BOULDER, Colo. – There may not be many D1A matchups this weekend involving two teams at or near the top of their conference’s standings, but there are plenty of teams that currently sit in the middle of the pack and need wins to get into a conference championship conversation.
Big Ten Universities
Undefeated Michigan hosts Michigan State Friday night. The Wolverines have looked sharp out of the gates and are surely the favorites, but you cannot count out Sparty in a rivalry match.
Minnesota has to be feeling good about its 2-0 start, but Saturday’s match against Ohio State should be its toughest test yet. The Buckeyes need a win to get their season back on track, while a Gopher victory will garner the attention of the rest of the Big Ten Universities teams.
It was relatively known heading into the season that the three newcomers to Rugby East would struggle against the four teams that previously occupied the conference. Up to this point, nothing has happened on the pitch to lead anyone to believe anything different. So, Buffalo and Iona should really be up against it when they play Penn State and Army, respectively.
The one match out of the East that could stay close for a full 80 minutes is St. Bonaventure’s visit to Wheeling Jesuit. After playing Army tough, the Bonnies were blown out by Penn State, 81-5. If St. Bonaventure can compete at the level it did against West Point then it could pull off the upset against Jesuit.
Kutztown is the type of program that does not like to take a weekend off, and they have shown that by scheduling tough nonconference opponents outside of its Rugby East schedule. This week the Golden Bears have Maryland, one of the better teams out of the Atlantic Coast Rugby League and home to the Cima brothers – AIG Men’s Collegiate All-American Matias and MJAA and BHSAA star Ben.
No D1A game has more intrigue this week than Texas versus Oklahoma. Not only does the match represent one of the best rivalries in all of college sports, but the Longhorns and Sooners look to be the top two sides out of the Red River this fall. Check out D1A’s full preview of the Red River Rivalry.
Texas Tech gets its first chance to hit someone in an opposing color when Baylor comes to town Saturday. After a solid 15s season last spring, Baylor has been a minor disappointment in the early going this fall. It is not that the Bears’ 0-2 record is something to hang their heads about – both losses came against quality sides in Oklahoma and Texas – but it’s the fashion in which they have dropped those games. Baylor has been outscored 105-25 in its first two Red River matches. Still, this game is anyone’s to win.
Air Force looks to be the class of the West so far, so Colorado will have to up its game in order to give the Zoomies a challenge. Of course, Air Force must have been flying high after an emotional victory over Navy last Friday, so if there is any letdown on their end, the Buffs could capitalize at home.
Wyoming was disappointed to settle for a tie last week against the Buffaloes. A win against Colorado State should alleviate that disappointment, and the Cowboys have a good shot on Saturday as the Ram will be without stud flanker Ben Pinkelman who is in Canada representing the Eagles Select XV in Canada at the 2014 Americas Rugby Championship.
D1A Independent squad Arizona will field a developmental side to play the West’s New Mexico. Several key players for the Wildcats will be in California competing at the West Coast 7s and a spot in USA Rugby’s 2015 College 7s National Championship. The match could be a tight one, as New Mexico is young and inexperienced, while Arizona will be suiting up a side made up almost entirely of freshmen and sophomores.
Nobody out of the Mid-South is afraid of a challenge. That is why Davenport is playing former conference foe Arkansas State and Lindenwood is playing Life’s Elite Training Group – a side combining the senior club team and undergrad team.
Davenport will no doubt play with a spirited intensity, especially because it is a Friday night homecoming match, but it may not be enough to pull off the upset against the Red Wolves. Arkansas State impressed in a lopsided win over Glendale a few weeks back, plus Davenport will be without All-American prop Angus MacLellan who, like Pinkelman, is playing with the Eagles Selects.
Lindenwood has already beat three quality senior club sides, including Glendale, but Life’s Elite Training Group should present them the most problems. The Lions can matchup athletically with any team in the country – college or club – but coaches Tui Osborne and Dan Payne will have their side technically prepared in ways few coaches can.