UCLA defeated No. 13 Washington State to get back in the Pac-12 conference race.
UCLA defeated a top 15-ranked team in Washington State because their defense was solid, their true freshman quarterback overcame an early interception and some first-half sacks to throw for almost 300 yards, and their running game took the next step by providing much-needed offense late in the game by rushing for two touchdowns.
Here are some reasons why UCLA football can win the Pac-12 conference for the 2023 season.
They have a strong, productive, and consistent running game.
UCLA has a deep rotation of running backs, led by Carson Steele and Keegan Jones. The Bruin running game is an integral part of their offense this season. Steele’s season stats don’t jump out at you as being overly impressive with 272 yards rushing with two touchdowns but he rushed for 140 yards against the Cougars carrying the ball 30 times to help UCLA to a much-needed victory.
Keegan Jones who is a senior and is officially listed as a wide receiver, has only caught three passes thus far this season. However, against Washington State, he rushed the ball three times for 45 yards and most importantly had two touchdowns on the ground. TJ Harden who didn’t have a great game statistically against the Cougars, has been a reliable and producing running back this season. He has 264 rushing yards this season with two touchdowns. He and Steele along with help from players like Jones, will help the Bruins contend and possibly capture a Pac-12 championship this season.
The improving defense may end up being the best defensive unit in the Pac-12.
UCLA’s defense struggled last season, but they have a good group of young players who are gaining experience, transfers who are contributing, and upperclassmen who are not only providing leadership but stepping up tremendously for the Bruins defense this season.
No opponent that UCLA has faced this season has scored more than 17 points against them this season. The Bruins on average are only giving up 12.2 points per game this year. UCLA is ranked No. 8 in the country in total defense and ranked No. 8 in the nation in team sacks.
There is no evidence and or proof that this UCLA defense is slowing down and you can make a strong argument that this defense is getting better week by week according to the “eye test”. The Bruin defense continues to cause turnovers as UCLA made Washington State turn the ball over four times. The defensive unit may be one of if not the main reasons that the Bruins make it to the Pac-12 championship game this year.
They have a favorable schedule for the most part the rest of the season.
UCLA’s schedule in 2023 is not the easiest, but they do not have to play Washington or Oregon in the regular season as both teams are currently 5-0 and ranked in the top eight nationally. The Bruins also have three home games left in Colorado, Arizona State, and Cal in which they will be favored in all three of those games, they play at Arizona and Stanford which they should win and their two toughest games the rest of the regular season are Oregon State and USC.
The two most challenging games are winnable for the Bruins as they defeated the Cougars who beat Oregon State and the Trojans’ offense is impressive but their defense proved last week against Colorado that it is vulnerable. UCLA can finish conference play 8-1 and they would then have the opportunity to play in the conference championship game for the right to be crowned the Pac-12 champions.
UCLA has a good and proven coach who has shown in the past that he can win a Pac-12 championship.
Chip Kelly has a proven track record of success at the college level. He won 3 Pac-12 conference championships from 2009–2011 at Oregon and there is nothing to prove that he can’t win a conference title as the coach at UCLA.
Kelly did a great job of preparing his team to face off against Washington State after losing on the road by seven to Utah in week four play. He looks to have the focus and energy to lead the Bruins to a possible Pac-12 championship in 2023.
Overall, UCLA has a good chance to win the Pac-12 conference in 2023. They have a talented roster, a favorable schedule, and a good coach. If the Bruins can stay healthy and continue to improve on offense, they could be the team to beat in the Pac-12 when it is all said and done.