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Gameday predictions: UCLA vs. Coastal Carolina

Pictured are senior defensive lineman Laiatu Latu (left) and senior wide receiver Kam Brown (right). (Photos by (left to right): Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor, David Rimer/Daily Bruin senior staff. Photo illustration by Helen Quach/Design director)

By Dylan Winward, Benjamin Royer, Joseph Crosby, and Gavin Carlson

Aug. 27, 2023 9:53 p.m.

Joseph Crosby
Sports editor
Prediction: UCLA 42, Coastal Carolina 31

The first game of UCLA football’s season is a tale of two quarterbacks.

On one end is Grayson McCall. He’s the only three-time Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year. His 95 career total touchdowns are a Coastal Carolina program record, and he’s one of 45 players on the 2023 Walter Camp Player of the Year Preseason Watch List.

The other end has yet to be decided.

The Bruins haven’t named a starting quarterback for Saturday’s season-opening contest.

Whether it’s freshman Dante Moore, redshirt junior Ethan Garbers or redshirt junior Collin Schlee taking snaps, UCLA will need its signal caller to come out ready to exploit a weak Coastal Carolina passing defense.

Both the Bruins and Chanticleers enter the year with new defensive coordinators that possess prior experience coaching the secondary. However, Coastal Carolina’s Craig Naivar is inheriting the No. 125 pass defense, while D’Anton Lynn’s situation isn’t much better, as UCLA ranked No. 117 in the same category last season.

It will take time before both coordinators will be fully comfortable with their new programs, and until that point, the respective offenses should be able to post big numbers, especially over the top.

At the end of the day, the Bruins’ talent and Lynn’s NFL experience should give them the edge, regardless of who lines up under center.

But don’t be surprised if McCall gives Lynn and the defense a run for their money.

Gavin Carlson
Daily Bruin staff
Prediction: UCLA 38, Coastal Carolina 28

UCLA loves the college football transfer portal. Apparently, McCall isn’t as much of a fan.

In the past two seasons especially, the Bruins have relied heavily on transfers to build their roster. In 2022, key players such as Zach Charbonnet, Jake Bobo and Laiatu Latu helped lead UCLA to its best season since 2014.

On Sept. 14 of that season, the Bruins even posted and took down a controversial social media post that declared the program “Transfer U” for having the most transfers turned starters since 2020.

UCLA might have advertised its use of the portal a little too much for coach Chip Kelly’s liking.

Nonetheless, Kelly and the Bruins took to the portal once again this offseason, grabbing impactful transfers such as junior running back Carson Steele, redshirt sophomore wide receiver J.Michael Sturdivant and junior linebacker Oluwafemi Oladejo, just to name a few.

On Saturday, “Transfer U” will defeat the exact type of school it would typically take players from.

Thanks to McCall, the Chanticleers have won 31 games in the past three seasons combined. He’s thrown for an unbelievable 78 touchdowns with just eight interceptions during his illustrious career in the Sun Belt Conference, and Kelly even called him one of the best returning quarterbacks in the entire country.

But one man cannot win a game himself, even at arguably the most important position in all of sports. McCall has stayed loyal to his program, but it’s a program with an inferior roster to most Power Five schools in 2023.

Regardless of how the team was built, UCLA is no exception.

The Bruins will waste no time using their new acquisitions to put up points and slow down Coastal Carolina’s star en route to a 10-point season-opening victory at the Rose Bowl.

Benjamin Royer
Assistant Sports editor
Prediction: UCLA 42, Coastal Carolina 28

A new era is set to begin at the Rose Bowl.

Yes, that’s usually marked by a new coach taking over a program. But in the Bruins’ case, it’s their first season in five years without Dorian Thompson-Robinson under center.

With Thompson-Robinson leading the charge last season, UCLA struggled against South Alabama – a team favored in the preseason to do well in the Sun Belt Conference. Coastal Carolina is in the same position as their conference foes in 2022, but this time with a more talented offensive output.

Lynn has a difficult task in his first game with the Bruins. He must quickly learn which schemes work and which personnel can make an impact, while also trying to limit McCall – one of the top returning quarterbacks in the nation.

Easy task, right?

UCLA’s offense could make it so.

Whichever quarterback leads the Bruins down the tunnel and onto the field Saturday can set the tone for the season and – at least temporarily – take the attention off the other side of the ball.

Running back duo sophomore T.J. Harden and Steele have the talent and strength to emerge as a dynamic punch for the backfield and make sure UCLA ends the night in the win column. They’ll help the Bruins head to San Diego next week with more answers than questions about what’s to come.

While the Chanticleers will give the Bruins some problems – which, from my view, should be expected – there is enough firepower available to begin the season with a bang.

Dylan Winward
Features and student life editor
Prediction: UCLA 42, Coastal Carolina 38

When I think about watching the Bruins play at the Rose Bowl against a school I’m not American enough to have heard of, my long-trained reaction is confidence.

Thompson-Robinson will probably run rings around the opponent’s defense. Failing that, he’ll chuck it 30 yards into the magnetic hands of Bobo. And, if worse comes to worst, he’ll hand it off to Charbonnet, who will find a hole and drive towards the goal line.

Unfortunately, I’m reminded that, nowadays, none of last year’s certainties can be relied upon. This team will have to discover its identity, and its superstars, in a new era for Kelly’s stewardship.

That will take time.

The 2023 season feels like a litmus for Kelly’s ability to build a team, especially since the coach hasn’t yet named a starting quarterback.

This need for the team to gel will never be more evident than in its first game of a new season, and in terms of its quarterback, a new era. Whether it’s Moore, Garbers or Schlee, UCLA’s new main man will have to face the pressure of the Rose Bowl’s unforgiving Saturday night lights, even without a packed den. Under such conditions, I’m expecting a nervy performance, especially in key moments, and I think the game will be close.

However, UCLA should still have enough talent to overcome Coastal Carolina.

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Dylan Winward | Features and student life editor
Winward is the 2023-2024 features and student life editor. He was previously a News reporter for campus politics and features and student life. He is also a second-year English literature and statistics student.
Winward is the 2023-2024 features and student life editor. He was previously a News reporter for campus politics and features and student life. He is also a second-year English literature and statistics student.
Benjamin Royer | Assistant Sports editor
Royer is the 2023-2024 Assistant Sports editor on the baseball, gymnastics and men's water polo beats and a reporter on the football beat. He was previously a staff writer on the baseball, football and gymnastics beats. He is also a fourth-year communication student.
Royer is the 2023-2024 Assistant Sports editor on the baseball, gymnastics and men's water polo beats and a reporter on the football beat. He was previously a staff writer on the baseball, football and gymnastics beats. He is also a fourth-year communication student.
Joseph Crosby | Sports editor
Crosby is the 2023-2024 Sports editor on the football, men's basketball and NIL beats. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, women's golf, men's water polo and women's water polo beats and a contributor on the baseball and women's golf beats. He is also a fourth-year statistics student.
Crosby is the 2023-2024 Sports editor on the football, men's basketball and NIL beats. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, women's golf, men's water polo and women's water polo beats and a contributor on the baseball and women's golf beats. He is also a fourth-year statistics student.
Gavin Carlson | Sports staff
Carlson is currently a staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. He was previously a reporter on the softball and men's golf beats.
Carlson is currently a staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. He was previously a reporter on the softball and men's golf beats.
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