UCLA was able to move the ball down the field towards the end of 2018 which will make this quite the intriguing opener. The trouble is, no matter what Chip Kelly throws at the Bearcats, they will be ready to defend their home turf.
Last year, Cincy was one of the best defensive teams in the nation. They were 8th in points per game allowed (17.2), 11th in total defense (303.5), 13th in rush defense (113.0), and 26th in pass defense (190.5). That’s pretty good, but the Bearcats will lose some of their bite as three starting defensive linemen have moved on. Cortez Broughton, Marquise Copeland, and Kimoni Fitz combined for 153 tackles, 34.0 tackles for a loss and 15.0 sacks, which mean that their newbies on the line and linebackers are going to have to compensate.
Cincinnati 2018 Defensive Stats
Speaking of linebackers, the Bearcats return one of their top tacklers from last season in Jarell White who had 58 last year (second on the team), seven tackles for a loss and one interception. Cincinnati will also be able to utilize Perry Young who played in just over half of the season, missing games last year due to an injury.
The strength in the defense comes from the secondary who returns a ton of talent. Safety James Wiggins is the star back there as he returns from a 54 tackles (fourth on the team), two TFLs, and four INT season. The Bearcats also have stellar corners in Coby Bryant and Cam Jeffries who combined for 67 total tackles, 20 pass breakups, and 23 passes deflected.
UCLA’s strength is their run game, which they should take advantage of in this contest. With Joshua Kelley looking to continue where he left off, it will be the Bruins best bet to move the ball down the field. If they can establish the run, that will open up the passing game to allow Dorian Thompson-Robinson to get some yards through the air.