22 compelling storylines, groups, coaches, gamers that can dominate the 2022 faculty soccer season

Soccer — precise on-the-field, snot-bubblin’ soccer — cannot get right here quick sufficient.

During the last three years, these of us on the entrance strains have been requested to change into novice epidemiologists (COVID-19, 2020), ambulance chasers (Texas-Oklahoma ditching the Huge 12 for the SEC, 2021) and cartologists (mapping USC-UCLA journey routes to the East Coast, 2022).

Somebody make it reign … soccer once more. Thank (Eli) Gold, we’re solely a month away; season No. 153 of faculty soccer is nearly right here.

From this vantage level, the game itself appears like a shining metropolis on the hill as a result of, frankly, we’re nearly tapped out on transfers; identify, picture and likeness; monster teaching contracts; and convention realignment.

Sadly, they’re as a lot part of the sport nowadays as Mike Leach’s sense of, ahem, trend. Someone, someplace, snap the ball and as an alternative of snapping your fingers to get to a brand new convention.

We’ll be watching as Nick Saban almost certainly chases one other title at age 71. Dabo Swinney will attempt to rebound and hold his personal dynasty alive at age 52. Kirby Sensible is simply getting began, now as the sport’s highest-paid coach.

Blink and a variety of it could be gone. Will this be the final Bedlam sport for some time? Is Cincinnati turning into a nationwide energy? Is there any purity left within the sport in any respect?

We’re getting near the place we will lastly discuss and watch some ball. We’re thrilled to be again with 22 issues to observe through the 2022 faculty soccer season.

22 for 2022

1. Alabama, rebuilt: No, actually. Final season was presupposed to be a niche yr earlier than the arrival and growth of large expertise in 2022. Saban even lately referred to as it a “rebuilding yr” regardless of the Crimson Tide going 13-2, successful the SEC and main Georgia with 10 minutes to go within the School Soccer Playoff Nationwide Championship. Nonetheless, the Tide are coming off a tie for his or her most losses since 2010. (Gasp!) When was the final time a crew returned the perfect gamers on offensive (Bryce Younger) and protection (Will Anderson Jr.)? Go forward, I am going to wait. If Bama would not win the SEC and once more get to the playoff — at the least — one thing may be very, very mistaken. The largest concern is an offensive line that gave up 41 sacks. So long as Younger is operating round again there, the offense has an opportunity. Anderson might have 20 sacks.

2. Again-to-back Bulldogs? Why not? Georgia’s protection is not pretty much as good. Actually, we could by no means see the likes of it once more. Nevertheless it’s nonetheless going to be prime 10 good, most likely second behind Alabama within the SEC. Now add in a seasoned Stetson Bennett IV. Sure, I stated “seasoned.” Georgia led the SEC with 41 performs of 30+ yards from scrimmage. The Dawgs ought to stroll to the SEC East crown after which tangle once more with the Tide for the league title. Georgia misplaced the SEC Championship Sport final yr and gained the nationwide title. Squint and you’ll see it occurring once more. Do not dismiss the Dawgs.

3. The 4 playoff groups: Past Alabama and Georgia …

  • Ohio State: Ryan Day has his greatest crew for the reason that 2019 powerhouse that was upset by Clemson within the CFP semifinal. Day is 28-3 since then with one Huge Ten loss to his identify. So, yeah. If the protection comes collectively below new coordinator Jim Knowles, be careful.
  • Utah: Kyle Whittingham has reached the height of his profession getting into 12 months 18. The Utes have the bodily to match up with anybody and the power to go undefeated. They open the 2022 season ranked No. 4 within the CBS Sports activities 131.

4. Convention realignment casts a shadow: Chances are you’ll be uninterested in it, however realignment will probably be a subject all season. Monsters have taken over the Earth. It stays to be seen solely how huge the SEC and Huge Ten need to get. It is unlikely that additional enlargement will occur through the season, however the shadow of these two conferences flexing will hover over a lot of the dialog. The SEC has gained 12 of the final 16 nationwide championships. The Huge Ten has gained one of many remaining 4.

5. 5 win-total locks: Odds through Caesars Sportsbook

  • Clemson — Below 10.5: There’s an excessive amount of uncertainty with quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei. Miami, NC State and Wake Forest aren’t going away. There’s additionally a visit to Notre Dame.
  • Kansas — Over 2.5: Yeah, I do know, it is Kansas. However Lance Leipold continues to be one of the crucial revered coaches within the sport. Assume a season-opening win over Tennessee Tech at your peril, however victories at dwelling over Duke and TCU appear doable. A 3-9 end can be spectacular enchancment for the Jayhawks. You may thank me on the pay window for this worth play.
  • Baylor — Over 7.5: Coming off a Huge 12 title — and with certainty at quarterback after spring apply — there may be an excessive amount of younger expertise on this crew to dismiss the Bears. I needed to assume lengthy and exhausting about conserving Baylor out of my preseason prime 4.
  • Tennessee — Over 7.5: The specter of large NCAA wrongdoing below Jeremy Pruitt is now identified, however that most likely will not affect this crew. Josh Heupel has top-of-the-line offenses within the SEC. That will probably be sufficient to at the least attain 8-4 with QB Hendon Hooker on the helm of the offense.
  • Utah — Over 9.0: Utah is the category of the Pac-12 (for now), and it will get USC at dwelling. The Utes might “afford” a loss at Florida and nonetheless go 10-2.

6. New youngsters on the blocking sled: For all of the discuss “lack of aggressive steadiness” and “standard groups,” these 5 applications are within the means of forcing their option to the grownup desk in 2022.

  • Baylor: A playoff look might comply with a Huge 12 title and Sugar Bowl win.
  • Houston: Dana Holgorsen has gained at the least 10 video games at two completely different colleges. Now, he is coming off a career-best 12-2 season. The Cougars may very well be the category of the Group of 5.
  • Wake Forest: Dave Clawson’s Demon Deacons performed for the ACC title in 2021. Clawson desires a chunk of Goliath this yr.
  • Coastal Carolina: Jamey Chadwell ought to be someplace within the SEC or ACC by now. He’ll stick it out at the least another yr with Grayson McCall returning behind middle.
  • Kentucky: Whereas not fairly there but, in his tenth season, Mark Stoops has a shot at New 12 months’s Six bowl.

7. South Seashore bullies: After 20 years wandering within the championship wilderness, Miami could have lastly figured it out. The answer? Throw cash at every thing. Native son Mario Cristobal obtained a reported $80 milllion contract. Miami lastly obtained a coach who understands the tradition and might recruit his ass off. Add an NIL battleship (John Ruiz), and the plan to spend their option to a championship would not appear outlandish and never that far off for the Hurricanes. However will it translate on the sphere?

8. Participant empowerment: It accelerated in 2018 with the switch portal. It went to warp pace final yr with the one-time switch rule. NIL made athletes small firms. There was a unionization blip on the radar at Penn State. In different phrases: Participant empowerment is just not going away. The query is barely the way it continues to evolve this season and past.

9. NIL in 12 months 2: Millionaires. Automobiles. Shiny bling. Endorsements. These are among the many components of identify, picture and likeness rights after its first calendar yr. We enter the second season of NIL with considerably of a relaxed that has centered over the panorama. Keep in mind when Younger was going to be the sport’s first millionaire? As an example he has firm. NIL largely hasn’t impacted the sport on the sphere regardless of the tiff between Saban and Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher. Actually, aside from the breathless bleating from the coaches, followers do not appear to care that a lot — at the least not sufficient to cease watching. Nonetheless, there are points with NIL, together with potential aggressive imbalance and inducements that look like occurring with out penalty given it’s utterly unregulated due to a toothless NCAA.

10. What’s Coach Prime’s play? Going 15-5 at Jackson State throughout two seasons, Deion Sanders has dominated the HBCU circuit, tweaking Nick’s nostril alongside the best way through the Jimbo beef. Quite a lot of of us assume Sanders will make a play for the Florida State job if Mike Norvell cannot get it completed. The query stays: Is all of the preening, panache and primping simply Prime being Prime, or can he actually coach? Early on, the reply is completely sure. However let’s have a look at him within the huge time. Maybe the one factor extra outrageous than Sanders as a participant will probably be Sanders as a Energy 5 coach.

11. The Heisman winner will probably be … C.J. Stroud, Ohio State. The voters will not seemingly go back-to-back on Younger. Regardless, Stroud left a Heisman calling card within the Rose Bowl by throwing for a career-high 573 yards and 6 touchdowns. The Buckeyes wanted each little bit of it in a shootout win over Utah. Ohio State is again to its dominant self largely as a result of it has a dominant quarterback. It’s unlikely to lose within the common season. Fifty-five passing touchdowns should not out of the query for the graceful passer from California.

12. The Heisman winner may very well be … Will Anderson Jr., Alabama. There was a lot consternation in Alabama that the All-American linebacker did not get a Heisman invite. However the edge rusher who did, Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson, completed second within the voting. That indicators that it is at the least extra potential for {that a} defender to win the Heisman for the primary time since Michigan’s Charles Woodson in 1997.

13. Decade of excellence? The brand new five-year deal for coaches is a 10-year deal. Michigan State coach Mel Tucker established a brand new market when he signed a 10-year contract value $95 million on the finish of a breakthrough 11-2 season. That deal upended the trade. If Tucker (18-14 in his profession) was value $95 million, what are extra completed coaches value? We came upon within the offseason. Sensible (Georgia), Brian Kelly (LSU) and James Franklin (Penn State) all obtained 10-year offers. Fisher is 5 years right into a 10-year Texas A&M deal that has already been prolonged as soon as. Day was prolonged at Ohio State by way of 2028. What do they are saying: mo’ cash, mo’ issues? Not for now, however sometime it’d translate to mo’ stress.

14. Which manner, Pac-12? By the point you learn this, the Left Coast may very well be going out of enterprise by 2024 or having grabbed a 3rd of the Huge 12 to increase to 14 groups. That is the uncertainty concerning the Pac-12’s future after the lack of USC and UCLA. An unique negotiating window with Fox and ESPN expired Thursday (Aug. 4) with no decision. Commissioner George Kliavkoff has accused the Huge 12 of subterfuge. The L.A. soul of the league has been ripped away. The Pac-12 will stay intact for the subsequent two seasons. The way it takes care of that may very well be determined this month.

15. Opening daze: Annually, somebody at all times asks whether or not faculty soccer is ready to get pleasure from its greatest opening weekend ever. Effectively, right here we go once more as a result of, nicely, wow.

  • Cincinnati at Arkansas: Two groups on the rise. One has been to the playoff. The opposite hopes to get there.
  • Oregon vs. Georgia (Atlanta): Dan Lanning faces his former crew as a prohibitive underdog. The Geese could head South in additional methods than one, whereas the Dawgs can get off on a powerful paw.
  • Utah at Florida: If the Utes are playoff contenders this may be a signature win in Florida coach Billy Napier’s first sport. Napier himself additionally has the possibility to make fairly a press release given the home-field benefit of The Swamp.
  • Notre Dame at Ohio State: Marcus Freeman has completed every thing proper since taking on the Combating Irish. Now, he should face his alma mater in his first sport as a head coach. The Buckeyes, in fact, are aiming to begin a possible nationwide title season with a bang.
  • Florida State vs. LSU (New Orleans, Sunday): Brian Kelly’s first sport with the Tigers comes near dwelling.
  • Clemson vs. Georgia Tech (Atlanta, Monday): If Dabo Swinney’s protection is for actual, it should begin by choking off the Yellow Jackets as 21-point favorites.

16. Workforce nobody is speaking about … BYU. The Cougars begin at No. 26 within the CBS Sports activities 131 and have somewhat-quietly gained 21 video games the final two seasons with a 5-0 mark towards the Pac-12 in 2021. Warning flares ought to exit to Arkansas, Baylor, Notre Dame and Stanford, all Energy 5 groups that every one play BYU in 2022. Kilani Sitake’s regular handcrafted the Cougars worthy of becoming a member of the Huge 12. The 5 Cougars drafted in 2021 tied for probably the most on the faculty since 1986. BYU has arrived (once more). Have you ever seen?

17. Participant nobody is speaking about … Military edge rusher Andre Carter II. With a lithe 6-foot-7, 260-pound body, Carter has been a house wrecker for some time. His 15.5 sacks final season have been an Military report. There’s a sensible probability Carter might change into the highest-drafted Black Knights participant since Heisman winner Doc Blanchard was the No. 3 decide in 1946. (Runner-up: Syracuse operating again Sean Tucker, who rushed for nearly 1,500 yards and was a second-team All-American.)

18. Land of Lincoln: USC is cool once more below Lincoln Riley. Will it win at a excessive degree once more? That is the query after USC pushed all it chips to the center in convincing Riley to depart Oklahoma. The administration paid him $110 million, bumped up the crew’s funds after which left for the Huge Ten. Issues can change in a heartbeat, however that is ridiculous. Within the area of yr, Riley has been affiliated with 4 conferences: Huge 12, SEC, Pac-12 and Huge Ten (in 2024). He flipped the roster — 43 new gamers in six weeks. Now, it is time to produce. Do not anticipate a flip from 4-8 to playoff rivalry, however that appears to be the expectation … would not it?

19. 12 months of the switch: We’re one yr into the one-time switch period. You may want a scorecard to maintain observe of who has abandoned and who has arrived. These gamers have labored it most to their benefits.

  • Caleb Williams, QB, USC: After Riley’s departure from Oklahoma, Williams’ switch to USC wasn’t computerized. A lot is predicted of a sophomore who has began seven profession video games.
  • Jordan Addison, WR, USC: With out NIL within the image, nobody would bat a watch if the perfect receiver at Pitt left for USC. However right here we’re, engaged in heated NIL accusations.
  • Quinn Ewers, QB, Texas: After a prep yr (4 snaps!) at Ohio State, the previous five-star sign caller returns to his native Texas. If Ewers is not the perfect Longhorns QB since Colt McCoy, Arch Manning higher be.
  • Spencer Rattler, QB, South Carolina: Looks as if an odd match, nevertheless it beats getting booed at Oklahoma because the 2021 Heisman favourite.
  • Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama: Saban snagged an all-purpose expertise from Georgia Tech who may lead the Tide and the SEC in speeding.

20. Sport that can resolve all of it … Alabama at Texas, Sept. 10. That is solely the second time since 2003 that Bama has performed a Energy 5 nonconference highway sport this early within the season. It is the primary time it is completed so in any respect in 11 years. Lose this and the Tide might need to kiss a playoff look goodbye. (Think about that berth hinging on the ‘Horns going 11-1!) In the meantime, Steve Sarkisian can not afford to get blown out after a 5-7 debut in 2021. Throw on this sport being a touch of what Texas will face within the SEC, and the implications go manner past a traditional tasty matchup.

21. Sport of the yr: There is a distinction from the above. Mark Oct. 8 in your calendar. You can reduce the drama in Texas A&M-Alabama with a down marker. Nick and Jimbo went nuclear on one another within the offseason however made good; within the course of, a key SEC West sport simply obtained key-er. And for one of many few occasions in his Alabama profession, Saban is in search of revenge. Has a postgame handshake (or not) ever been extra anticipated?

22. New 12 months’s Six projections: We all know the 4 playoff groups, however how will all of it shake out?

  • Sugar Bowl: Baylor vs. Arkansas
  • Rose Bowl: USC vs. Michigan State
  • Cotton Bowl Houston vs. Oklahoma
  • Orange Bowl: Miami vs. Michigan
  • Fiesta Bowl semifinal: Ohio State vs. Georgia
  • Peach Bowl semifinal: Alabama vs. Utah
  • CFP Nationwide Championship: Alabama over Ohio State

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