Georgia and Alabama play on, Trevor Lawrence goals for ACC file and extra to observe in Week 7

It is a unusual 12 months for faculty soccer, and even for the most important video games, the scene is not fairly the identical as we might count on. That can really feel notably true this Saturday when Alabama and Georgia, two of the three greatest groups within the nation, face off in Tuscaloosa with out Nick Saban on the sidelines.

Alabama introduced Wednesday night time that Saban tested positive for COVID-19. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian is in command of operations on the bottom whereas Saban is away, however just like Saban’s involvement Saturday, how a lot autonomy Sarkisian has to make selections continues to be being mentioned.

Underneath regular circumstances, there could be a weeklong occasion, countless hype, fields full of tailgating and revelry, and a crowd able to burst with vitality. This 12 months, we’ll be getting a watered-down model of all of that, and lacking arguably the very best coach within the recreation.

Nonetheless, the Dawgs and Tide will present us with what may very well be probably the most anticipated recreation of the season, and regardless of the pandemic-related modifications, this one nonetheless ticks a lot of the containers we might count on for a really epic SEC matchup.

A painful historical past: Each time Georgia has reached the precipice of school soccer’s elite lately, Alabama has been there to shove the Bulldogs again down the mountain in heartbreaking vogue. Return to 2008, when UGA had the No. 1 crew within the nation and donned its black jerseys for an enormous Saturday night time prime-time recreation towards the Tide. It was 31-0 Alabama at halftime. Or how about 2012 when Aaron Murray’s closing move of the SEC title recreation was in need of the tip zone and time expired on a 32-28 Tide win. Or how about 2017, when the Dawgs led 13-0 at halftime just for a freshman QB named Tua Tagovailoa to emerge from the locker room as Alabama’s savior? So, yeah, there can be slightly historical past behind this recreation Saturday.

The strain of two top-5 ranked groups: Here is the place it actually means extra for the SEC — we all know followers of groups within the convention are extremely happy with their faculties, and the SEC itself. However when groups like these meet up for a top-five matchup, it is nearly like a pre-conference championship recreation. The successful fan base will maintain this type of recreation with them till the following one, it doesn’t matter what occurs the remainder of the season. And the hype of the sport will undoubtedly translate onto the sphere.

Two stout defenses: There’s not many extra on-field issues than this within the SEC, proper? Alabama’s protection is not what it has been up to now, however there’s nonetheless NFL expertise on that facet of the ball. However Georgia’s protection, properly, that is a unit that is going to maintain individuals in Tuscaloosa up at night time, whether or not they wish to admit it or not. Going up towards Alabama’s offensive weapons goes to be a deal with for faculty soccer followers in all places. It is a matchup that you simply’re simply not getting wherever else.

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The TOL crew debates which dominant unit between No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia may have a higher impression within the extremely touted showdown.

A real SEC QB: For a genuinely epic SEC recreation, that you must have a quarterback with a reputation that simply screams SEC — one thing like Hutson or Grayson or… Stetson, as in Georgia’s walk-on turned starter, Stetson Bennett IV. Sadly, we get solely a kind of on this recreation, as Mac Jones is absolutely extra of a Large 12 QB title, which helps clarify Alabama’s all-offense/no-defense begin to the season.

Sport Day Q&A

After an unsightly 24-2 loss to Kentucky, Mississippi State coach Mike Leach recommended a “purge” could be so as on his roster, saying various gamers won’t be offered on what he is attempting to construct in Starkville. We caught up with Leach to seek out out concerning the temper within the locker room, the issues on offense and the SEC out of the blue wanting like an Air Raid convention.

ESPN: You stated after final week’s loss that you could be must do away with some malcontents on the crew. How do you determine these guys and the way do you handle it?

Leach: The primary week, I do not suppose we had been fairly nearly as good as perhaps we or different individuals thought. We’re coping with a bunch that is received very restricted expertise. Virtually none of our guys began final 12 months. I do not actually suppose it is malcontents throughout the board as a lot as you simply have these guys who’re sort of wait-and-see. You’ve gotten slightly of, “How’s this going to end up?” moderately than actually locking in and letting it rip on the market. We have to get to that time, and I do not suppose we’re at that time but.

ESPN: How a lot have the offensive struggles been about younger guys studying the scheme vs. unforced errors when guys are urgent to make an excessive amount of occur?

Leach: In all probability a few of all the above, however I do suppose we’re attempting to make an excessive amount of occur, and when you try this it turns into a collection of overcorrections. However the different factor is we simply have so many younger gamers that it is simply the educational tips on how to work and put together is a part of it. Teaching-wise, we have to do no matter we will to speed up that course of.

ESPN: Looking back, did the success within the opener vs. LSU create a problematic picture for a crew that was nonetheless going by means of some rising pains?

Leach: I believe it distorted issues slightly. It positively distorted the place we had been at in our minds in all probability.

ESPN: Kylin Hill was an enormous a part of the win over LSU. He had 15 catches final week however did not do a lot with them. Do that you must discover methods to higher make the most of him, and may that imply working the ball extra?

Leach: We have to include the working again. We now have a number of good working backs, and we have to get them extra concerned. It is sort of a Catch-22 the place we’ve to get our linemen as a way to try this. We’re breaking in some guys up entrance who I believe are going to be nice gamers, however we have to get them there as fast as we will.

ESPN: Did you hear any suggestions out of your gamers concerning the “purge” remark?

Leach: Not likely, but when individuals aren’t purchased in or able to play or dedicated, we’re greater than keen to try this. That is all the time been a part of the method so far as constructing groups. They might use completely different phrases, however removing the blokes that are not on board and elevating the blokes who’re, that is all a part of it and all the time has been.

ESPN: You are a man who’s synonymous with offense. What do you make of individuals out of the blue shocked in any respect the scoring taking place within the SEC?

Leach: It has been taking place all alongside. It is attention-grabbing as a result of I get into this convention and we’re alleged to be the one ones throwing the ball within the SEC. Everyone’s throwing the ball within the SEC and so they had been a pair years in the past, too. LSU gained the nationwide championship throwing the ball. So I believe a few of it’s simply stigma that folks hold repeating.

After ‘Thick Six,’ NC State goes for win No. 4

NC State’s Alim McNeill has all the time been large, however when he was in highschool, followers and coaches simply assumed he weighed lower than he did. How else to clarify the athleticism? The man performed center linebacker on the soccer crew and proper area on his baseball crew, had a 36-inch vertical leap and will run the 40 in 4.65 seconds.

All that may be spectacular sufficient for a man checking in at 245 or 250. McNeill’s precise weight again then?

“I performed at 292,” he stated, “and that was in all probability probably the most athletic I’ve ever been.”

So whereas the remainder of the school soccer world watched in awe because the now 320-pound McNeill showcased that athleticism with one of many 12 months’s prime performs — a batted ball on the line of scrimmage that he then fielded like a pop fly and returned 18 yards for a landing — the oldsters who know him properly weren’t shocked.

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NC State defensive lineman Alim McNeill suggestions the interception to himself and is ready to return it for a landing.

“All of them stated they knew it was going to occur ultimately,” McNeill stated of the play.

OK, he did get his share of texts and jokes concerning the large man rumbling into the tip zone, too. His favourite: “One man known as it a ‘Thick Six,'” McNeill stated. By no means let it’s stated McNeill cannot take a joke. Simply do not go suggesting the play took something miraculous.

“I wasn’t winded in any respect,” he stated of his jaunt into the tip zone, which was adopted by a dash alongside the again line and into the arms of teammates. “I used to be simply excited.”

Round NC State, there’s ample room for pleasure past the occasional Thick Six, too.

After a dismal 2019 season during which dangerous luck and a run of accidents decimated the Wolfpack, this 12 months’s crew is simply beginning to spherical into kind, led by an more and more spectacular protection. The Wolfpack host Duke on Saturday and will get to 4-1 in convention play for under the second time below coach Dave Doeren.

“It is beginning to click on now, the place we’re discovering out about one another and the way we match collectively,” McNeill stated of the protection. “I do not see anything however us getting higher and higher.”

What to observe for

The very best QB in faculty soccer goes for a file: Trevor Lawrence has not thrown an interception because the first half of Clemson’s win over Louisville on Oct. 19, 2019 — simply shy of 1 full calendar 12 months in the past. Since then, Lawrence has accomplished 70% of his passes, accounted for almost 4,000 yards and tallied 43 touchdowns. The streak now stands at 355 throws and not using a decide, and if he can add 25 extra makes an attempt to that tally towards Georgia Tech on Saturday, he’ll break the ACC file held by Russell Wilson (per ESPN Stats & Info analysis).

Notre Dame’s subsequent pushover: The Irish come into the week ranked No. 4 within the nation and that could be completely cheap. Powerful to inform although. Of their first three video games, the Irish have performed Duke (1-3), USF and Florida State (0-6 mixed vs. FBS). Subsequent up? That’d be Louisville, proprietor of a 1-3 mark, with the one win coming towards woeful Western Kentucky. The truth that the Duke and FSU video games at the very least flirted with being shut provides some trigger for pessimism concerning the Irish, and it is not going {that a} win — even a dominant one — over the Cardinals will change that. It is truthful to say the ACC, so far, is not precisely making a powerful case Notre Dame wants to hitch the league completely to be higher positioned for future playoff berths.

Syracuse prepares for a Freeze: There could be just a bit dangerous blood when Liberty heads to The Dome in Syracuse on Saturday. Again in August, Syracuse AD John Wildhack had harsh phrases for the Flames’ lackluster COVID-19 testing coverage, however Liberty supplied assurances of higher protocols transferring ahead, and now the 2 groups will really meet on the sphere. Final 12 months, Syracuse had no downside squashing Liberty — with Hugh Freeze watching from a hospital mattress within the press field, no much less — however this 12 months figures to be much less of a pushover for the struggling Orange. Syracuse can be with out QB Tommy DeVito, who might be out for the season due to a leg damage, and Liberty arrives with some of the versatile QBs within the nation so far, former Auburn switch Malik Willis.

UMass performs a recreation: The Minutemen weren’t positive they’d get up to now, however they’re going to formally make their 2020 debut Saturday towards Georgia Southern. The FBS Impartial did not have a convention to determine its destiny — or its schedule — but it surely has been beholden to the state of Massachusetts for laws on coping with taking part in throughout the virus. That has meant 14 practices in 19 days to prep for this recreation, and the crew is taking part in with 68 wholesome scholarship gamers and no walk-ons (they weren’t allowed again on campus but). There’s optimism UMass will get a couple of extra video games scheduled quickly, too, however head coach Walt Bell stated he is thrilled to see his crew get any alternative it could possibly to play. “Our children had been superior by means of the entire deal,” Bell stated. “There was a two- or three-day run you may see it weighing on them, however they’ve fought by means of it, and we’re capable of give them slightly mild on the finish of the tunnel.”

The AAC elimination recreation: Memphis and UCF play this week, each already having misplaced video games this season. Not many individuals anticipated this, but it surely’s per the best way the remainder of the 12 months has gone in sport and in any other case. That stated, this matchup serves as an early elimination recreation within the convention, at the very least so far as championship recreation appearances go. There are too many proficient groups this 12 months to even take into consideration making the convention title recreation with two losses at this level within the season. SMU and Cincinnati have impressed, Navy has rebounded with two convention wins after a poor begin to the season, and Houston began off 1-0 final week. This recreation is a must-win for each the Tigers and Knights.

The Thundering Herd: Undefeated Marshall (3-0) is the very best crew nobody is speaking about. Regardless of having two video games postponed this season, the Thundering Herd have two blowout wins over Eastern Kentucky and Western Kentucky, and a formidable 17-7 win over App State in September. They’re going to be taking up 3-1 Louisiana Tech this week, whose solely loss was to undefeated BYU. With a 6 p.m. ET begin, this recreation may very well be a pleasant little appetizer earlier than the later begins.

An ignominious file: Florida State is a virtually two-touchdown underdog towards North Carolina on Saturday, and a loss would set a very ugly mark within the faculty’s historical past. The Seminoles joined the ACC in 1992, and it took 10 seasons earlier than they misplaced 4 ACC video games. However a loss to the Tar Heels could be the fourth in a row for FSU in convention play, the primary time that has occurred, in keeping with ESPN Stats & Information.

Participant to observe

Lyles: Miami QB D’Eriq King

After a 12-for-28, 121-yard, two-interception efficiency towards the top-ranked Clemson Tigers, I wish to see how King rebounds towards Pitt. The Panthers have the Twelfth-ranked protection in SP+, so it will not be a easy process. He did run the ball properly towards Clemson, however he should be a extra environment friendly passer this week if the Hurricanes do not wish to drop two in a row.

Hale: BYU QB Zach Wilson

The Cougars get to point out off their 4-0 file on Friday night time this week, going towards a Houston crew that opened its season with a formidable win final week after an extended delay to the season. That provides the nation an opportunity to see Wilson on an enormous stage, and you will not wish to miss the prospect. The BYU QB is shortly turning heads on the NFL degree and will work his method into first-round consideration if he continues his scorching begin. Via 4 video games, Wilson is averaging 12.3 yards per move — a quantity bettered solely by Alabama’s Mac Jones — whereas finishing an FBS-best 81.2% of his throws. Final season, Houston ranked a hundred and fifteenth nationally in passing protection (by yards per try), so Wilson may pad these already spectacular numbers Friday.

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BYU QB Zach Wilson tosses a brief move to RB Lopini Katoa, who finds his method into the tip zone for the landing.

Underneath-the-radar recreation of the week

Lyles: Cincinnati vs. Tulsa

Cincinnati is the highest-ranked Group of 5 crew within the nation, and doubtless has the very best shot of all of them to conceivably make the Faculty Soccer Playoff (although I would not rely on it even in the very best situation). This recreation will not be a breeze for the Bearcats, although. Tulsa performed Oklahoma State robust in Week 1, and upset then Eleventh-ranked UCF the final time they took the sphere on Oct. 4. Each groups have had an additional week to arrange, so this must be one.

Hale: Boston College at Virginia Tech

What number of Hokies may miss this one? It has been double-digit absences in every of their first three video games, however Virginia Tech has nonetheless performed properly. Sure, the protection struggled in a loss to North Carolina final week, however Khalil Herbert and the bottom recreation are taking part in elite soccer. In the meantime, BC is one flubbed 2-point attempt away from probably being 4-0 in Jeff Hafley’s first season. Each groups have a couple of flaws to work out, however these two are proving that there is actual depth within the ACC this 12 months, and there is nonetheless probability considered one of them may emerge as a contender.

Upset decide of the week

Lyles: Arkansas over Ole Miss

Pandemic apart, the factor I completely didn’t count on in 2020 was being intrigued by Arkansas Razorbacks soccer. The Razorbacks performed Georgia arduous for a half earlier than Stetson Bennett IV emerged within the second half. They beat Mississippi State every week after K.J. Costello threw for 50 miles towards the defending champs, and received hosed towards Auburn final week. With as tough as Ole Miss’ protection has regarded all season, I am relying on one other Arkansas win. Facet notice: Would not it seem to be Feleipe Franks has been taking part in faculty soccer for a decade?

Hale: Pitt over Miami

NC State reporter Joe Giglio introduced up an attention-grabbing stat this week concerning the new “Clemsoning”: Since 2015, ACC groups are simply 8-21 the week after taking part in Clemson. The concept, it will appear, is the Tigers inflict injury that lasts properly past the sport’s finish, and given Miami’s excessive hopes coming into final week’s showdown, it would not be a shock if there have been one thing of a hangover. In fact, Pitt in all probability has its personal morale points after two straight one-point losses, however let’s not over analyze this. Pitt’s luck has to show ultimately, proper? Anybody? Bueller?

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