UCLA’s schedule sets up for Bruins to make first statement under Chip Kelly

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is chased by USC linebacker Drake Jackson on Dec. 12, 2020.
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is chased by USC linebacker Drake Jackson during the Dec. 12 game between the Bruins and Trojans at the Rose Bowl.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Deep thoughts on UCLA’s 2021 football schedule probably won’t be forthcoming from Chip Kelly given what the Bruins coach said Tuesday on the Pac-12 Network.

Kelly, on the schedule that was released earlier in the day: “We didn’t really look at it.”

Kelly, on what he likes about playing Hawaii in Week Zero: “I don’t. I never even thought of it.”


Kelly, on the potential for his players to look ahead to their second game, against Louisiana State at the Rose Bowl: “I don’t even know if our kids know the schedule was released today because it’s March 2 and we’re really concerned with March 2.”

At some point, they will presumably turn their focus to Aug. 28, the date of the earliest start in program history.

UCLA’s season opener against Hawaii at the Rose Bowl represents another chance for Kelly to do something he hasn’t done since his arrival on campus: win a nonconference game.

Kelly has gone 0-6 in nonconference games with the Bruins, including 0-4 against Group of Five teams, as part of his 10-21 record. But UCLA will likely be favored to end that skid in emphatic fashion with 20 of 22 starters returning, including quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson and running back Brittain Brown.

UCLA’s game against LSU on Sept. 4 presents Kelly with a chance to notch a victory that would resonate on the national stage. The Tigers won the national championship after the 2019 season before going 5-5 during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.


UCLA will then enjoy the first of its two bye weeks before closing its nonconference schedule with Fresno State at the Rose Bowl on Sept. 18.

The Bruins’ conference schedule is far more challenging. They will play Washington and Oregon while skipping Washington State and Oregon State, usually a bad tradeoff for purposes of contending for a conference championship.

UCLA has added historically Black universities Alabama State and North Carolina Central to its football schedule in 2022 and 2023, respectively.

Feb. 24, 2021

Any chances of winning their first Pac-12 title since 1998 will be decided during a brutal six-game stretch late in the season. The Bruins will travel to face Washington in Seattle on Oct. 16 before returning home to play Oregon a week later. Then comes a trip to play Utah in Salt Lake City on Oct. 30 followed by a bye week, a home game against Colorado on Nov. 13 and a trip across town to face USC at the Coliseum on Nov. 20.

For the third consecutive year, UCLA will play California at the Rose Bowl when the teams meet in their season finales on Nov. 27. The Golden Bears came to Southern California on short notice last season as part of the pandemic shuffling and also played the Bruins at the Rose Bowl as the final game of the 2019 season.

UCLA will open its Pac-12 schedule at Stanford on Sept. 25 before hosting Arizona State on Oct. 2. The Bruins’ games against Arizona and Washington the next two weeks will represent their only back-to-back road games of the season.

In an encouraging development for Bruins fans after being shut out of the Rose Bowl in 2020, the school is accepting season ticket deposits in the hopes that attendance restrictions will be lifted.

A good start, including a couple of early wins at the Rose Bowl, could put the long-suffering Bruins in a cheery mood.