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Oskeim’s Free Pick Winner: Hawaii at UCLA

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It’s hard to believe that Chip Kelly is still looking for his first non-conference victory during his three-year tenure in Los Angeles.  However, the Bruins start the 2021 campaign with three consecutive non-conference affairs, beginning with Hawaii on Saturday, August 28.  Keep reading to get Oskeim’s free pick winner in this season opener!

UCLA is one of the most experienced teams in the nation, ranking 6th in the nation in returning production (93%). Head coach Chip Kelly welcomes back 20 starters, including starting quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, nine wide receivers with starting experience, and last year’s entire offensive line (73 career starts).

Senior running back Brittain Brown and Michigan transfer Zach Charbonnet solidify the Bruins’ backfield and should easily eclipse 200 yards per game on the ground in 2021. “We have a good game plan going,” Brown said.  “Coach Kelly knows what he wants to do. I’m pretty sure we’re going to want to get out there and run on these boys.”

UCLA’s offense averaged 35.4 points and 455 total yards per game last season and this year’s attack will be even more potent. The Bruins scored 34 or more points in five of seven games, went three-and-out only 21.6% of the time (18th in FBS) and finished ranked 23rd in offensive S&P+ in 2020.

UCLA also has its best defense under Kelly as the Bruins return its entire back seven, including a pair of defensive backs in Qwuantrezz Knight and Stephan Blaylock who should earn All-Pac-12 honors. The Bruins will have one of the best pass defenses in college football.

Hawaii is just 2-8 in its last ten road openers and 3-8 ATS in non-conference road affairs since 2014. Hawaii traveled to the Rose Bowl in 2017 and suffered a 56-23 defeat at the hands of the Bruins. The Rainbow Warriors have eleven returning starters on defense and possess one of the best secondaries in the Mountain West Conference.

The Warriors held opposing quarterbacks to an average of 197 passing yards per game last season (ranking 21st in the country) and intercepted 12 passes in 282 opportunities.  The 4.3 percent interception rate ranked ninth in the nation, and three Hawaii defensive backs had at least two interceptions.

However, UCLA’s seasoned attack is at a different level and I expect the Bruins to move the chains with ease in this game. Take the UCLA Bruins as Oskeim’s Free Pick Winner for Saturday, August 28.