20 very most sharp storylines coming into the 2021 season

The college soccer season is sooner or later right here.

After a recordsdata-filled offseason, we have sooner or later arrives on the main handful of valid video games with Week 0 kicking off on the novel time.

But sooner than the action on the realm will get underway, let’s dive in on the very most sharp storylines coming into the 2021 season.  

1. COVID-19 is soundless right here

Let’s salvage the wide-characterize stuff out of the approach first. As we relate closing twelve months, we had no understanding whether there would basically be a season. And if there used to be some semblance of a season, we didn’t know which conferences would possibly well most doubtless well be playing and which would sit out amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Lastly, just about each and each FBS program participated in a single approach or one other, nonetheless the 2020 season used to be unlike any we’ve ever viewed.

The 2021 season will return to some stage of normalcy, nonetheless likely no longer fairly to the stage we anticipated about a months within the past. The Delta variant is spreading all over many states, severely within the SEC footprint where vaccination rates are lacking when put next to the remainder of the nation.

There’ll positively be a long way extra followers within the stands than closing twelve months, creating grand extra of a homefield help and bringing again the environments that manufacture college soccer so particular. On the identical time, we’re no longer out of the woods yet with the pandemic. The virus will certainly manufacture its presence diagnosed to some extent as the season progresses.

2. Realignment

There are about a varied storylines that can be prevalent right throughout the season. Realignment, with out a doubt, will lead the payment.

We already know Texas and Oklahoma are leaving the Expansive 12 for the SEC. For now, that switch becomes official in 2025 when the Expansive 12’s media rights deal expires. It’d be very most sharp if the Longhorns and Sooners basically play out four extra seasons within the Expansive 12. They would possibly well most doubtless even be contributors in 2021, despite the truth that, and that can doubtlessly make awkwardness, severely for a middling Texas program with one other novel instructing workers.

Past UT and OU, what would possibly well most doubtless well be the subsequent domino to drop? The Pac-12 launched it would possibly well most doubtless well also fair no longer see to manufacture bigger right now, yet it has fashioned a considerably imprecise scheduling alliance with the Expansive Ten and ACC. So where does that scuttle away the remaining eight groups within the Expansive 12? Will they’re attempting and add some groups from some Community of Five conferences? There would possibly be a lot to ponder as we enter the main gentle of one other novel abilities in college soccer.

AUSTIN, TX - NOVEMBER 29: A Texas Longhorns spirit member runs with a flag during game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders on November 29, 2019 at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas. (Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Alongside with Oklahoma, Texas is leaving the Expansive 12 for the SEC. (Listing by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire by job of Getty Pictures)

3. College Soccer Playoff expansion

The ideas of realignment quick jumped to the entrance of the headlines, nonetheless it for meander used to be most sharp two months within the past that the College Soccer Playoff administration committee formally proposed expanding the structure from four to 12 groups. The four-physique of workers playoff has positively been a success, nonetheless the clamors for a elevated arena earn most sharp gotten louder as the CFP abilities has persisted.

Sooner than Texas and Oklahoma’s defection to the SEC took the industry by storm, expanding the playoff appeared admire an inevitability by 2023. Is that soundless the case? Yahoo Sports actions’ Pete Thamel wrote about the scenario about a weeks within the past, and a few favorite officers mediate the discontinue button would possibly well most doubtless perchance also fair soundless be hit on expansion.

“We want to judge the landscape and what it’s going to seem admire,” Ohio Convey athletic director Gene Smith suggested Yahoo Sports actions. “We soundless must evaluation the 12-physique of workers playoff. We don’t must flee into that as soon as there’s reputable considerations that need to be addressed.”

4. The NIL abilities

The NCAA’s stronghold on the realm of college athletics is weakening. No doubt one of many most modern cracks within the foundation is the ability for athletes to be taught from their name, image and likeness. The NCAA’s amateurism principles repeatedly prohibited that from being the case, nonetheless upright challenges from states all around the nation precipitated the NCAA to relent.

Since the set off July 1, dozens of college soccer avid gamers earn taken help, with some reportedly earning indispensable portions of cash within the center of. Now that the season is right here, now will NIL earn an impress on groups?

Some earn wondered if a star participant receiving a ton of endorsement money would possibly well most doubtless perchance cause fracturing in a locker room. My prediction? It won’t. And the total varied armageddon eventualities amateurism-crazy administrators earn scared about for years will portray to be nonsensical, accurate admire they did when the dreaded cost-of-attendance funds went into space again in 2015.

5. Welcome again, wide seniors!

OK, let’s salvage to the on-the-arena stuff now.

Since the NCAA rightly determined to award an additional twelve months of eligibility as a result of the COVID-19 season, there is a ton of returning abilities in college soccer. You’ll hear the term “wide senior” a lot this twelve months in reference to avid gamers in their fifth or even sixth twelve months of ball.

The identical outdated suspects on the tip of the rankings would possibly well most doubtless well even be the same, nonetheless this season has the functionality for plenty of upsets as a result of the breadth of experienced avid gamers returning, as Yahoo Sports actions detailed earlier this month.

6. Who are the tip CFP contenders?

This can truly feel repetitive, and that’s because it is.

The Associated Press High 25 aspects mainstays Alabama, Oklahoma, Clemson and Ohio Convey on the tip of the rankings. Predictably, those groups are four of the 5 the making a wager favorites to put the nationwide title in 2021 at BetMGM.

In 2020, Alabama went undefeated and won its sixth nationwide title below Slice Saban. The Crimson Tide earn reached the CFP in six of the seven years the structure has existed, winning three titles. Clemson has made it six cases as effectively, winning twice. Ohio Convey and Oklahoma each and each earn four appearances.

The lack of parity on the tip of the sport is why so many are desirous to acknowledge the playoff arena expanded previous accurate four groups.

7. Can Georgia salvage over the scoot?

Entering 2021, Georgia is tied for the third-simplest nationwide title odds with Ohio Convey at BetMGM. Both groups are listed at +600, within the again of Alabama (+260) and Clemson (+450). Georgia has one of basically the most talented rosters within the nation. Some would possibly well most doubtless perchance even argue it’s basically the most talented, nonetheless abilities has never been Georgia’s scenario.

The Bulldogs had been shut to the tip of the sport below Kirby Neat, nonetheless earn accurate one CFP appearance to note for it. UGA won the SEC nonetheless within the extinguish lost within the CFP title game to Alabama in 2017. Since then, Georgia has been scratching and clawing to get back to the CFP. The emergence of JT Daniels at quarterback main a extra current offensive attack would possibly well most doubtless well even be the variation. Daniels, a USC switch, played thoroughly unhurried in 2020 after getting again from a knee fracture.

ATHENS, GA - APRIL 17: Quarterback JT Daniels #18 of the Georgia Bulldogs warms up prior to the G-Day spring game at Sanford Stadium on April 17, 2021 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

Can quarterback JT Daniels help Georgia salvage over the scoot? (Listing by Todd Kirkland/Getty Pictures)

8. Will Texas A&M live to the hype?

Texas A&M gave Jimbo Fisher a 10-twelve months, $75 million contract to put nationwide titles. His first two years in College Situation had been solid — 9-4 and eight-5. In twelve months 3, the Aggies broke through and accomplished 9-1 and No. 5 within the CFP rankings.

Entering 2021, the Aggies look admire the very most sharp challenger to Alabama within the SEC West. The defense is stacked and there’s a ton of abilities on the skill positions on offense, severely working again. But basically the most favorite put a query to imprint is at an crucial space: quarterback.

Kellen Mond wasn’t spectacular, nonetheless he played his simplest soccer as a senior and accomplished his profession as A&M’s all-time main passer. The contenders to interchange him are Haynes King and Zach Calzada. The 2 earn 28 blended passing attempts.

9. What about Iowa Convey?

On the heels of its very most sharp bowl appearance in program historical previous, Iowa Convey has its sights build of residing elevated in 2021. The Cyclones lost to Oklahoma within the Expansive 12 title game closing twelve months, nonetheless ended up beating Oregon within the Fiesta Bowl to cap off one of their simplest seasons ever.

Matt Campbell has accomplished an mighty job at ISU, a program that had been a perennial Expansive 12 bottom-feeder. Here’s a reputable top 10 physique of workers coming into 2021 with one of basically the most-experienced rosters within the nation. Oklahoma is the Expansive 12 current again, nonetheless Iowa Convey goes to earn one thing to thunder about this convention title hump.

10. Can North Carolina or Miami put Clemson within the ACC?

To place it bluntly, it’d be very most sharp if a physique of workers varied than Clemson won the ACC in 2021. 

The Tigers earn won the league title six straight years. About a of the wide names from contemporary groups earn moved on to the NFL, nonetheless the abilities is soundless there. The line of defense severely has the chance to be one of basically the simplest devices — at any space — within the nation. And D.J. Uiagelelei, the bogus for Trevor Lawrence, is a Heisman current, despite the truth that there is a startling lack of depth within the again of him at QB.

The outlet between Clemson and the remainder of the ACC Atlantic is wide, nonetheless Coastal Division contributors North Carolina and Miami are doing their simplest to put up. Underneath Mack Brown, North Carolina’s stage of abilities has ascended quick with QB Sam Howell main the approach. Miami, meanwhile, made the shrewd addition of D’Eriq King out of the switch portal to help remodel its offense below coordinator Rhett Lashlee.

Whoever emerges from the Coastal would possibly well most doubtless perchance also fair soundless no longer no longer up to offer Clemson a game this time round.

11. Can the Pac-12 conclude its CFP drought?

The CFP abilities has no longer been kind to the Pac-12. The convention has no longer had a member attain the playoff since 2016, when Washington used to be the No. 4 seed and obtained dominated by Alabama.

Will that drought result in 2021? Historic previous exhibits that an undefeated or one-loss convention champion would possibly well most doubtless well earn basically the simplest chance to realize so. And in step with the oddsmakers at BetMGM, there is now not any longer a tremendous current to put the Pac-12. Oregon, at +250, is the making a wager current, nonetheless Washington (+350), USC (+400) and Arizona Convey (+400) are all effectively within inserting distance.

Oregon has one college soccer’s most talented avid gamers in defensive conclude Kayvon Thibodeaux, who would possibly well most doubtless perchance conclude up as the No. 1 salvage within the 2022 NFL draft, and an early season showdown with Ohio Convey. Washington also has an early chance to manufacture a assertion on the toll road in opposition to Michigan. USC is stuffed with abilities nonetheless has repeatedly underachieved below Clay Helton. Arizona Convey would possibly well most doubtless perchance also fair soundless be one of many higher groups within the Pac-12 South, nonetheless has an NCAA case putting over its head. Utah (+600) would possibly well most doubtless perchance also fair soundless also compete for the South.

That’s plenty of competitors, nonetheless the shortcoming of a correct alpha would possibly well most doubtless perchance portray a detriment to the Pac-12’s CFP hassle as soon as again.

Los Angeles, CA - December 18:  Cornerback Mykael Wright #2 of the Oregon Ducks knocks away a pass intended for wide receiver Tyler Vaughns #21 of the USC Trojans in the third quarter of the PAC 12 Championship football game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Friday, December 18, 2020 in Los Angeles on Friday, December 18, 2020. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

Oregon and USC enter the 2021 season as two of the favorites to put the Pac-12. (Listing by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Community/Pasadena Star-News by job of Getty Pictures)

12. Who will likely be this twelve months’s G5 Cinderella?

Every person knows the novel CFP structure isn’t build of residing up for the Community of Five conferences. Cincinnati went undefeated within the peculiar season closing twelve months and used to be excluded from the CFP arena. And the very most sharp scenario isn’t that Cincinnati didn’t crack the tip four, it’s that it used to be the total approach down at No. 8 within the again of two-loss Oklahoma and three-loss Florida. That’s preposterous.

With toll road video games in opposition to Indiana and Notre Dame, Cincinnati has the functionality for a grand stronger resume this twelve months. The Bearcats would possibly well most doubtless perchance also fair soundless be one of basically the simplest G5 groups within the nation as soon as again, nonetheless who would possibly well most doubtless well be the out-of-nowhere shock this time round? Last twelve months it used to be Coastal Carolina that took the nation by storm, severely with its put over BYU.

13. Novel QBs at top colleges

The three groups with basically the simplest nationwide championship making a wager odds at BetMGM all would possibly well most doubtless well earn a novel starting up quarterback in 2021.

At Alabama (+260), it’s Bryce Younger. Younger used to be ranked as the 2nd-simplest recruit within the category of 2020 by He served as Mac Jones’ backup closing twelve months and is now ready to take the reins for the mighty Crimson Tide.

At Clemson, D.J. Uiagelelei will take over for Trevor Lawrence. Uiagelelei made two starts closing twelve months and regarded fairly overjoyed, together with throwing for 439 yards on the toll road in opposition to Notre Dame.

For Ohio Convey (+600), redshirt freshman C.J. Stroud won the starting up job in a excessive-profile wrestle to interchange Justin FIelds, who also departed for the NFL.

14. Who are college soccer’s top QB draft prospects?

Earlier within the offseason, Yahoo Sports actions NFL draft writer Eric Edholm broke down the college quarterbacks who are most on the radar for subsequent twelve months’s draft.

Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler and North Carolina’s Sam Howell led the approach with Georgia’s JT Daniels, Liberty’s Malik Willis and Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder also price keeping a shut respect on.

Other QBs on Edholm’s radar encompass Carson Solid (Nevada), Matt Corral (Ole Miss), Phil Jurkovec (Boston College), Kedon Slovis (USC) and Jayden Daniels (Arizona Convey).

Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler (7) passes in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kansas State Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020, in Norman, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki).

Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler (7) passes within the 2nd half of an NCAA college soccer game in opposition to Kansas Convey Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020, in Norman, Okla. (AP Listing/Sue Ogrocki).

15. Who are the transfers you can most doubtless fair soundless know?

The one-time switch rule is now in play, and there are a bevy of distinguished avid gamers who will suit up for impress spanking novel groups this drop.

Let’s initiate with about a quarterbacks. McKenzie Milton used to be a star at UCF unless he suffered a horrific leg fracture. Two years later, he is competing to initiate at Florida Convey. FSU’s Week 1 opponent, Notre Dame, would possibly well most doubtless well earn Wisconsin switch Jack Coan as its opening day starter. Yet every other QB with a ton of abilities, Charlie Brewer, is competing for the tip job at Utah after playing in 44 video games with Baylor.

What about the non-quarterbacks? Yahoo Sports actions’ Slice Bromberg has an intensive record of avid gamers who would possibly well most doubtless perchance manufacture a wide make this season

16. Which wide-name choices will jump again?

About a of the bigger name choices within the nation truly struggled closing twelve months.

LSU, unusual off a nationwide title, went 5-5. Penn Convey, winners of double-digit video games in three of the old four seasons, began 0-5 and accomplished 4-5. Michigan used to be even worse at 2-4.

Will they be ready to jump again? LSU and Penn Convey each and each earn their preseason put totals build of residing at 8.5 at BetMGM. Michigan is at 7.5.

17. Coaching carousel recap

Lose video display of closing season’s instructing carousel? Here’s a short refresher on basically the most distinguished coach motion.


Extinct coach: Kevin Sumlin (fired), Novel coach: Jedd Fisch (Novel England Patriots assistant)


Extinct coach: Gus Malzahn (fired), Novel coach: Bryan Harsin (Boise Convey head coach)

Boise Convey

Extinct coach: Bryan Harsin, Novel coach: Andy Avalos (Oregon assistant)


Extinct coach: Lovie Smith (fired), Novel coach: Bret Bielema (used Wisconsin, Arkansas head coach)


Extinct coach: Les Miles (fired), Novel coach: Lance Leipold (Buffalo head coach)


Extinct coach: Doc Holliday (fired), Novel coach: Charles Huff (Alabama assistant)

South Carolina

Extinct coach: Will Muschamp (fired), Novel coach: Shane Beamer (Oklahoma assistant)


Extinct coach: Jeremy Pruitt (fired), Novel coach: Josh Heupel (UCF head coach)


Extinct coach: Tom Herman (fired), Novel coach: Steve Sarkisian (Alabama OC, HC at USC, Washington)


Extinct coach: Josh Heupel, Novel coach: Gus Malzahn (Auburn head coach)


Extinct coach: Derek Mason (fired) Novel coach: Clark Lea (Notre Dame DC)

18. Who’s on the novel seat?

Speaking of coaches, who enters the 2021 season on the novel seat?

After closing twelve months’s catastrophe in Ann Arbor, there will likely be an very most sharp brighter highlight on Jim Harbaugh as the outlet between Michigan and rival Ohio Convey extra widens.

Justin Fuente at Virginia Tech is a name to maintain an respect on as the Hokies are coming off a 2nd shedding describe in a three-twelve months span. Sooner than Fuente arrived in Blacksburg, the Hokies had 23 consecutive winning seasons below Frank Beamer, who retired in 2015.

Clay Helton is repeatedly the topic of USC followers’ ire as the Trojans compete for convention titles nonetheless underachieve on a nationwide stage. Helton has a 45-23 describe, three division titles and one Pac-12 title in six seasons.

Scott Frost used to be supposed to rescue Nebraska from its blueprint forward for mediocrity. At this point, mediocrity would possibly well most doubtless well be an improvement. Frost has a 12-20 describe in three seasons, together with a 9-17 imprint in Expansive Ten play.

Others to acknowledge: Matt Wells (Texas Tech), Chip Kelly (UCLA), Ed Orgeron (LSU), Dino Babers (Syracuse)

19. Who are the tip Heisman Trophy candidates?

The Heisman is always a quarterback award, nonetheless closing twelve months it went to Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith. Entering 2021, the tip 10 avid gamers within the Heisman making a wager odds at BetMGM are quarterbacks.

  • Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma (+800)

  • Bryce Younger, Alabama (+1000)

  • D.J. Uiagalelei, Clemson (+1100)

  • JT Daniels, Georgia (+1200)

  • Sam Howell, North Carolina (+1600)

  • CJ Stroud, Ohio Convey (+1600)

  • D’Eriq King, Miami (+2000)

  • Matt Corral, Ole Miss (+2500)

  • Kedon Slovis, USC (+2800)

  • Jayden Daniels, Arizona Convey (+3000)

20. Loaded non-convention schedule 

In the occasion you were not already infected for the season, listed below are some of the tip early season non-convention video games you can most doubtless fair soundless earn circled on the schedule. 

  • Boise Convey at UCF (Sept. 2)

  • Georgia vs. Clemson (Sept. 4 – Charlotte)

  • Alabama vs. Miami (Sept. 4 – Atlanta)

  • LSU at UCLA (Sept. 4)

  • Oregon at Ohio Convey (Sept. 11)

  • Washington at Michigan (Sept. 11)

  • Auburn at Penn Convey (Sept. 18)

  • Cincinnati at Indiana (Sept. 18)

  • Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin (Sept. 25 – Chicago)

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