Predicting this yr’s Faculty Soccer Playoff groups, Heisman winner, breakout stars and extra

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7:00 AM ETESPN staffWeek 1 is lastly right here. So let’s get proper into the thick of it.What coaches are already below stress? Which gamers do we predict are going to change into stars this season? Is there any likelihood of an underdog reaching the Faculty Soccer Playoffs?Our school soccer reporters break down what they’re anticipating this season and the video games they’re most excited to look at:Which coach is below essentially the most stress?If USC will get off to a rocky begin, it may spell hassle for Clay Helton. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsDavid Hale: Clay Helton is the apparent reply right here. He has been below hearth for a number of years now, and the fan base is not going to be affected person for for much longer — notably if USC will get off to a rocky begin amid lofty expectations. On a smaller scale, Virginia Tech’s Justin Fuente resides on the sting with key boosters longing for change following this system’s worst season in a long time in 2020. AD Whit Babcock supplied a tepid endorsement at season’s finish, and if the Hokies wrestle early (they get North Carolina, West Virginia and Notre Dame within the first 5 weeks), change might change into inevitable.Chris Low: Chip Kelly’s celebrated return to the Pac-12 hasn’t come near matching the success he loved at Oregon, the place he went 33-Three in opposition to Pac-12 opponents from 2009-12 and steered the Geese to a BCS nationwide championship recreation look and victories in each the Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl. As he enters his fourth season at UCLA, he is simply 10-15 in Pac-12 play and has but to have a profitable season. The excellent news is that a lot of the Bruins’ returning starters from a yr in the past are again, and these are all Kelly’s gamers now. The house recreation in opposition to LSU the second week of the season presents an amazing alternative to set the tone for 2021. However a fourth straight season with no bowl recreation would make issues dicey for Kelly in Westwood.Alex Scarborough: Sooner or later we’ll must ask whether or not Scott Frost was the fitting individual to steer Nebraska again to prominence. Sure, he helped the Huskers win the nationwide title in 1997, and he’ll all the time be a legend in Lincoln for that. However that was greater than 20 years in the past. He was terrific as a coach at UCF, however the AAC is not the Massive Ten and Florida is not Nebraska. We’re three seasons into him main his alma mater, and the outcomes aren’t fairly: 12-20, three straight fifth-place finishes in division and never a single bowl recreation. To make issues worse, there’s now an NCAA investigation wanting into whether or not Frost knew that analysts and consultants have been getting used improperly and that exercises have been being performed off-campus. Whereas that in itself may not be sufficient to get him fired, that mixed with one other sub-.500 season may very well be the ultimate straw.Tom VanHaaren: I agree with Alex that it is most likely Frost, however to place one other identify within the combine, I am going to go along with Jim Harbaugh. I do not essentially view essentially the most stress as the new seat, however he has a ton of stress on him after the 2-Four season, extra teaching adjustments and uncertainty surrounding his future after the season ended. Michigan gamers have been speaking a few renewed power and pleasure. Harbaugh even seemed and sounded refreshed himself at Massive Ten media days, however with Washington, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Penn State and Ohio State all on the schedule, the Wolverines are going to wish to point out early on that the discuss is translating to the sector. If Michigan does not get off to a quick begin, the questions on Harbaugh are going to return shortly and sometimes.Invoice Connelly: What about Bryan Harsin? It does not take a lot for issues to get bizarre at Auburn, and Harsin has had a very odd offseason. He made coordinator hires that might have made much more sense in 2013 than 2021 (Mike Bobo and Derek Mason, who have not seen a lot success of their specialties lately) simply to get guys with SEC expertise within the constructing. He did not make a precedence of excessive vaccination charges till not too long ago — far lower than new rivals Nick Saban and Kirby Good did — and ended up testing optimistic for CVOID-19 himself throughout fall camp. A shaky first offseason will be overcome, however … it has been a shaky first offseason.Ryan McGee: I am with Connelly. The one individual I do know of who had a worse first semester at Auburn was my highschool buddy who flunked out midway by way of freshman yr.Mark Schlabach: You possibly can most likely throw Washington State’s Nick Rolovich and Arizona State’s Herm Edwards in there. Rolovich has made some, uh, fascinating feedback over the previous 18 months, and his place on COVID-19 vaccines has left some folks on the market scratching their heads. Edwards’ staff is gifted sufficient to win the Pac-12 South, however I am undecided they will merely put blinders on and ignore the NCAA investigation that has hovered over this system for a few months. Three assistants are on administrative go away, and that is by no means an excellent factor heading into the season.Who’s your breakout star?Bijan Robinson rushed for 703 yards in 9 video games as a real freshman. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsHale: Does Alabama QB Bryce Younger depend as a breakout star if he is already getting greater than $1 million in endorsement cash? Nonetheless, Younger would be the man with the largest stage and essentially the most accountability on his shoulders as he takes over for Mac Jones as Alabama’s subsequent hotshot QB. All Younger has to do is stay as much as the five-star expectations, assist Alabama comply with up on one of many best offensive seasons in school soccer historical past and outduel fellow Southern California QBs D.J. Uiagalelei and JT Daniels en path to a nationwide championship. No biggie.Low: Texas operating again Bijan Robinson is hardly an unknown amount, not after speeding for 703 yards in 9 video games a yr in the past as a real freshman. However do not be stunned if he doubles that manufacturing in 2021. For one, he will probably be wholesome after battling a again harm to start out his freshman season, and as soon as he turned it on, he turned it on with 220 or extra speeding/receiving yards in his final two video games. The 6-foot, 214-pound Robinson is poised to make much more explosive performs this season, too, after racking up a team-leading 14 performs of 20 yards or longer as a freshman. First-year coach Steve Sarkisian will look to make use of Robinson in a lot the identical trend as Sarkisian utilized Najee Harris at Alabama.2 RelatedScarborough: Like his former USC workplace mate, Lane Kiffin is aware of the right way to make the most of a star operating again. And in Jerrion Ealy, he has precisely that. Ealy is a giant play ready to occur and arguably essentially the most versatile again within the nation, having scored touchdowns speeding, receiving and on a kick return final season. With go-to receiver Elijah Moore off to the NFL, search for Kiffin to maneuver Ealy round and get him much more concerned within the passing recreation. When you have got a man along with his skill, you discover a solution to get him the ball.VanHaaren: Ohio State is breaking in a brand new quarterback and has star receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson returning, and with defenses specializing in these two, vast receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba has a possibility to place up large numbers. He is a former top-100 receiver from Texas, who signed within the 2020 class. He had 10 receptions for 49 yards final season, however ought to have a much bigger position in 2021. Having three gifted vast receivers, together with tight finish Jeremy Ruckert, ought to assist new beginning quarterback C.J. Stroud hold the passing recreation as a energy this season inside the offense and Smith-Njigba must be a giant goal.Dave Wilson: I am going to take Stroud. A quarterback getting the keys to a completely loaded offense with Ryan Day calling the performs is hard to cross up.Connelly: I am fascinated by Haynes King’s prospects at Texas A&M this yr. He had a legendary highschool profession and was a top-100 recruit, and he managed to pack a landing cross, an interception and a robust run into simply 16 snaps final fall. Kellen Mond left the bar PRETTY excessive, however not impossibly excessive, in Faculty Station, so it isn’t the worst job on this planet to inherit, and if King is the true deal, A&M is simply too.Andrea Adelson: Miami receiver Charleston Rambo, and it has nothing to do along with his final identify. OK it has somewhat to do along with his final identify. In all seriousness, Rambo has the potential to supply the kind of explosive large performs that have been sorely missing for Miami final season. After transferring in following a disappointing closing season with Oklahoma, Rambo opened eyes along with his spectacular efficiency within the spring recreation. Miami made it a precedence this offseason to enhance its deep ball, and to get there, it wants Rambo to be a power. Miami hasn’t had a 1,000-yard receiver since Allen Hurns in 2013, and with D’Eriq King again and extra comfy in Yr 2 within the offense, the Hurricanes have an amazing likelihood to hit that mark.Adam Rittenberg: I’ve been excessive on Iowa operating again Tyler Goodson for some time, and this must be the season he actually takes off for a Hawkeye staff that all the time prioritizes the run recreation. He has had two very comparable seasons of manufacturing, however will probably be Iowa’s featured runner behind a robust line led by Rimington Trophy candidate Tyler Linderbaum. Goodson averages greater than 5 yards per carry in his profession and likewise gives Iowa with an efficient receiver out of the backfield. Iowa is my choose to win the Massive Ten West, and Goodson ought to have a giant junior yr.What true freshman are you most enthusiastic about?Alabama’s subsequent nice vast receiver is perhaps Agiye Corridor. Gary Cosby-USA TODAY SportsHale: Clemson RB Will Shipley has earned raves in the course of the preseason, with gamers gushing over his bodily abilities, but in addition his maturity and management. Shipley was a celebrity recruit, is flexible as each a runner and cross catcher, and performs a place the place Clemson has an actual want after the departure of Travis Etienne. The Tigers are prone to open with a backfield-by-committee strategy, however do not be stunned if Shipley fast grabs the lion’s share of the snaps, as a result of he is simply too good to maintain on the sideline.Low: Make sure you’ve got received loads of Kool-Support available when Alabama performs this fall, as a result of Kool-Support McKinstry (yep, that is his identify as listed on Alabama’s official roster) is the Crimson Tide’s subsequent star cornerback. The 6-1, 190-pound McKinstry has been electrifying ever since arriving on campus within the spring, and whereas it is by no means straightforward for a real freshman to stroll proper in at cornerback and be an every-down participant, he has every little thing it takes (measurement, pace and physicality) to be one of many Tide’s greatest defensive backs this season. He additionally has a candy NIL endorsement cope with — you guessed it — the Kool-Support drink model. “Oh Yeah!”Scarborough: Did anybody watch Agiye Corridor in Alabama’s spring recreation? Did you see the one-handed catches and all-around acrobatics? He might not have a intelligent nickname (but), however he appears like the following nice Bama receiver now that the threesome of Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle are all gone.Connelly: Edge rusher Korey Foreman walks into a fairly excellent state of affairs at USC. He was the No. Three prospect within the nation and has college-ready measurement (6-5, 265), and since the Trojans are skilled within the entrance seven and have a identified star in Drake Jackson, coordinator Todd Orlando can put Foreman in the very best place to succeed early on. He and Jackson may make up top-of-the-line cross speeding tandems within the nation fairly shortly, and if the USC protection takes one other step ahead total, the Trojans may simply be the favorites within the Pac-12.McGee: In Columbus, it is not one man, it is a gaggle of them and they’re all on protection. They could have 5 true freshmen beginning on D, and shortly. Defensive finish Jack Sawyer was a one-kid showcase in Ohio State’s spring recreation. I say child, however he is 6-4, 240 and his identify is Jack Sawyer. I really feel like when he was born in Pickerington, he already seemed like he was 30 years outdated.Who will probably be an instant-impact switch?McKenzie Milton transferred from UCF to Florida State. Melina Myers-USA TODAY SportsLow: It did not take Henry To’o To’o lengthy to make an impression at Alabama after main Tennessee a yr in the past with 10 tackles for loss. Not solely was To’o To’o certainly one of Alabama’s most efficient gamers from his inside linebacker place this preseason, however he was particularly spectacular in how shortly he picked up the Crimson Tide’s defensive scheme. The Alabama teaching employees loves his management and his work ethic and is relying on him to be a staple on what must be certainly one of Nick Saban’s greatest defenses within the final a number of years. Particularly, To’o To’o ought to assist the Tide create extra unfavorable performs on protection in 2021.Wilson: Eric Grey goes to be a key piece at operating again for Oklahoma, a place the place the Sooners are somewhat lean. The 5-9, 206-pound switch from Tennessee averaged 5.1 yards per carry in two seasons for the Vols, speeding for 1,311 yards in 22 video games. He additionally caught 43 passes, and within the OU offense will get a possibility to point out his versatility.VanHaaren: Penn State getting defensive finish Arnold Ebiketie was an essential addition to the roster. The employees misplaced Odafe Oweh and Shaka Toney to the NFL, and defensive finish Adisa Isaac may very well be out for the season with an harm. Ebiketie had 42 complete tackles, 4 sacks and three compelled fumbles final season for Temple. He’ll be wanted this season merely due to all of the manufacturing and depth misplaced on the place.Connelly: Defensive deal with Derrick Tangelo may very well be an important disruptor subsequent to Ebiketie for Penn State, however let’s go along with Mike Jones Jr. at LSU. He appeared like a custom-made Isaiah Simmons successor at Clemson in 2020, and he definitely did fairly effectively (4 TFLs, two interceptions), however he may very well be a focus for an LSU protection that returns fairly a little bit of expertise however has to exchange Jabril Cox. He has bulked as much as full linebacker measurement (234 kilos) as a substitute of being extra of a nickel linebacker, however he is nonetheless actually versatile, and LSU could be well-served deploying him in numerous other ways.McGee: Is there a greater story in school soccer than McKenzie Milton? If the previous UCF stud can get FSU again on monitor, that query will not even be a dialogue.Adelson: With out query, Milton is the participant everyone seems to be hoping to see play once more. However I gives you somebody on the opposite facet of the ball: defensive finish Jermaine Johnson II, who got here in from Georgia. Except for the actual fact he has unbelievable measurement (6-5, 260 kilos), Florida State has gotten bullied up entrance the previous a number of seasons — uncharacteristic of a program that has produced so many wonderful defensive linemen. Johnson has stood out because the spring, and his skill to get after the passer goes to be vastly essential in setting the tone for this protection.Rittenberg: I am going with Utah quarterback Charlie Brewer, who began 39 video games at Baylor the previous three seasons. Brewer struggled with concussions and departed after a troublesome yr in 2020, however he nonetheless put up spectacular profession numbers for each passing yards (6,700) and passing touchdowns (65). Utah has the kind of protection to problem for the Pac-12 title — the secret is getting extra from the offense and the passing recreation. Brewer had a wonderful offseason and may very well be the lacking piece in Salt Lake.Schlabach: How concerning the man taking part in quarterback at Notre Dame, which was once essentially the most glamorous place within the sport? Jack Coan received Wally Pipp’d at Wisconsin, the place he led the Badgers to a 10-Four file and journeys to the Massive Ten championship recreation and Rose Bowl in 2019. Final season, he suffered a foot harm throughout preseason camp, and Graham Mertz assumed the job and ran with it. Coan transferred to Notre Dame, which supplied him a lacrosse scholarship in highschool. Irish coach Brian Kelly has been on the lookout for a passer who can get the ball down the sector, and he may need discovered him in Coan.What recreation are you most excited for?play0:57Georgia head coach Kirby Good discusses his staff’s opening week matchup vs. Clemson and the advance of quarterback JT Daniels.Hale: Georgia-Clemson. It isn’t simply that it is a season opener between two groups ranked within the prime 5. That might be sufficient to label it because the yr’s largest regular-season recreation, however there’s a lot extra to understand. It is a battle between two Heisman contenders at QB, Uiagalelei vs. Daniels. It is a historic rivalry of two faculties positioned simply an hour aside that are likely to compete for a similar recruits. It is an early battle between the SEC and ACC, with each leagues hoping to create a playoff narrative they will promote all season. And whereas it is unlikely to formally eradicate the loser from playoff consideration, it would definitely ramp up the significance of each recreation that staff performs the remainder of the best way.Low: All of us bear in mind Jimbo Fisher’s feedback this summer season (and I can promise you Nick Saban does) throughout a Houston Landing Membership talking engagement when Fisher was requested what it was going to take, apart from Saban’s retirement, to beat Alabama. In Fisher’s protection, how was he imagined to reply that query with a bunch of Aggies in attendance? “Effectively, let’s simply hope he retires quickly?” In fact not, so a smiling Fisher assured the Aggie-laden viewers that Texas A&M was going to “beat his ass when he is there.” Fisher will get one more shot at his outdated boss when Alabama visits Texas A&M on Oct. 9 in a possible top-5 showdown. This can be Fisher’s most full staff but in Faculty Station, and a win over the Tide could be historic. Not solely is Saban 23-Zero in opposition to his former assistants, however solely twice in these 23 video games did a staff keep inside 13 factors of Alabama.Scarborough: Oregon at Ohio State in Week 2 goes to be all types of enjoyable. You get two potential playoff groups and two new quarterbacks (Anthony Brown Jr. and Stroud) in one of many nice school soccer settings within the Horseshoe.McGee: I’m so excited for the return of massive cross-conference video games. Essentially the most pandemic-feeling weekends of all of them final season have been Labor Day and Thanksgiving as a result of we did not have the huge throwdowns and rivalry video games. However I’ve my eye on Oct. 2, when Texas performs at TCU and Oklahoma goes to Kansas State. That’ll be the primary Massive 12 street video games for each since their convention defections and people atmospheres must be solely barely much less venomous than Wrestlemania.Wilson: On the flip facet, McGee, the following weekend (Oct. 9) is A&M-Bama in Faculty Station and Texas-OU on the State Honest of Texas. Two large SEC matchups in someday in a single state. Simply getting somewhat observe in early. That is gonna take some getting used to.Rittenberg: Liberty-Ole Miss. Cannot imagine I am the one one arguing for this. What’s flawed with you folks? Hugh Freeze returns to Oxford to face Lane Kiffin. I imply, what extra do you want?!?!Who’s your Heisman choose?Spencer Rattler may change into the third Oklahoma quarterback prior to now 5 years to win the Heisman Trophy. AP Photograph/Jeffrey McWhorter, FileHale: Sam Howell. Three issues go into profitable the Heisman Trophy. First, it helps to be a quarterback (until you play for Alabama). Second, whereas it isn’t a necessity to make the playoff, your staff has to spend a lot of the season competing inside the highest 10. Lastly, you have to put up some eye-popping numbers. Howell checks all of the packing containers. He enters the yr as arguably the nation’s greatest QB, UNC is a preseason darkish horse for the Faculty Soccer Playoff, and Phil Longo’s offensive scheme means Howell can have each likelihood to pad his stats with some actually ridiculous numbers. Is 40 landing passes inside attain? In that case, he’d set the ACC’s profession file within the course of.Low: 9 of the previous 12 Heisman winners have led their staff to both a nationwide championship, nationwide championship recreation look or Faculty Soccer Playoff look the yr they received it. In different phrases, a participant placing up monster numbers and taking part in on a staff that wins eight or 9 video games ain’t going to win the Heisman. Not at the moment. I am going with Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler, an incredible expertise who’s surrounded by super expertise in a program that is a Faculty Soccer Playoff fixture. Search for Rattler to place up even higher numbers in his second season as a starter in Lincoln Riley’s offense. If Rattler does certainly take residence the bronze statue, possibly they need to rename it the “Soonerman” Award. He could be the third Oklahoma quarterback prior to now 5 years to win the Heisman.Scarborough: Have you ever seen Oklahoma’s schedule? It is Charmin smooth. And have you ever seen the expertise they’ve at operating again and receiver? Rattler has a bevy of gifted pass-catchers to work with. Rattler ended final season on a excessive notice, torching Florida within the Cotton Bowl, and I anticipate him to hold that over into this season, put up monster numbers and win the Heisman.Wilson: Lincoln Riley has two Heismans sitting in his workplace (together with a formidable assortment of Air Jordans). Bear in mind when all these dudes on Twitter mentioned, “Yeah, however Baker and Kyler have been transfers. Let’s have a look at if he can develop his personal man.” Effectively, Rattler is that man.Connelly: I can not wait to see what Rattler does this yr with the enjoyable weapons at his disposal, however I am not going to overthink this one. “Beginning QB for a prolific offense on the No. 1 staff” is a fairly good place to start out in the case of the Heisman race, so let’s go along with Younger.Adelson: Final season confirmed the Heisman doesn’t must all the time go to a quarterback. So I’m going to select Iowa State operating again Breece Corridor, who has the aptitude of placing up 2,000 yards on a projected prime 10 staff this yr.Schlabach: Robinson, simply so former Longhorns coach Tom Herman can look much more foolish for squandering his abilities a yr in the past.Who’s making the Faculty Soccer Playoff?Playoff picksWriterChampionTeam 1Team 2Team 3Andrea AdelsonAlabamaOhio StateClemsonTexas A&MBill ConnellyAlabamaOklahomaGeorgiaClemsonDavid HaleGeorgiaClemsonAlabamaOklahomaChris LowAlabamaOhio StateOklahomaClemsonRyan McGeeAlabamaOhio StateClemsonOklahomaAdam RittenbergOklahomaClemsonGeorgiaAlabamaAlex ScarboroughOklahomaGeorgiaClemsonAlabamaMark SchlabachGeorgiaAlabamaClemsonOklahomaTom VanHaarenOklahomaAlabamaOhio StateClemsonDave WilsonOklahomaAlabamaClemsonOhio State

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