensitive to sarcastic criticism. Shoulda put a little smiley after that comment up there. But I don’t know how.

        1. VK you do really like to hear your yourself talk… err read yourself 😉 is that how I mark sarcasm?

          I’ll say it for you then: THANK YOU STUART FOR ALL THAT YOU DO and ALL of the time you put… AND for providing us a place where we can post about our Buffs.

          CU wins a nail-biter by 1-3 points, don’t care what the actual score as long as they win.

          1. Yo Marcus,

            Sheesh thanks for speaking up ………….for me. Yur a fine gentleman.

            go buffs beat the washedupdogs

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