The Faculty Soccer Playoff has determined to interrupt your New 12 months’s Eve this yr. When the organizers of the brand new four-team occasion sketched it out within the mid-2010s, they determined that college football may personal Dec. 31 very similar to it already owned Jan. 1. It seems most individuals don’t like New 12 months’s Eve Playoff video games, nevertheless, so the organizers altered the schedule: The semifinal bowl video games fall on Dec. 31 solely in years when the final evening of the yr is a Friday or Saturday.

 

 

2021 is a type of years, so put together for Jim Harbaugh to affix you at your NYE celebration this weekend. No. 4 Cincinnati and No. 1 Alabama play within the Cotton Bowl semifinal in Arlington, TX at 3:30 p.m. (EST), and No. 3 Georgia performs No. 2 Michigan within the Orange Bowl semi in Miami at 7:30 p.m. (EST). Each video games will air on ESPN.

So what’s on faucet? Under are the important thing storylines that can seemingly form the semifinal video games and the nationwide championship recreation, which is slated for Jan. 10 in Indianapolis. Time to ring in 2022 with some soccer.

Faculty Soccer Playoff Preview

1. Will COVID-19 throw a wrench into the Playoff?

Rising COVID instances have upended each skilled and faculty sports activities this month. A number of faculty groups have needed to pull out of their bowl video games, and groups throughout the NFL, NBA, and NHL have seen outbreaks as properly.

A number of key contributors for the 4 Playoff groups might be lacking this weekend, and bigger outbreaks may spell bother. The Playoff’s organizers have acknowledged that if a workforce can’t area sufficient gamers, it’ll forfeit its semifinal (no rescheduling) and the opposite workforce will advance.

Even so, a full-on forfeiture is unlikely. Bowl video games are allowed to implement their own testing standards, and the Playoff bowls have chosen to let colleges observe their very own COVID protocols. As well as, vaccinated gamers (who make up the overwhelming majority of the groups’ rosters) should be able to play with out having to check for the virus proper earlier than the sport.

Followers can be again, too: Not like final yr, all the video games will happen in full-capacity stadiums.

2. Can Cincinnati’s protection maintain up towards Alabama?

The primary Group of 5 workforce to ever play within the Faculty Soccer Playoff has made it right here due to a easy method: a fairly good offense, a QB who doesn’t make massive errors, and a completely dominant protection. The Bearcats have allowed simply 16.4 factors per recreation during the last two seasons—fewer than anybody besides Georgia. They’ve elite expertise at each degree, however two standouts are edge rusher Myjai Sanders and cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, who’ve each been sensible this season. Their head coach, Luke Fickell, is thought to be certainly one of faculty soccer’s sharpest defensive planners.

The Bearcats are carrying the banner for each non-power college that has been locked out of the nationwide championship hunt as a result of it wasn’t a large enough model. That’s quite a lot of stress, however it pales compared to what Alabama’s offense will throw at them. Nick Saban’s conflict machine would be the most potent assault the Bearcats have ever confronted, and it’s not possible to understand how Cincy will do—once more, we’ve by no means seen a dominant Group of 5 workforce really get a shot at an offense like Alabama’s on a stage like this.

I don’t know what’ll occur, however I do assume Cincy will put up a battle. Gardner is proficient sufficient to protect star receiver Jameson Williams (particularly with the Tide’s different high wideout, John Metchie, not enjoying), and Sanders and firm can put some stress on the notoriously hard-to-bother Bryce Younger. I don’t count on a Cincinnati win, however I imagine the Bearcats will cowl a two-touchdown level unfold.

3. Can Georgia win with Stetson Bennett IV at quarterback?

Bennett, a once-upon-a-time walk-on, has been top-of-the-line tales in faculty soccer this season. After enjoying greater than anybody anticipated in 2020, he seized the beginning job in September and has held onto it via a mixture of his personal superior play and accidents to the opposite (extra extremely recruited) gamers within the Dawgs’ QB room.

Total, Bennett has delivered; he’s fourth in ESPN’s QBR and second in yards per dropback amongst FBS passers, and he’s added some worth as a runner, too. Georgia’s dominant offensive line and protection have normally made it straightforward for him, however he’s performed properly sufficient to maintain former five-star JT Daniels (who began in Week 1 and has had harm issues for many of his profession) on the bench.

Coach Kirby Good has confirmed that Bennett will start. Whether or not he’s actually the man to ship Georgia its first title since 1980 stays an open query, although. In an SEC Championship loss to Alabama, he threw two interceptions, which raised his complete to 5 picks in his two profession begins towards the Tide. It was the primary aggressive recreation he performed in all season, and he was out of kinds within the second half. Bennett may be adequate to place Georgia on his again, and Georgia’s protection may be adequate for the workforce to get previous Michigan with out requiring many massive throws. However Bennett may also must play the perfect recreation of his profession.


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