Stanford and UCLA played a wildly entertaining high-scoring game over the weekend that largely flew under the radar given the other significant games in the Pac-12 this past weekend with USC looking to ruin Notre Dame’s playoff hopes and the Apple Cup carrying its own playoff and Pac-12 championship implications. But if you watched it, Stanford head coach David Shaw believes you got a glimpse into the future of the Pac-12 championship battles to come between the Cardinal and Bruins.
Praising his counterpart at UCLA, Chip Kelly, Shaw lauded the first-year UCLA head coach on a fine job this season after Stanford topped UCLA 49-42 Saturday in the Rose Bowl.
“I truly believe this is the future of the Pac-12 Championship Game right here,” Shaw said after the game. “What (Kelly) is starting to do here, I’m really excited for him. Thankful that we won the game today, but give a lot of credit to him. It’s going to be a lot of fun watching these two teams play over the next few years.”
UCLA ended its season with a record of just 3-9, but the Bruins played better in the second half of the season and scored a highlight win against USC, which put the rival Trojans on the brink of not being bowl-eligible (which became official with a loss to Notre Dame). Despite the record, UCLA became a fun team to watch, and Shaw certainly seemed to agree with that sentiment. Of course, Shaw also is taking a shot at USC, whether he intended that to be the case or not.
Stanford and UCLA have met in the Pac-12 Championship Game once, with the Cardinal topping the Bruins 27-24 in 2012. That was UCLA’s last appearance in the game. Stanford has played in the game three times since.
No matter what happens this weekend, UCLA will not be going to a bowl game in the first season with Chip Kelly as a head coach. At 2-8, that end result was determined weeks ago. Despite taking a while to get things seemingly together, UCLA will meet with their crosstown rivals from USC this week, and the timing could not have been better for Kelly and the Bruins.
USC was officially ruled out of the running for the Pac-12 South Division last week as they fell to 5-5 this season. The pressure on head coach Clay Helton has seemed to be on the rise as frustrations about the Trojans continues to build this season. The possibility of a coaching change has become a bit of a popular talking point for some as college football gets the coaching carousel greased up and ready to go at full force. And with Notre Dame coming to Los Angeles next week with their own College Football Playoff hopes potentially on the line, this week against the Bruins feels like it could be a must-win game for USC.
That alone makes this a pretty important game for Kelly and UCLA as well, even more so than it already was destined to be by default. Kelly will have an opportunity to really stick it to his new rival with an opposing head coach under an increasing amount of pressure by putting USC’s own bowl hopes on the edge of a cliff, with the Irish coming to town to give the final nudge.
A win for Kelly would help give UCLA’s recruiting efforts an extra sales pitch to make. As UCLA is looking to build something, they could be responsible for potential changes going on at USC. USC is rarely going to lose out in the recruiting battles and the Trojans will always have quality recruiting hauls, but Kelly would benefit by having a head-to-head win against USC, and this year would be a great way to end his first season at UCLA.
On Wednesday, running back Bolu Olorunfunmi was added to the list of Bruins players set to miss playing time due to concussion concerns. Olorunfunmi, who will sit out for the rest of the 2018 season, was the third player this week reportedly being ruled out for the remainder of the 2018 season by head coach Chip Kelly.
Earlier this week, Kelly announced starting linebacker Jaelan Phillips and running back Soso Jamabo were out due to their own head injury concerns.
Olorunfunmi was UCLA’s leading rusher in 2017 with 565 yards and five touchdowns. Jamabo was the second-leading rusher for the Bruins after appearing in 10 games with 446 yards and a team-high six rushing touchdowns a year ago. The 2018 season has been quite a different year for both senior running backs. Jamabo has appeared in just three games with five rushing attempts for 12 yards, and Olorunfunmi has appeared in all six games with 31 rushing attempts for 85 yards; he is also tied for the most rushing touchdowns for UCLA with four this season.
Phillips appeared in four games for the Bruins, in which he recorded 20 total tackles and one sack this season. Phillips had been listed as UCLA’s starter at outside linebacker, with redshirt freshman Odusa Isibor listed as his backup at the position. Redshirt sophomore Mique Juarez has been listed as the other backup outside linebacker on the UCLA depth chart this season.
With more attention and care given to head injuries around the football world, it is not surprising to see players have to cut their seasons short, and the losses on the depth chart can never come at a good time for any program. Losing three players in the same week is especially difficult as Kelly is looking to finally build off the team’s first win of the season.
UCLA hosts Arizona this week in Pac-12 play. The Wildcats will be without starting quarterback Khalil Tate.
Backup UCLA quarterback Devon Modster is leaving the Bruins behind in hopes of finding a chance to continue his football career elsewhere. Modster took to Twitter to announce his intent to transfer from UCLA on Friday afternoon, during UCLA’s bye week.
“I would like to thank [former UCLA head coach Jim Mora] for giving me the opportunity to play and attend such a prestigious school,” Modster said in his Twitter statement. “I’d like to thank Coach Kelly and the strength coaches for allowing me to continue to play the game I love, BUT I’ve decided to leave UCLA and pursue other opportunities.”
Modster had not recorded any stats for UCLA this season. Graduate transfer Wilton Speight has played in just one game as UCLA’s starter, and freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson has played in three games and led the offense. Perhaps the writing was on the wall with Thompson-Robinson becoming the go-to option for Kelly and the Bruins moving forward after the first few disappointing weeks.
Modster appeared in five games as a backup to Josh Rosen last season. In his five appearances, Monster completed 51 of 79 passes for 671 yards and four touchdowns without an interception.
Modster will have to sit out the 2019 season if he lands at another FBS program under NCAA transfer rules, but he will have a few years of eligibility to use.
As for Kelly, it has been a rocky start with the quarterback position. Between Speight’s injury and Thompson-Robinson’s dad ripping the head coach and now having one quarterback transfer before the end of September, what else could possibly go wrong for Kelly in his return to college football coaching?
UCLA will kick off the new college football season and the first game in the Chip Kelly era a bit shorthanded. On Monday, UCLA suspended six players for the season opener this weekend against Cincinnati for what is simply being reported as a violation of athletic department policy. Tight end Devin Asiasi, running back Soso Jamabo, defensive linemen Osa Odighizuwa and Moses Robinson-Carr, defensive back Mo Osling, and offensive lineman Boss Tagaloa will all sit out of UCLA’s home game against Cincinnati on September 1.
Bruce Feldman of The Athletic reported the news of the suspension, via Twitter.
Jamabo is one of UCLA’s top running backs returning in 2018 after rushing for 446 yards and a team-high six touchdowns last season for the Bruins in 10 games. The absence of Jamabo will likely mean more carries for senior Bolu Olorunfunmi, last year’s leading rusher for UCLA, as well as some younger options that could take advantage of the opportunity. Branden Stephens may be the most liekly to get a few more rushing attempts as a result.
Tagaloa started eight games for UCLA in 2017 and recorded 32 tackles with one sack. In nine games, Tagaloa recorded multiple tackles a year after playing in 12 games as a reserve lineman and on special teams.
Odighizuwa played in 13 games last season and recorded 15 tackles with 5.5 tackles for a loss and a sack as a backup.
Osling played in 13 games as . abackup defensive back and saw time on special teams by returning kicks. Osling recorded 18 tackles and returned nine kickoffs for an average of 18.0 yards per return.
Robinson-Carr played as a backup tight end and on special teams last season. He started one game and caught one pass for four yards.
Asiasi sat out the 2017 season after transferring to UCLA from Michigan.
UCLA has not released a depth chart for this weekend’s game at this time.
UPDATE: Now, UCLA has a depth chart. Redshirt junior Joshua Kelly sits atop the depth chart at running back. Kelley did not play in 2017 after transferring from UC Davis. No starting quarterback has been decided on at this time.