Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell enjoys self-promotion about as a lot as he does pre-snap penalties. He’s an archetype of so many coach clichés – blinders on, someday at a time and the relentless pursuit of getting higher each sport.
However even Fickell, who will get an allergic response to hype, acknowledges that No. 7 Cincinnati ought to be thought-about within the thick of the dialog for the Faculty Soccer Playoff. The Bearcats are coming off back-to-back blowouts of two groups anticipated to be amongst their stiffest competitors within the AAC. And therefore, at 5-0, they’re enjoying in addition to any crew in America.
The Bearcats trounced No. 16 SMU in Dallas two weeks in the past, 42-13, and blasted defending AAC champion Memphis, 49-10, on Saturday. (Memphis beat UC twice final season, which lingered closely over the Bearcat gamers and employees this week.)
Fickell was a co-defensive coordinator on Ohio State’s 2014 nationwide title crew and has been round sufficient CFP contenders to know what they appear like. When requested if Cincinnati seems to be like that, Fickell’s deep exhale revealed the troublesome stability between his hesitancy to overhype and the necessity to promote his crew.
“I feel we’ve got the flexibility to have the ability to do it,” Fickell stated of playoff competition. “When you’ve got a quarterback and you may play strong protection, I feel you’ve got an opportunity. For us partly, it’s not simply coach communicate, you’ll be able to win each sport. Should you aren’t enjoying your greatest on the finish of the season, [the committee] gained’t give a rattling you beat Memphis 49-10 or how badly you beat SMU. It’s important to be enjoying your greatest ball.”
Few are enjoying higher than the Bearcats. Coordinator Marcus Freeman’s protection is among the many nation’s elite models. Cincinnati entered the day No. 5 in scoring protection, should you rely groups which have performed greater than 4 video games. Cincinnati returned its complete line of defense rotation this season, giving it a unit that would compete in most Energy 5 leagues. They’re additionally stout within the secondary, with security James Wiggins, nook Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner and nook Arquon Bush all destined to play on Sundays. (Bush received banged up in opposition to Memphis).
Cincinnati held Memphis’ explosive offense to its worst output since 2015 and delivered the Tigers their worst general loss since 2011. Junior quarterback Desmond Ridder continues his evolution, finishing 21-of-26 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns. Jerome Ford ran for 116 yards on 9 carries and scored two touchdowns. A defense-first program in Fickell’s early years is evolving and changing into extra full.
It was revealing late Saturday that Fickell famous he was watching Texas and Oklahoma State. The No. 6 Cowboys’ extra time loss means one other inch up for No. 7 Cincinnati within the rankings. What does that imply the primary time the Faculty Soccer Playoff committee rankings come out on Nov. 24? It’s arduous to say.
However at this level, with the Pac-12 not beginning and Cincinnati having a greater case than anybody within the Large 12, it’d be arduous to maintain them out of the dialog. Is Georgia or Notre Dame, the 2 groups ranked forward of the Bearcats (together with Clemson, Alabama and Ohio State), actually considerably higher? We’ll be taught extra as weeks go on, however that’s a muddled argument proper now.
The most important downside for Cincinnati might be its mild schedule the remainder of the season. They gained’t probably play any ranked groups, as a visit to UCF on Nov. 21 looms as the most important high-profile check.
That’s probably one of many ulterior motives of Fickell stressing they have to be peaking on the finish of the 12 months. He gained’t say it, however type factors will matter extra for Cincinnati than groups from SEC, Large Ten and ACC.
Fickell stated the anti-social nature of COVID-19 might lend his gamers to not getting massive heads. He joked that he’s undecided what faculty youngsters do to rejoice now, however in his day he’d go to the bar together with his teammates and discover loads of of us keen to purchase celebratory beers.
In principle, he stated, that shouldn’t be occurring now with COVID-19 restrictions, however did notice that it was Halloween evening after a midday sport. “It’s such a bizarre 12 months,” he stated. “It’s important to be on guard always.”
And on this bizarre 12 months, it is smart for Cincinnati to be in the midst of the Faculty Soccer Playoff dialog. They’re on a trajectory that may’t be ignored, and the contenders proceed to break down round them.
Tua half two?
It’s arduous to get too enthusiastic about Maryland soccer, however maybe it’s given us a motive. The Terrapins had misplaced eight straight Large Ten video games heading into Friday’s sport with Minnesota and play Penn State and Ohio State within the upcoming weeks.
The Terrapins took benefit of a breakout efficiency by Taulia Tagovailoa – he accounted for 5 touchdowns – and outlasted Minnesota, 45-44, in extra time. Minnesota misplaced on a failed additional level, as its backup kicker, Brock Walker, missed after the Gophers scored in extra time. It was a becoming manner for the sport to finish, as neither protection appeared outfitted to muster a cease.
Should you watched the ESPN broadcast, they used a sledgehammer subtly to remind you that Tagovailoa is the youthful brother of former Alabama star Tua Tagovailoa, who’ll be debuting as a starter for the Dolphins on Sunday. Taulia completed the sport with 394 passing yards, and alongside the best way used a prime-time window to assist Maryland set up some nationwide resonance.
Tagovailoa transferred to Maryland from Alabama to play for Maryland coach Mike Locksley, who was Tua’s coordinator at Alabama. Taulia isn’t practically the expertise of Tua, however he’s ok in coordinator Scottie Montgomery’s offense to present the Terps an adrenaline shot of relevance.
Earlier than sending him to Canton, let’s bear in mind Taulia threw three interceptions and accomplished simply 14-of-25 for 94 yards in opposition to Northwestern in a 43-Three opening loss. And final we checked, that Wildcat protection isn’t the collegiate model of the Metal Curtain. So the reality of Taulia is probably going someplace within the center.
Right here’s what we do know: Minnesota’s protection is overmatched and can stop it from contending within the Large Ten West this season. The Gophers misplaced seven starters from final season and your entire roster – particularly the specialists – has been impacted by personnel losses tied to COVID-19 and call tracing.
It was enjoyable to see Taulia ball out on Friday evening in a wacky, see-saw sport. However let’s wait a pinch earlier than drawing extra grandiose conclusions. We all know for certain Maryland’s protection is porous sufficient that he’ll must put up massive numbers and have loads of possessions to take action. Let’s see how he does the following two weeks earlier than evaluating him to his brother in any manner.
Fresno State makes fairly the introduction
Fresno State simply dispatched Colorado State, 38-17, on Thursday evening, a sport principally notable nationally for the return of late-night, last-call soccer on Thursdays.
However the Gatorade bathe delivered to first-year Fresno State coach Kalen DeBoer meant way more than a token gesture for his first win. Few applications had an extended distance to journey to prepare for the season than Fresno State, which despatched its gamers house in March and didn’t get them again on campus till late September.
The virus restrictions in California meant that basically one month in the past Fresno State was practising for the primary time. “We did have plenty of guys who didn’t know one another and had by no means met,” DeBoer instructed Yahoo Sports activities. “We did introductions on the sphere. We’re not allowed to satisfy in assembly rooms.”
As the faculty soccer weekends unfold, so does the sense of normalcy of brunch-to-midnight buffets of soccer. However what seems so clear in HD stays tenuous behind the scenes. And that’s why tales like San Jose opening with a win at Air Power and Fresno determining a option to get its first win resonate a lot greater than a rating on a ticker.
Fresno practiced simply 21 instances, solely 4 of which had been full-contact practices and there was just one scrimmage. Final 12 months, there have been 25 practices, seven or eight of which had been absolutely padded and two full scrimmages.
And whereas Fresno had loads of Zoom time to be taught the schemes, coaches will let you know there’s no higher apply for enjoying soccer than really enjoying soccer. That’s why first-year starter Jake Haener, a switch from Washington who sat out final 12 months, improved a lot from the loss to Hawaii to the Fresno win 5 days later. He threw for 3 touchdowns and 311 yards in opposition to Colorado State.
And it left DeBoer with an appreciation for a way a lot Fresno State needed to do to prepare.
“Trying again on it, even in these final two days, it’s an enormous deal,” he stated. “Simply how we’re constructing the tradition of our crew and the urgency to be actually good and the way essential it was for them to signify themselves.”
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