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Do not Mess With the Mountain West


The 2021 faculty soccer season is off to a considerably chaotic begin. There’s just one group that appears actually nice, and even that group, Alabama, got here fairly near dropping this week. After that, the nationwide panorama seems extra extensive open than it has in years. Week 3 introduced the season’s fluidity into focus, as six top-25 groups misplaced (albeit three of them to different ranked groups) and a pair Group of 5 conferences scored large wins towards the Energy 5.

 

 

Listed here are 4 winners and 4 losers from a busy weekend of faculty soccer.

Winner: Penn State

The Nittany Lions had a bizarre 2020 season. They began 0–5 however recovered to win their final 4 video games after everybody stopped being attentive to them. Coming into the 12 months, the large query round PSU was whether or not their woes final 12 months could possibly be chalked as much as the weirdness of taking part in in the course of the pandemic or in the event that they have been indicative of larger issues.

After a primetime win over Auburn at Beaver Stadium moved James Franklin’s group to three–0, it appears clear that 2020 was a blip and never an indication of long-term decline. PSU’s 28–20 win marked one in every of QB Sean Clifford’s greatest performances in three years because the starter. He threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns, and his lone interception was a Hail Mary on the finish of the primary half.

Loser: Pitt

PSU’s in-state rival didn’t have such a superb weekend. The Panthers misplaced to the MAC’s Western Michigan, 44–41, and that introduced the thrill of their 2–0 begin to a grinding halt. Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi is in his seventh 12 months, and he has a fifth-year quarterback in Kenny Pickett. 2021 is meant to be a 12 months of progress at Pitt, but it surely now seems just like the Panthers aren’t materially higher than they’ve been throughout the remainder of Narduzzi’s tenure. It doesn’t assist that Pitt’s foremost recruiting adversary for native expertise, Penn State, appears to be on the rise once more. Athletic director Heather Lyke must be critically contemplating Narduzzi’s future with the varsity.

Winner: The Mountain West

This league had two fairly large wins on Saturday. First, San Diego beat Utah in three overtimes, shifting to three–0 and notching a second victory in three video games this 12 months towards the Pac-12. (The Aztecs additionally beat Arizona, which has its personal issues. Extra on the Wildcats later.)

Later, Fresno State mounted a fourth-quarter comeback to beat No. 13 UCLA on the Rose Bowl, 40–37. Quarterback Jake Haener, combating by what seemed to be a big harm to his midsection, threw for 455 yards and launched the game-winning landing move to Jalen Cropper within the final minute.

And as a bonus, Wyoming moved to three–0 by destroying Ball State and in addition scoring 40-plus factors for the second week in a row. The Cowboys play a lackluster UConn subsequent, so they need to be 4–0 popping out of their bye week after that. Backside line: The MWC has a handful of enjoyable, ascendant applications this 12 months.

Loser: SEC officiating crews

In a typical non-conference recreation, an officiating crew representing the visiting group’s convention oversees the sport. That was the case in each the Auburn-Penn State and Mississippi State-Memphis video games, which meant that SEC crews have been answerable for the motion. Late within the recreation in Memphis, MSU’s punt protection group appeared to down a punt inside Memphis’ 10-yard line. The official within the space didn’t blow the play useless, and Memphis picked it up and ran it again for a landing that turned out to be the distinction within the recreation. The SEC needed to admit an error after the sport—not simply that the play ought to’ve been whistled, however that Memphis ought to’ve been penalized for having two gamers sporting the No. 4 jersey on the sphere on the identical time.

The Auburn-Penn State recreation additionally grew to become an officiating calamity. At one level the zebras took a down away from Penn State, then denied PSU what appeared like a transparent first down, after which later didn’t name a expensive intentional grounding on Auburn QB Bo Nix. That prompted yet one more admission of error from the SEC workplace. Officiating is difficult, however two such press releases in sooner or later are by no means a superb signal.

Winner: BYU

Heading into the 12 months, it appeared like BYU was due for one of many steepest declines of any group in faculty soccer. The Cougars completed eleventh within the AP High 25 final 12 months, however they misplaced QB Zach Wilson and most of the skilled gamers on their roster: BYU ranked useless final within the nation in returning manufacturing, in accordance with ESPN’s Invoice Connelly. And but the Cougars are sitting at 3–0 after beating No. 19 Arizona State on Saturday. QB Jaren Corridor appears to know what he’s doing, and Kalani Sitake’s protection has been nothing however strong.

Loser: Arizona

After rival ASU routed the Wildcats in final 12 months’s Territorial Cup recreation, 70–7, UA fired head coach Kevin Sumlin. That made sense. It made much less sense to switch him with Jedd Fisch, a longtime faculty and NFL assistant whose most up-to-date collegiate expertise had been a particularly unimpressive 12 months as UCLA’s offensive coordinator in 2017. The Fisch rent appeared like a nasty thought on the time, and it seems worse now that the group has began the 12 months 0–3.

Saturday’s 21–19 loss to FCS group Northern Arizona was the worst but. As a normal rule, in case your college’s identify is the identify of your state, you don’t want to lose to a directional college in your personal state. As an example: Arizona shouldn’t lose to Northern Arizona.

Winner: Arkansas

The Razorbacks have been the worst group within the SEC in 2018 and 2019. They made progress in 2020, however very similar to Penn State’s struggles final season, it wasn’t clear to what extent Arkansas’ progress must be chalked as much as a bizarre 12 months. Three video games into 2021, and it’s clear the progress was actual. Arkansas clobbered Georgia Southern this week, 45–10, and prevented the sort of stumble that may’ve deflated followers’ hopes. The Hogs at the moment are 3–0 heading into an attractive recreation towards Texas A&M at North Texas’ AT&T Stadium subsequent week.

Loser: Virginia Tech

Hokies coach Justin Fuente sits on one of many hotter seats in faculty soccer after a number of mediocre seasons and a flirtation with the Baylor job after the 2019 season, which didn’t go over nicely in Blacksburg. Fuente began the 12 months with a pleasant win over what was then a No. 10-ranked North Carolina, and the Hokies even climbed into the highest 25 themselves. They have been ranked fifteenth this week after they visited West Virginia.

After falling behind by a large margin, they fought again and set themselves up inside WVU’s five-yard line with an opportunity to win within the final minute (after WVU had gifted Tech an interception to offer the late alternative). However Fuente couldn’t draw up a play to get the Hokies into the top zone, and the day resulted in a crushing loss.


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