Chip Kelly, former Oregon Ducks head coach and late of the NFL's Eagles and 49'ers, will return to the collegiate ranks where his teams thrived under his stewardship. Let's discuss what impact his presence will make on the college football odds in 2018.
Chip Kelly's frenetic, high-octane offense bore fruit during his tenure with the Oregon Ducks but his stints as a head coach in the NFL were almost as disastrous as his college record was impressive. Regardless of why the results were so disparate, UCLA has successfully wooed Kelly back to the college ranks and will pay a portion of the remaining $15 million salary owed to him by his previous employer, the San Francisco 49'ers. The Bruins are banking that Kelly will be able to rekindle the magic that produced a 46-7 record during his time in Eugene, Oregon along with one BCS title game, two Rose Bowl appearances and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl.
The irony is that although the Bruins may have plenty of reasons why they are saddled with a pedestrian 6-6 mark this season, offense isn't chief among them. This 2017 edition ranks fifth in passing yards, averaging 345.3 per game, and 34th in scoring with 33.8 points per game. It would seem that what UCLA needs is a defensive wizard who could bolster their 119th ranked matador defense which has led to a whopping 36.8 points allowed per game this season.
In addition, the UCLA offense is one-dimensional as their ground attack ranks a dismal 112th this season, averaging just a click over 120 rushing yards per game. Yet, passing schemes are what put Kelly on the map and Philadelphia fans will vividly recall his use of DeMarco Murray after he dropped a boatload of cash on the top free agent running back in 2015 and designed a rushing attack that was counter to Murray's strengths. That season Kelly was fired and Murray was shipped to Tennessee. Eagles' fans would call it, the End of an Error.
Perception is Reality
The immediate reaction to the Kelly signing for UCLA fans and casual bettors always looking to go over the posted total in their college football picks is that the Bruins' point production will skyrocket under their new head coach which will lead to plenty of scoring and lots of victories. But it seems to me that UCLA has hired a coaching celebrity as opposed to what is really needed - a defensive savant. Why try to get your engine bigger when your car has no brakes? What this team needs is a head coach who is defense-oriented and one who can implement a more balanced offense that will incorporate a rushing game into what is now, a transparent passing attack.
Perhaps the best ancillary effect Kelly will have on the UCLA program is getting top-notch recruits to join his squad and help the Bruins become the cream of the PAC 12 crop. But here again, recruiting under former head coach Jim Mora was not a huge issue as UCLA currently boasts the nation's 14th -ranked recruiting class for next season and has finished with a top-20 crop over the past three years. Will Kelly improve upon these more than acceptable numbers? Probably, but again Kelly brings yet another answer to a problem that really doesn't exist at UCLA.
But perception is reality, and the oddsmakers understand this better than anyone. Point spreads and the futures markets are not predicated on what experts believe will happen but what oddsmakers believe will attract an equal number of bets on either side. In 2018 you can bet that UCLA's win total for the season will be inflated as will the posted totals (over/under) in every game they play. Or at least in the early part of the year until bettors begin to realize that Kelly's presence hasn't added much more to an offense that was already scoring almost 34 points per game. Oh, and if Kelly does hire a competent defensive coordinator, then their sieve-like defense should get better which leads to, guess what? Fewer points! How's that over looking now?
So before you bet the farm on the Bruins to win their conference or go over whatever the college football odds makers ascribe to UCLA's total season wins in 2018, take a breath and reevaluate. Don't blindly bet over whatever total is posted on a UCLA game just because your buddy at the bar says, "Kelly is coaching them now!" Be careful, because UCLA's new hire may be a big dose of the wrong prescription by the wrong doctor.