D1A Week 9: Preview

D1A Rugby: D1A Week 9: Preview
Photo Credit: Indiana Rugby

As Week 9 rolls around for D1A, Red River play begins to heat up with three teams getting their season underway. Texas returns home to Austin to face their in state rivals from College Station, the Texas A&M Aggies. Texas is coming off resounding first round victory over TCU. Texas A&M, opening up conference play, will be looking for more consistent performances, as they went 2-3 in their preseason games.

TCU and Houston will both continue their campaigns this weekend and both will be looking to bounce back after losing their opening games by significant margins. This will prove to be a pivotal match up as both sides look to right the ship early on in the season. Texas Tech and Oklahoma will face off in each teams’ first conference game of 2017-18. Both teams will be eager to start the season off on the right foot, and land in the winner’s circle.

Rocky Mountain conference play concludes this week with the final game being played between New Mexico and Colorado State. New Mexico will be hoping they can turn in a better performance than they did last week after receiving a drubbing by Colorado. Colorado State will be looking to win emphatically and see if a big win can help them leap-frog teams in the D1A college rankings.

In Ivy League play, Dartmouth will face off against Harvard. This game will be streamed through The Rugby Channel

The biggest match of the week, however, is the Big Ten Championship Game between Indiana and Ohio State University. This is the first championship under the new conference format where by the top three teams in the conference play each other twice in regular season play. In those fixtures Indiana went undefeated, and Ohio State 1-3. Despite what the contrasting records may show, this game is shaping up to be one of the closest games of the season. Ohio State is the only team Indiana has not beaten by double digits this year. After two very closely contested games Indiana’s largest margin of victory, against Ohio State, was only 7.

Speaking with the Head Coach of Ohio State, Tom Rooney, he expects this game to be as tight as the first two.  The style of play between the two teams is very similar and Rooney has already identified several areas in which his team needs to improve if they are to reverse prior results, one being their mental acuity: “In the previous two games there was a 10-12 minute period in the middle of the game where we relaxed and they took advantage. Rooney admitted they will have to be prepared for a lot of physicality around the breakdown, to counter the strong pilfering ability of the Indiana loose forwards.

However, Rooney believes his game plan, and his style of play will not need to change in order to reach the desired result; rather they will need to emphasize the basics: “We still expect to be finishing on the wings… Set pieces are huge… any opportunity we have to win ball from set pieces we need to take.” Ohio State’s ability to stay fit throughout the course of a long and grueling season could play to their advantage, as Rooney noted as team’s get to the tail end of the season depth always plays a crucial factor in the outcome of games.