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UCLA returns to national top-25 football rankings for first time since September 2017

UCLA tight end Greg Dulcich (85) is congratulated by teammate Duke Clemens after scoring a touchdown against LSU.
UCLA tight end Greg Dulcich (85) is congratulated by teammate Duke Clemens after scoring a touchdown against LSU on Saturday at the Rose Bowl.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

UCLA football is back … in the national rankings.

Season-opening victories over Hawaii and Louisiana State vaulted the Bruins (2-0) to No. 16 in the Associated Press and coaches polls released Tuesday, landing two spots behind USC ranked No. 14 in both polls.

UCLA was ranked No. 25 in September 2017 AP poll after starting that season with victories over Texas A&M and Hawaii before losing to Memphis and falling out of the poll.

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It’s the first time UCLA has been ranked under coach Chip Kelly, who was hired before the 2018 season, and the first time one of Kelly’s teams has been ranked since Oregon finished the 2012 season No. 2 after beating Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl. Kelly spent the next four seasons in the NFL.

Kelly said he didn’t care whether his team moved into the rankings after it beat LSU — then ranked No. 13 in the coaches poll and No. 16 in the AP poll — on Saturday at the Rose Bowl.

The UCLA defense gave the LSU quarterback Max Johnson and the Tigers’ offense fits during the Bruins’ win on Saturday at the Rose Bowl.

“You don’t have to write down a ranking for these guys, they know they played really well,” Kelly said after his team’s 38-27 triumph, which knocked the Tigers (0-1) out of both polls. “They also know on Monday nobody cares, so whatever. It is what it is. It’s good to talk about for other people, but not for us.”

While the Bruins do not play this week, they will hardly be idle as they begin preparations for their next game against Fresno State (1-1) on Sept. 18 at the Rose Bowl.

“Next week is an improvement week for us, it’s not a bye week, it’s not an open date, we’re not going to Cabo, taking five days off and then showing back up and getting ready for Fresno,” Kelly said.

The man who drew Ed Orgeron’s UCLA ‘sissy blue shirt’ ire before Saturday’s game at the Rose Bowl talks about what led to the exchange with the LSU coach.

“We’ll be back at it on Monday. We have a really good plan on how we work out in our improvement weeks, and the great part about this group is that’s what they want. If you asked them, ‘What do you guys want to do?’ They don’t want a day off, they want to work.”

Kelly’s teams have gone 1-2 after a bye week since his arrival at UCLA, beating Stanford in 2019 and losing to Colorado in 2018 and Utah in 2019.

UCLA is 2-0 and for-real real after defeating mighty LSU 38-27 on Saturday night at a rocking Rose Bowl, and the season’s promise is limitless.


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