College soccer Week 2 – Big take a look at for Kentucky-Florida, uncommon assembly for Alabama-Texas, familiarity in USC-Stanford

After a wild Week 1 that featured 5 consecutive days of video games, starting from Appalachian State scoring 40 factors within the fourth quarter alone and nonetheless shedding to North Carolina to Iowa scoring seven factors (on two safeties and a area objective) in 4 quarters and profitable, what does the second full weekend of video games maintain for school soccer?

An SEC matchup that includes two ranked groups, the primary regular-season assembly between Alabama and Texas in a century, a well-recognized Pac-12 contest and those self same high-scoring Mountaineers taking up a a lot stingier protection in Texas A&M.

Here is a full rundown of the important thing matchups and most compelling storylines for the highest video games in Week 2.


No. 20 Kentucky at No. 12 Florida (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)

Even mentioning Kentucky’s title in context with the Prime 25 rankings or the SEC soccer race was at one time pure fantasy.

Come on, at a basketball college? Do not get soccer coach Mark Stoops began on that one, particularly this week, as his Wildcats tackle Florida within the Swamp, a sport that previously barely induced a ripple within the SEC. In any case, Florida received 31 consecutive video games within the sequence earlier than the Wildcats lastly broke by means of in 2018.

However on Saturday, it will likely be the primary SEC matchup of the 2022 season pitting two nationally ranked groups towards one another. Coming into this season, most would have predicted that Kentucky can be the one group ranked among the many two. That is earlier than Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson went into full Cam Newton-mode final week within the Gators’ 29-26 upset of then-No. 7 Utah.

“It’s tough to single out any one thing,” Stoops stated of the best way to decelerate Richardson. “He has a talented arm. Everybody is going to say what an athlete he is, but he can rip it and throw the ball, as well.”

The quarterback matchup on this sport needs to be a deal with. Kentucky’s Will Levis is a projected first-round NFL draft decide, and with the Wildcats once more anticipated to be with out star operating again Chris Rodriguez Jr., Levis may need to hold an excellent heavier burden if Kentucky goes to beat Florida for the third time up to now 5 years. The Gators gave up 230 dashing yards to the Utes, and Levis is loads able to doing his personal harm on the bottom. The 6-foot-3, 232-pound Levis handed for twenty-four touchdowns and ran for 9 extra final season.

“When you have that franchise quarterback, it changes everything,” Stoops stated.

Stoops has utterly modified the soccer panorama at Kentucky, to the purpose that he can go Bear Bryant on Saturday as Kentucky’s all-time wins chief. That is one thing that might resonate for a very long time regardless of the opponent, however doing it on the street towards Florida?

“People underestimate how hard it is to build a program in the SEC from the bottom,” stated Stoops, who’s 60-53 at Kentucky and has guided the Wildcats to 4 straight bowl victories. “There’s been a lot of investment here by a lot of different people.”

And have a look at the return.

Kentucky has received 10 video games twice up to now 4 years. Previous to that, the Wildcats hadn’t received 10 video games in a season since 1977. Stoops’ potential to develop gamers, preserve a employees that matches this system’s tradition and create a steely toughness that permeates all the program are all elements which have led to Kentucky’s sustained success.

“That’s the main thing, because there’s nobody interested in going backward in this league,” stated Stoops, the second-longest-tenured coach within the SEC, behind Alabama’s Nick Saban.

Over the previous 5 seasons (going again to the beginning of 2017), solely 4 SEC groups have received extra video games than Kentucky: Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Texas A&M. With 42 wins, the Aggies have just one extra victory than the Wildcats throughout that stretch.

Stoops, who took over at Kentucky in 2013, has seen 22 head coaches pack up and depart the SEC since his hiring, and solely two of these left to take one other job. Stoops has had his personal alternatives to go away and would have been an actual chance at LSU final yr had Brian Kelly not determined to go away Notre Dame.

“I feel very connected here, very connected to this fan base. I feel like there’s mutual respect because we built it from the ground up,” Stoops stated. “You don’t get that everywhere. And no matter what school you’re at or what level, it’s hard. You want to be somewhere that you’re rooted. Look at Bob [older brother Bob Stoops] and how rooted he was at Oklahoma.

“You do not ever escape how exhausting it’s to win, possibly for a honeymoon interval once you first depart, however that is it.” — Chris Low


No. 1 Alabama at Texas (Saturday, noon ET, Fox)

Texas and Alabama, two of college football’s biggest brand names, will meet Saturday for just the 10th time in history, and the game has almost always meant something huge is on the line.

Take the 1965 Orange Bowl, the first played at night and the first live national network telecast of a college football game in prime time. Texas handed a 21-17 loss to Bear Bryant’s Crimson Tide, who had been crowned national champs before the game was even played.

But this time is different. For one, Alabama is No. 1 and Texas is unranked. It’s also the first time since 1922 the two have played in the regular season. There’s not much on the line other than bragging rights for the future SEC rivals. The two programs have gone in different directions since their last meeting at the conclusion of the 2009 campaign, when Texas quarterback Colt McCoy was injured in the first quarter en route to a 37-21 loss as Nick Saban claimed his first national championship at Alabama. Texas has been adrift with three head coaches since then.

The Longhorns were 20-point underdogs as of Wednesday at Caesars Sportsbook, and they are likely to close with their longest odds to win at home since the 1978 FBS/FCS split, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Coach Steve Sarkisian already has said his focus is on making it to the Big 12 title game on Dec. 3 and indicated this game won’t define his progress of rebuilding the Texas program.

Sarkisian knows what he’s up against, arriving in Austin last year after serving as Saban’s offensive coordinator for two seasons. Matching wits with his old boss will be a big test, but Sarkisian said he is more concerned with how Texas plays its own game.

“One factor we have now to watch out of isn’t overanalyzing and overthinking it an excessive amount of,” Sarkisian said Monday. “Typically it’s a must to be like a pitcher and throw your greatest pitch. We now have to throw our greatest pitches and see if it is adequate.”

With a redshirt freshman at quarterback in Quinn Ewers and in an effort to slow the Tide’s pass-rushers — fueled by Will Anderson Jr., who led the nation in pressures the past two seasons — those pitches will likely involve plenty of Bijan Robinson. The Longhorns’ stellar running back ran for 1,127 yards and 11 touchdowns in 10 games last season before being sidelined by injury. He’ll likely test the middle of the Tide’s defense behind Texas’ young offensive line after averaging 6.1 yards per carry and scoring seven of his TDs between the tackles last season, when Alabama allowed 4.0 yards per carry up the middle.

The Longhorns are anxious to see how their defense has improved after allowing 31.1 points per game last year, 99th nationally. And Alabama likely is too, with Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young coming off a 55-0 win over Utah State in which he threw five touchdown passes and ran for 100 yards and another score.

Saban is 25-2 at Alabama against his former assistants, with 23 of the wins coming by at least 14 points. But both losses were last season, in the regular season to Texas A&M and Jimbo Fisher and in the national championship to Georgia and Kirby Smart. Sarkisian said Monday that this game will be similar to one from 2009, when Sarkisian’s upstart Washington squad upset then-No. 3 Southern California, coached by his former mentor Pete Carroll.

But Saban said the familiarity works both ways.

“We have appeared to play a number of groups now that form of know us,” Saban said Monday. “However you act like we do not know them. So simply because any individual is aware of you after they play you does not imply they are going to beat you. And simply because them once you play them does not imply you are gonna beat ’em both. It is gonna come all the way down to the way you execute.” — Dave Wilson


No. 24 Tennessee at No. 17 Pitt (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN App)

When Tennessee heads up to Pittsburgh, it will mark the first time in school history the Panthers will host a team from the SEC.

But these teams have familiarity with each other, after Pitt went on the road last year to beat the Vols 41-34 — a game that set the early tone en route to an ACC championship season. Yet despite having recently proved Pitt can beat Tennessee, the Vols enter the game as favorites.

When asked how the Panthers could be underdogs in this game, Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said in a phone interview with ESPN.com on Wednesday, “They have gamers, and I assume all people’s saying we do not have Kenny Pickett, so Kenny Pickett will need to have been the distinction final yr within the win.”

Narduzzi then pointed to the turnover margin: Pitt had three takeaways to zero for Tennessee. Pitt also won the turnover margin in a 38-31 win over West Virginia the previous week, but the defense did not play as well as Narduzzi wanted. West Virginia gained 190 yards rushing — the highest total Pitt has given up since the final regular-season game in 2019 — and its bigger receivers often had success against the smaller Pitt defensive backs.

That is one of the biggest keys to watch in this game, as Tennessee wideouts Bru McCoy (6-3) and Cedric Tillman (6-3) both have size advantages. Narduzzi also pointed out Jalin Hyatt and his speed, in particular. When asked about this matchup, Narduzzi said, “I really feel good; in any other case, I would forfeit the sport and never play. There’s at all times going to be challenges. We now have to play nice protection, that is for positive. It is not going to be straightforward.”

Then there is Volunteers quarterback Hendon Hooker, who came into their matchup a year ago in relief of Joe Milton III and nearly rallied Tennessee for the win. Once Hooker entered the game, Tennessee averaged 6.2 yards per play, as compared to 4.2 with Milton behind center.

There is more than just their game last year that provides familiarity. Narduzzi’s Panthers played against Tennessee coach Josh Heupel when Heupel coached UCF, and Pitt faced Hooker when Hooker was the starting quarterback at Virginia Tech in from 2019 to 2020. — Andrea Adelson


Appalachian State at No. 6 Texas A&M (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2/ESPN App)

App State heads to College Station to face Texas A&M coming off of arguably Week 1’s most exciting game, a 63-61 loss to North Carolina in which the Mountaineers scored 40 points in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Chase Brice led App State with 361 yards passing for six touchdowns with one pick.

Texas A&M, on the other hand, shut out Sam Houston State 31-0 in its opener. It’s not a risky bet to say that App State won’t be putting up 40 points in a quarter this week, but who knows after the opening week we just saw in college football?

During his Monday news conference, Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher praised Brice, saying, “He is aware of ball, and he performed nice there final yr. He can throw the ball down the sphere, can create performs together with his legs and he is acquired a … savviness to him. Simply physique language, and throw the ball right here, and flip the ball there. Man, he can simply actually play the sport.”

Fisher added that his defense will have to continue to play disciplined to have success on Saturday.

Offensively, Fisher was asked about putting more emphasis on running the football this week in practice and said, “That is what we do. We’ll run the soccer.”

Texas A&M going up against an App State defense that gave up 6 yards per rush against the Tar Heels will be a matchup to keep an eye on Saturday afternoon. The Aggies had just 110 yards and 3.4 yards per carry against Sam Houston State.

Asked Monday for his review on Texas A&M’s offense, App State coach Shawn Clark replied with a smirk and left it at “good.”

Defensively, Clark said, “They recruit on the highest stage in school sports activities. … They’ve nice playmakers. They’ve an distinctive offense, protection; schematically, they provide you a whole lot of robust conditions on each offense and protection. We now have our work lower out for us, however the guys are excited to get down there to College Station.” — Harry Lyles Jr.


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Calen Bullock, Shane Lee and Ralen Goforth discover pay grime on every interception to increase the Trojans’ lead.

USC at Stanford (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN App)

If beating Rice 66-14 because of 4 interceptions was the appetizer to open USC’s season, then touring to Stanford feels just like the Trojans sitting down on the dinner desk for the beginning of their foremost course. The Cardinal aren’t precisely anticipated to be a power this yr, however the early-season matchup is sort of at all times a barometer for what sort of marketing campaign USC can put collectively. Over the previous 10 years, USC is 3-5 towards Stanford within the month of September, together with 1-3 in Palo Alto.

Like many issues he has modified since he arrived, Trojans coach Lincoln Riley is hoping to reverse that development too. And each he and defensive coordinator Alex Grinch know 4 interceptions in a sport, together with three returned for touchdowns, isn’t one thing they will at all times depend on. But for a protection that’s made up of a number of new faces and stays the most important query, the position the unit performed in final weekend’s victory bodes properly heading ahead. Stanford, nevertheless, will present a extra correct take a look at.

“You’re going to have to be clean in the [defensive] run game,” Riley stated, including that regardless of the turnovers, it’s one space the place he felt the Trojans’ D might be extra constant. “On top of it, you’re facing a really high-level quarterback [Tanner McKee], so coverage has got to be sharp. It’s going to take a little bit of everybody.”

“It’s going to take a little bit of everybody” could be the theme of this USC season, even on offense, the place Caleb Williams already seems to be as snug as could be behind an line that is nonetheless rotating between two left tackles in Courtland Ford and Virginia switch Bobby Haskins.

“Just seeing how well he knows [the offense] and how well he can translate it to the field, it gives confidence to the offense,” Trojans operating again Travis Dye stated of Williams, who not solely had simply three incompletions however was USC’s main rusher with 68 yards on the bottom, displaying the form of offensive stability that could be obligatory as soon as once more this Saturday. “He can literally do it all. He can pass, he can paint your back porch, he can walk your dog and he can run the ball.”

The matchup towards the Cardinal will present Riley & Co. with a clearer view on a number of positional battles on condition that, as he put it, the three pick-sixes final weekend affected the variety of reps the teaching employees anticipated some gamers to get. Saturday’s contest additionally will give the school soccer panorama a greater sense for simply how good USC is. One sport in, the Trojans have already got jumped from No. 14 to No. 10 within the AP ballot to change into the highest-ranked group within the Pac-12, and expectations do not get lowered any time quickly. — Paolo Uggetti