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2022 CFB – Week One Previews

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It’s finally here folks, the college football season in all of it’s alluring glory! Week zero was enjoyable for sure, but it was just the first tiny practice jump before a giant leap. 

There are so many enticing fixtures this week, with Georgia vs Oregon being one of the headliners. Thankfully, Will has already written a pretty in depth preview for that game, which is available here. Additionally, if you’re reading this on Thursday night you can read Andy’s Backyard Brawl preview here.

Without further ado, here’s the first full set of previews for 2022:

TCU @ Colorado  BT Sport

Saturday – 3am (UK) – Boulder, Colorado

Preview: One for the early birds on Saturday morning, TCU are a dark horse in the Big 12 this year and will look to get off to a good start against a fairly average Colorado team. Max Duggan looks like he will make his 30th start as a Horned Frog, but the week one depth chart lists him as an ‘OR’ alongside Chandler Morris. Head Coach Sonny Dykes anticipates playing both QBs in this one, but Duggan’s experience should give him the edge, especially if he can feast on a largely inexperienced Colorado secondary.

It’s not every year that the Buffalos manage to attract a transfer from Alabama to come to Boulder, but that’s exactly what happened when offensive lineman Tommy Brown joined the team this offseason. He’ll bring some four-star pedigree to the Colorado line as they look to keep Brendon Lewis or Jordan Shrout upright. Look for Alex Fontenont to be a threat on the ground. 

Key Matchup: Quentin Johnston (TCU, WR) vs Nikko Reed (Col, CB) – Quentin Johnson is the headline act on this TCU offense, he’s got all the makings of a high draft pick in 2023 and he’s absolutely dominant at the catch point. Nikko Reed is the best of a young Buffaloes secondary, but he figures to have his hands full this weekend.

Game Line: TCU 13.5 point favourite at the time of writing

Colorado State @ Michigan  BT Sport

Saturday – 5pm (UK) – Ann Arbor, Michigan

Preview: Sure, the game line for this one is big and Michigan should walk away victorious, but this could be a closer game that the bookies think. No-one really knows what to expect from Colorado State this season, they’ve got former Nevada Head Coach, Jay Norvell, at the helm and they’ve taken a hell of a lot of former Nevada players in the transfer portal. The most interesting duo are starting QB, Clay Millen, and deep threat, Tory Horton – look for those two to combine for a lot of yards this year.

On the Michigan side of things, there’s a lot that has stayed the same. Both QBs will play, Blake Corum will look to dominate in the run game and Ronnie Bell is always a threat. However, with Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo gone, it’ll be up to Jaylen Harell and Mike Morris to step up in the pass rush department. They’ll look to ease into 2022 and cause havoc for a new-look Rams defense.

Key Matchup: Dante Bivens (OT – CSU) vs Mike Morris (DE – Mich) – An offseason transfer from Tulsa, Bivens probably saw the week one matchup and rubbed his hands together at the chance of facing a high quality guy like Morris. This matchup will determine how quickly Michigan are able to get to ‘comfortable’ status in this one.

Game Line: Michigan 30.5 point favourites at the time of writing

UNC @ App State

Saturday 5pm (UK) – Boone, North Carolina

Preview: Set at one of, if not the most picturesque stadiums in the world of sport, this local rivalry game should be a close run thing. Our weekly feature looked at the debut of the Tar Heels’ new starting QB, Drake Maye, and it’ll be on him to continue the development of his relationship with star WR, Josh Downs, against a very solid App State side.

The Mountaineers gave Miami a run for their money last year, eventually succumbing to a two point defeat. This matchup doesn’t feel too dissimilar to that and the home side will be more than up for inflicting an upset. A talented stable of running backs will look to do the most damage for App State, so look for Camrun Peoples, Nate Nole and Ahmani Marshall to get the ball a lot. 

Key Matchup: Nate Noles (RB, App) vs Power Echols (LB, UNC) – There’s no doubting that App State’s backs will be a handful for UNC, but in Power Echols the Tar Heels have a disruptive ball magnet. Echols and his fellow linebackers will need to be at their best to limit the Mountaineers run game.

Game Line: UNC 1.5 point favourites at the time of writing

Cincinnati @ Arkansas

Saturday 8.30pm (UK) – Fayetteville, Arkansas

Preview: Both of these teams had very successful seasons in 2021 and this feels like a game which will establish if they can cope with off-season losses to the NFL Draft and continue that success. The Bearcats are yet to announce their QB for the game, but it’s looking increasingly like it’ll be Ben Bryant under centre. Despite the loss of two very good corners to the draft, Cincinnati still boasts an experienced secondary, if last year’s backups can step up, then Luke Fickell’s men stand a good chance in this game.

On the flip side, Arkansas will be without star receiver Treylon Burks in 2022. In Jadon Haselwood they have a decent replacement for the new Tennessee Titan, but Burks’ strength was his contribution all along the line of scrimmage as well as in the receiving game. There’s a lot of experience on this Razorback defense and it may prove a bit too much for a new look Bearcats offense.

Key Matchup: Jabari Taylor (DE, Cin) vs Luke Jones (LT, Ark) – KJ Jefferson does well when he’s outside the pocket, but against a good Cincinnati secondary he’ll need some time for his receivers to get open. Jabari Taylor is a big threat coming off the edge and Luke Jones will need to be at his best.

Game Line: Arkansas 6.5 point favourites

Utah @ Florida  BT Sport

Sunday – 12am – Gainesville, Florida

Preview: There’s a new dawn in central Florida this year, the Gators moved on from the old and welcomed Billy Napier and his coaching staff to Gainesville. However, a lot of the personnel still look the same for Florida, Anthony Richardson is being hyped as a possible top draft pick but without a lot of overhaul can this roster support him? Jason Marshall takes on a key role at corner after the departure of Kaiir Elam.

Utah come into the game as one of the favourites to emerge from the Pac-12 as a real threat in 2022. Cam Rising will look to exploit his fantastic connection with Brant Kuithe and Dalton Kincaid, whilst a very good defense will look to deal with the loss of Devin Lloyd and Nephi Sewell. If the Utes get up and running quickly, there’s every chance they could leave the East Coast with a statement win.

Key Matchup: Anthony Richardson (QB, FLA) vs Utah LBs – The Gators’ QB is light on his feet and likes to get out of the pocket, there’s every chance the Utes stack the box, but whether they can stop him is the big question.

Game Line: Utah 3 point favourite

Notre Dame @ Ohio State BT Sport

Sunday – 12.30am (UK) – Columbus, Ohio

Preview: A lot of people have got Ohio State playing Alabama for the National Championship at the end of the season. If that is to be the case then the Buckeyes have got to handle a tough opening day test against the Fighting Irish. CJ Stroud has got so many weapons at his disposal it is laughable, so expect a high scoring affair.

Notre Dame are entering a new era under Marcus Freeman and against lesser opponents there’s no doubt that they’ll be their normal defensively dominant selves. However, this week it feels like Tyler Buchner is going to have to lean on Michael Mayer and Chris Tyree a hell of a lot if the Irish are going to come out with a positive result.

Key Matchup: Notre Dame secondary vs Ohio State receivers – It could get ugly if the Buckeyes’ exceptionally talented receiver unit is allowed to run free. The likes of Clarence Lewis, Cam Hart and Brandon Joseph have all got big games in them, but can they all have them on the same night? It’ll be blockbuster viewing.

Game Line: Ohio State 17 point favourites

Florida State vs LSU

Monday – 12.30am (UK) – New Orleans, Louisiana 

Preview: The neutral site matchup which isn’t a neutral site, showcasing college football scheduling at its best. LSU will have a ridiculous amount of support at this game, and everyone knows the Tigers’ faithful create a good atmosphere. Whether their team will match the atmosphere is a big question mark. The LSU roster has talent all over it, Kayshon Boutte is the best receiver in the country at present and Ali Gaye looks primed for a monster season at defensive end. Brian Kelly’s ability to put it all together will be the key to the Tigers’ season.

Whilst some FSU fans were probably looking nervously towards this fixture a few weeks ago, the Seminoles’ domination in their week zero matchup may have instilled some confidence. The Noles’ had three running backs go for more than 100 yards and Jordan Travis looked solid with his deep ball before being hooked later in the game. However, LSU are a much harder opponent for FSU to test themselves against and they’ll have to be firing on all cylinders if they’re to extend their 7-2 series lead.

Key Matchup: Kayshon Boutte (WR, LSU) vs Omorion Cooper (CB, FSU) – Keeping Boutte relatively quiet will be the priority for FSU’s defensive staff. It’s easier said than done, but Cooper is an adept player that has seen more than his fair share of quality receivers in the ACC.
Game Line: LSU 3 point favourites

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The Watson Verdict: Six things to consider over six-game ban

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On Monday morning, Sue L. Robinson, the former federal judge independently appointed to rule on Deshaun Watson’s long-outstanding player conduct case ruled that he is to miss the first six games of the NFL season.

At the point of writing this, there has been no word on an appeal from the NFL, and the NFLPA as well as Deshaun Watson outlined that they would not appeal the decision yesterday prior to the judgment being revealed.

No matter the ruling, it was always going to be one that split opinion. There are those who will pledge ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and now point to two juries and an independently appointed judge and consider the matter closed after massive scrutiny. 

There are those who see there is no smoke without fire, especially as much smoke as 25 members of a class-action suit with their own stories, as well as another 25 or so who stepped forward but for one reason or another wasn’t part of the class action suit with their own stories, and will point to the fact that innocence beyond doubt or that missing six games in the highest-paid professional sports league in the world is justice when proof as a qualifier of guilt when it’s incredibly unlikely to obtain.

With the case being so high-profile and long-ranging as it’s waged over the past year and a half or so, there are a number of things to consider here when looking at the judgment through different lenses. Here’s six things we can take from the decision and Sue Robinson’s 16-page decision summary:

1. The judgment finds that Deshaun Watson sexually assaulted at least four masseuses in the eyes of the NFL

In the eyes of the Disciplinary Officer Sue L. Robinson, the League was able to meet the burden of proof via preponderance that Deshaun Watson committed non-violent sexual assault by means of its definition in the players conduct, namely “unwanted sexual contact with another person” through a series of undisputed facts.

Sue Robinson found the circumstantial evidence of insisting to use a medium/small towel (or a Gatorade towel) increased exposure, and asking therapists to focus on areas that not uncommonly triggered erections made the prospect of sexual touching more likely. She judged that as the therapists didn’t return for future messages it was clear to all that the touching was unwanted.

It was also noted that Watson’s complete denial of even trivial aspects, such as ever getting an erection even during massaging areas where getting an erection would not be uncommon, led to the consideration of the evidence that may not in itself be seen as wrongful in isolation.

Watson was also found to have violated conduct in two other areas. Namely that he acted in a way that posed a genuine danger to the safety and well-being of another person, and putting the NFL into disrepute.

This is why Watson and his team believe there should be no games in a suspension, as to suspend him is to assign guilt of sexual conduct at least in the eyes of the league’s conduct policies.

There is also contention about the classification of non-violent sexual assault as the definition seems to be defined from the same classification as violent conduct i.e. domestic violence. Many detractors will note that all sexual assault is violent conduct. However, in line with the policy – this was deemed to be an uncontested point.

2. Watson’s future conduct remains a concern

Take from this what you will, but a further point to the one about a lack of exoneration is that the judge deemed it necessary to bake in a restriction that all massage therapy is to be conducted by club staff.

At many points in the decision document, we see the mention of a pattern of egregious behaviour and in fact a particular quote in the conclusion says that the ‘pattern of conduct is more egregious than any before reviewed by the NFL’.

Even if it could be considered almost a given to showcase ‘next steps’ and guaranteeing progress in terms of a players conduct, it is clear that there are concerns about his future conduct and of egregious patterns continuing.

3. The NFL’s past leniency costs them here and that needs to change

Recently, Calvin Ridley was suspended for a whole season for placing a bet on an NFL game, while De’Andre Hopkins was given the same six-week ban for violating the PED protocols. When you add into this that over at Major League Baseball Trevor Bauer was given a two-year ban under the MLB’s domestic violence protocol, it makes for a question of standards and precedents that the NFL sets itself.

However, in this judgment Sue L. Robinson outlines that it is because of the NFL’s previous suspensions for domestic or gendered violence and sexual acts has been 6 games, and the minimum 6-game suspension is only outlined for violent conduct. It was uncontested that Watson did not engage in violent sexual assault. 

Robinson found it important to impose the ‘most significant punishment ever imposed on an NFL player for allegations of non-violent sexual conduct’ due to Watson’s egregious pattern of conduct. She felt it was the maximum that could be handed down as, in her role as Disciplinary Officer, she has to find a ‘fair’ and ‘consistent’ punishment in line with similarly situated players.

In other words, the NFL should look at the conduct policy before any future cases arise and beef up the potential games and fines to be incurred and have it codified, as there was no case law or indication of anything from 6 games onwards for non-violent misconduct.

There will be more than valid calls for Roger Goodell to dismiss the notion of fairness in this instance (again, from an employment policy perspective) and pass down a harsher sentence to act as a deterrent and future signpost for offenders of the policy in the future. As to whether that would be deemed as valid in this instance with or without a stretched out legal battle with Watson and the NFLPA is something to consider also.

4. Watson stands to lose very little from this

With the Browns contract starting low and building its cap-hit later in the contract, Watson’s outlay for the suspension stands to be just $333,333.

Questions will no doubt be raised at the Browns front office as to whether or not they structured the contract that way. However, the argument can also be made that other ‘superstar’ contracts negotiated by the team are pushing the larger sums down the road. It simply seems too convenient in this case when the numbers are presented.

What’s more, sports-washing is a very powerful thing. Moments after the judgment was passed down, several Browns fans were cheered Watson as he came out onto the training field. The League has created an environment where offenders of various conduct categories are celebrated, and we see their misconduct forgotten about amongst fans so long as they ball out.

5. The Browns stand to lose little from this, too

When looking at this purely from a sporting perspective, as many imagine those in the Browns front office have been doing since March, the Browns are viewing the trade with optimism that it could prove effective in creating a play-off window as early as this January.

The question of ‘but at what cost?’ will be one to wrestle with for many, but when looking at it on paper, a six-game suspension is probably the top-end of what the Browns would find palatable from a sporting aspect. Watson will be out for the following games:

  • Week 1 at Carolina
  • Week 2 v Jets
  • Week 3 v Steelers
  • Week 4 at Atlanta
  • Week 5 v Chargers
  • Week 6 v Patriots

Before then returning to face the Ravens on the road and the Bengals on a halloween Monday Night Football. The schedule was almost made for his return as well and negate the impact of a suspension. If you believe in such conspiracies of course(!)

To face losing teams from last year in 4 of 6, and in both road games means that the Browns will feel they’ve a serviceable chance in the first third of the season in handling Watson’s absence at .500 or better.

All this while his contract is also at its lowest point.

6. This isn’t the end of it

As Sue L. Robinson found misconduct and gave a suspension, the NFL still has an opportunity to give Watson more disciplinary action via. appeal.

From what we’ve seen from sources around the NFL, the League did push for a minimum of a year as well as a fine, and stuck to their guns during ‘settlement negotiations’ on a suspension whilst Sue L. Robinson was coming to her decision.

The League has until 9am Thursday to submit an appeal directly to Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, who would then give the final decision. 

An appeal might not be forthcoming, mind.

This is the first major incident to be trialled using the new player misconduct procedure outlined in the latest collective bargaining agreement. As such, the optics behind the League approaching the commissioner to overturn an independently appointed judge at the first time of asking would be damaging to the always-fractured relationship between the League and their Players’ Association.

You can read Sue L. Robinson’s judgment by clicking here

Believeland Brits Podcast focused on the Watson verdict in their latest episode which you can listen to on your favoured podcast provider by going to its linktree:

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