Air Power soccer favored in all of its video games this season

DeAndre Hughes

DeAndre Hughes
Photograph: AP

As Vegas oddsmakers begin trickling out their predictions for the 2022 faculty soccer season, the murkiest of images turns into a little bit clearer. Benchmarks turn out to be tangible for every staff. It’s straightforward bulletin board materials. Most people making these props by no means performed the game at a excessive degree, so what the fuck do they know? Aside from they’re fairly rattling good at what they do and could be relied upon for the beginning of many arguments.

Essentially the most peculiar growth surrounded six groups being favored in each sport this season. We have now the 2 groups that competed for the nationwide championship final 12 months, Georgia and Alabama, in addition to two groups that at all times seem like contenders in Ohio State and Oklahoma. There’s a pesky Pac-12 staff that’ll be overhyped and crumble towards other-Energy-5-Convention elites in Utah. Rounding out the sextet is Air Power. Wait, what? A service academy? No ACC groups? No Cincinnati?

Yup, certainly one of that group of six really isn’t just like the others. Air Power hasn’t come near being related on a nationwide degree for the reason that Falcons posted a 12-1 file in 1998. I’m betting that’ll change 24 years later. I’m shopping for into the hype of Air Power changing into this 12 months’s gridiron Cinderella.

I’ll take it a step additional — the Falcons can be this season’s Group of 5 consultant within the New 12 months’s Six. And that’s aided by a troublesome schedule, not hindered. After going through FCS-level Northern Iowa in its season opener, Air Power received’t have a lot of a break till its season ends. Its non-conference video games are towards Colorado, a must-win to make the NY6, and the opposite two service academies, Navy and Military, with the Black Knights additionally boasting a stable squad this season.

Calling the Colorado sport a “must-win” is nearly evergreen relating to making the New 12 months’s Six, as the chosen staff is nearly at all times an undefeated one to be carrying that mantle. Each sport is principally a must-win, with perhaps solely a minor less-than-a-touchdown stumble allowed. The extra spectacular wins the higher. Laying the smackdown to Northern Iowa and Navy is predicted for a staff getting one of many best-dozen bowl-game designations. Blasting Colorado is the Falcons’ largest resume-builder on a nationwide degree that they’ve, regardless of how good some other staff within the Mountain West can be.

Let’s dive into Air Power’s convention a little bit bit extra, the always-underrated MWC. It’s as deep as ever. Eight of the Mountain West’s 12 groups made a bowl sport final season. 4 groups, together with the Falcons, had double-digit wins. The always-potent Boise State is on the rise and a division rival. You’ll be able to by no means depend out Wyoming. AF prevented one of many heavier hitters from the West division in Fresno State, however its regular-season finale is towards San Diego State and is likely to be a preview for the Mountain West Championship sport.

The Mountain West has solely claimed the coveted Group of 5 spot within the NY6 as soon as, the primary 12 months of the present format in 2014, when Boise State beat Arizona within the Fiesta Bowl. Solely as soon as since then has that spot not gone to a staff from The American: Western Michigan in 2016. Houston, UCF (twice), Memphis, and Cincinnati (twice) have had a lock on that spot, together with every of the final 5 years. Convention USA and the Solar Belt Convention are the one two leagues to by no means have a staff play in a New 12 months’s Six sport.

Each staff wants a number of elite gamers to achieve the New 12 months’s Six and the Falcons aren’t brief on these. After speeding for 1,356 yards and 13 touchdowns final 12 months, Brad Roberts is again for his senior season. Air Power returns its beginning quarterback in Haaziq Daniels, a real dual-threat who had 18 mixed touchdowns in 2021 with solely three interceptions. On protection, the staff’s main tackler, free security Trey Taylor, returns as does linebacker Vince Sanford, who was named to the Chuck Bednarik Award Watch Listing, offered yearly to the perfect defensive participant in faculty soccer.

The Falcons have all of the instruments to be this 12 months’s breakthrough staff in faculty soccer. Their final two full seasons generated 21 whole wins and an ideal common season shouldn’t solely be anticipated out of Vegas, however by loads throughout the nation. One slip-up doubtless derails any profitable bowl-game dream, and Air Power has a number of roadblocks in its approach. I’ll take the wager that it’ll get previous these.

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