It is the final week of D1A Rugby before the playoffs begin, and there could not be a better week to end the season than this. This weekend there will be conference championships, a top three match up and three teams that are on the bubble of making the play offs are all in action.
The weekend kicks off with Red River and its championship game between Baylor and Texas A&M. Not only will this game decide the winner of the conference, but it will also determine who will get the 8th seed in the playoffs, while the loser will be relegated to watching the playoffs from their couch. This pressure is nothing new to Baylor, who are the returning champions, as they have been dealing with the expectations that come with defending a title all year. “Being there last year, a lot of our guys who were returning this year knew the pressure and what to expect. Our experience from last year will be huge for us,”head coach Mason Hering explained.
Baylor knows that the trophy won’t be handed to them and that their potent attack will be matched by a stingy Texas A&M defense. “They’ve got talented guys that orchestrate things for them,” Hering continued, “Their scrum-half Justin Brown, their fly-half Seth Robinson and their outside center Braeden Hood are their playmakers.” Hering has been stressing the importance of shutting those three down, but also the importance of not giving away as he knows that Texas A&M will be well drilled and well disciplined.
For Baylor, they are looking at this game as a chance to send a statement to the rest of D1A, Hering explained, “We know we may not be a Cal, Life, BYU, or a Saint Mary’s but there is a tier of teams that are seen as on the way up, and we want to be included in that.”
In the Bay Area, two of D1A’s traditional powerhouses will face off, in a potential national championship preview, #1 Saint Mary’s will host #3 Cal. Both teams have had impressive seasons so far, and have been running through their schedules unscathed. #3 Cal made easy work through thePAC conference, and show resiliency by holding off #7 Army in a close affair. Saint Mary’s has had a similar season. They went through their conference schedule without a glitch, and then played two close games against #4 BYU where they were pushed for the full eighty minutes. This game could completely shake up the outcome of the D1A playoff bracket.
Cal Poly will take on San Diego State, as they try to do the unthinkable and go from unranked three weeks ago to making the playoffs. Cal Poly has exploded onto the scene in recent weeks and with this sudden combustion they have set themselves up perfectly heading into the final round. San Diego State currently ranked 14th in the country in the last team into the playoffs, while Cal Poly ranked 16th could usurp them with a win this weekend. What better way to get ready for the playoffs than by playing a do or die fixture the week before they start.
The final game with playoff implications this weekend puts #4 BYU up against #15 Central Washington. This game is a must win for Central Washington. The Wildcats have been flirting with the playoffs all year, and less than a month ago they looked like a virtual lock, but back to back losses in one weekend sent them spiraling out and now they trying to claw their way back in. If they are able to create an upset or even come close to it they may have done just enough to get back into the picture.
For members of the media interested in covering the event applications for a press credential are now open as well.