BOULDER, Colo. – Last weekend’s two-match slate in the Big Ten was a tasty appetizer of the Midwest conference. However, it’s this weekend that the BTU will shift into second gear with eight teams butting heads.
Ohio State vs. Illinois
The 20th-ranked Buckeyes begin their conference campaign at home against Illinois. After stumbling, 22-44, to in-state foe Bowling Green, Ohio State will surely be determined to make amends against the Fighting Illini.
The Buckeyes will enter the Sept. 26 contest favorites, but Illinois’ showing against No. 11 Indiana last week is proof that the boys from Champaign won’t be laying over for anyone. Fly half Matt Ramsey led the attack with 18 points, and Illinois played inside Indiana’s half far more often than anticipated.
For Ohio State, it could benefit to hand the ball to Santino Cua. The center can soften a defense with powerful crash balls, as well as get beyond the defense with nifty footwork.
Indiana vs. Purdue
The 52 points Indiana put on the board in its BTU opener against Illinois was a good start for the team’s attack, but Indiana is capable of supplying even more firepower. Last year, the Hoosiers piled on the points against Purdue to the tune of a 92-0 final.
Boilermakers Dion Crowder and Jeremy Lehman are back line players worth watching, and will do their best to match Indiana try for try. So, while Indiana might not be able to overmatch an improved Purdue side by 92 points this year, playing the 11th-ranked Hoosiers on the road to open their season might be too lofty a task for the Boilermakers.
Michigan State vs. Michigan
The match of the week in the Big Ten is an all-Michigan affair. Not only is Michigan State-versus-Michigan a heated rivalry, but the Spartans’ dominating, 65-5, win over Minnesota in week one is proof that this year’s contest will be closer than last year’s – a one-sided match that went 34-7 in favor of the Wolverines.
Although Saturday marks Michigan’s first conference match of the season, coach Brandon Sparks has his boys in blue ready for BTU play after nonconference games against Humber College of Ontario and Notre Dame. The Wolverines learned a lot about themselves in their loss to the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association Champions that they applied in their decisive, 70-31, win over Notre Dame.
A win Saturday by Michigan would build some nice momentum for its showdown against Indiana the following week. Meanwhile, a victory in front of its fans in East Lansing could catapult Michigan State into the Canterbury D1A Top 20.
Iowa vs. Wisconsin
The Badgers’ quest for a second consecutive Big Ten Universities Championship begins on the road against Iowa. With a large group of veterans returning to Wisconsin, the 17th-ranked Badgers should be ready to play an expansive brand of running rugby right off the bat.
Iowa’s season up to this point has seen mixed results. After a disappointing, 42-21m outcome that went the way of Iowa State, the Hawkeyes earned a far more desirable result last week in its 81-14 dismantling of St. Johns.
Wisconsin appears to have the advantage in terms of experience and pace. Iowa may want to slow the game down given it will be several players’ first conference contest playing on the first side.