22 compelling storylines, groups, coaches, gamers that may 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 beginner epidemiologists (COVID-19, 2020), ambulance chasers (Texas-Oklahoma ditching the Massive 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 school 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; title, 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, vogue. Any individual, someplace, snap the ball and as a substitute of snapping your fingers to get to a brand new convention.

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

Blink and numerous it may be gone. Will this be the final Bedlam recreation for some time? Is Cincinnati changing into a nationwide energy? Is there any purity left within the recreation 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 look at in the course of the 2022 faculty soccer season.

22 for 2022

1. Alabama, rebuilt: No, actually. Final season was purported to be a spot 12 months earlier than the arrival and growth of huge expertise in 2022. Saban even not too long ago known as it a “rebuilding 12 months” 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 group returned the most effective gamers on offensive (Bryce Younger) and protection (Will Anderson Jr.)? Go forward, I am going to wait. If Bama does not win the SEC and once more get to the playoff — at the very 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 working round again there, the offense has an opportunity. Anderson may have 20 sacks.

2. Again-to-back Bulldogs? Why not? Georgia’s protection is not pretty much as good. In actual fact, we might by no means see the likes of it once more. However it’s nonetheless going to be high 10 good, in all probability second behind Alabama within the SEC. Now add in a seasoned Stetson Bennett IV. Sure, I mentioned “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 Recreation final 12 months 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 finest group for the reason that 2019 powerhouse that was upset by Clemson within the CFP semifinal. Day is 28-3 since then with one Massive Ten loss to his title. So, yeah. If the protection comes collectively beneath new coordinator Jim Knowles, be careful.
  • Utah: Kyle Whittingham has reached the height of his profession getting into Yr 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 bored with it, however realignment can be a subject all season. Monsters have taken over the Earth. It stays to be seen solely how massive the SEC and Massive Ten wish to get. It is unlikely that additional growth will occur in the course of 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 Massive Ten has gained one of many remaining 4.

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

  • Clemson — Beneath 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 revered coaches within the recreation. Assume a season-opening win over Tennessee Tech at your peril, however victories at residence over Duke and TCU appear doable. A 3-9 end can be spectacular enchancment for the Jayhawks. You will thank me on the pay window for this worth play.
  • Baylor — Over 7.5: Coming off a Massive 12 title — and with certainty at quarterback after spring apply — there’s an excessive amount of younger expertise on this group to dismiss the Bears. I needed to suppose lengthy and onerous about retaining Baylor out of my preseason high 4.
  • Tennessee — Over 7.5: The specter of huge NCAA wrongdoing beneath Jeremy Pruitt is now identified, however that in all probability will not impression this group. Josh Heupel has top-of-the-line offenses within the SEC. That can be sufficient to at the very 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 residence. The Utes may “afford” a loss at Florida and nonetheless go 10-2.

6. New children on the blocking sled: For all of the speak about “lack of aggressive steadiness” and “usual groups,” these 5 packages are within the technique of forcing their technique to the grownup desk in 2022.

  • Baylor: A playoff look may observe a Massive 12 title and Sugar Bowl win.
  • Houston: Dana Holgorsen has gained at the very least 10 video games at two totally 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 needs a chunk of Goliath this 12 months.
  • Coastal Carolina: Jamey Chadwell ought to be someplace within the SEC or ACC by now. He’ll stick it out at the very least yet another 12 months with Grayson McCall returning behind heart.
  • Kentucky: Whereas not fairly there but, in his tenth season, Mark Stoops has a shot at New Yr’s Six bowl.

7. South Seaside bullies: After 20 years wandering within the championship wilderness, Miami might have lastly figured it out. The answer? Throw cash at the whole lot. Native son Mario Cristobal acquired a reported $80 milllion contract. Miami lastly acquired a coach who understands the tradition and might recruit his ass off. Add an NIL battleship (John Ruiz), and the plan to spend their technique to a championship does 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 velocity final 12 months 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 just isn’t going away. The query is just the way it continues to evolve this season and past.

9. NIL in Yr 2: Millionaires. Automobiles. Shiny bling. Endorsements. These are among the many components of title, picture and likeness rights after its first calendar 12 months. We enter the second season of NIL with considerably of a peaceful that has centered over the panorama. Keep in mind when Younger was going to be the sport’s first millionaire? As an instance 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. In actual fact, aside from the breathless bleating from the coaches, followers do not appear to care that a lot — at the very 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 fully unregulated because of 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 way in which through the Jimbo beef. Quite a lot of of us suppose Sanders will make a play for the Florida State job if Mike Norvell cannot get it achieved. 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 examine him within the massive time. Maybe the one factor extra outrageous than Sanders as a participant can be Sanders as a Energy 5 coach.

11. The Heisman winner can be … C.J. Stroud, Ohio State. The voters will not doubtless 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 principally 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 very least extra doable 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 discovered within the offseason. Good (Georgia), Brian Kelly (LSU) and James Franklin (Penn State) all acquired 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 means of 2028. What do they are saying: mo’ cash, mo’ issues? Not for now, however sometime it would translate to mo’ stress.

14. Which method, 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 Massive 12 to develop 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 Massive 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 about to get pleasure from its finest 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 group as a prohibitive underdog. The Geese might 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 might be a signature win in Florida coach Billy Napier’s first recreation. Napier himself additionally has the possibility to make fairly an announcement given the home-field benefit of The Swamp.
  • Notre Dame at Ohio State: Marcus Freeman has achieved the whole lot proper since taking on the Preventing Irish. Now, he should face his alma mater in his first recreation as a head coach. The Buckeyes, in fact, are aiming to start out a possible nationwide title season with a bang.
  • Florida State vs. LSU (New Orleans, Sunday): Brian Kelly’s first recreation with the Tigers comes near residence.
  • 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. Group 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 Massive 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 observed?

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 file. There’s a sensible likelihood Carter may change into the highest-drafted Black Knights participant since Heisman winner Doc Blanchard was the No. 3 decide in 1946. (Runner-up: Syracuse working 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 beneath Lincoln Riley. Will it win at a excessive stage once more? That is the query after USC pushed all it chips to the center in convincing Riley to go away Oklahoma. The administration paid him $110 million, bumped up the group’s funds after which left for the Massive Ten. Issues can change in a heartbeat, however that is ridiculous. Within the house of 12 months, Riley has been affiliated with 4 conferences: Massive 12, SEC, Pac-12 and Massive 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 … does not it?

19. Yr of the switch: We’re one 12 months into the one-time switch period. You will 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 anticipated 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 most effective receiver at Pitt left for USC. However right here we’re, engaged in heated NIL accusations.
  • Quinn Ewers, QB, Texas: After a prep 12 months (4 snaps!) at Ohio State, the previous five-star sign caller returns to his native Texas. If Ewers is not the most effective Longhorns QB since Colt McCoy, Arch Manning higher be.
  • Spencer Rattler, QB, South Carolina: Looks as if an odd match, but it surely beats getting booed at Oklahoma because the 2021 Heisman favourite.
  • Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama: Saban snagged an all-purpose expertise from Georgia Tech who could lead on the Tide and the SEC in speeding.

20. Recreation that may determine 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 recreation this early within the season. It is the primary time it is achieved so in any respect in 11 years. Lose this and the Tide may need to kiss a playoff look goodbye. (Think about that berth hinging on the ‘Horns going 11-1!) In the meantime, Steve Sarkisian can’t afford to get blown out after a 5-7 debut in 2021. Throw on this recreation being a touch of what Texas will face within the SEC, and the implications go method past a traditional tasty matchup.

21. Recreation of the 12 months: There is a distinction from the above. Mark Oct. 8 in your calendar. You’ll 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 recreation simply acquired key-er. And for one of many few occasions in his Alabama profession, Saban is on the lookout for revenge. Has a postgame handshake (or not) ever been extra anticipated?

22. New Yr’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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