Week 11 Preview: Three Conference Playoffs Highlight Impactful Round

D1A Rugby: Week 11 Preview: Three Conference Playoffs Highlight Impactful Round
Photo Credit: Tim Reilly

Week 11 is going to be an impactful round throughout D1A, with many teams facing an opportunity to make their seasons one to remember; while there will be plenty of teams feeling the sting of defeat, and left to think what could have been. The Big Ten, Liberty and Rocky Mountain conferences will all commence their playoffs. Including the Big Ten Championship game, there will be three Top 20 match ups taking place this weekend, with a total of ten Top Twenty teams in action.

The Mid-South, for the first time this year will see two conference matches taking place, and they both are shaping up to be exciting games. The marquee matchup will be #3 Lindenwood taking part in their first slice of D1A action in the Fall, when they take the trip down to Annapolis to take on #7 Navy. Lindenwood is coming in off a landmark year in 2017-18, where they reached the semifinals and won, in comprehensive fashion, the 2018 College 7s National Championship. With a large contingent of their core players returning, they have legitimate aspirations to the 2018-19 title. There will be no better way to gauge those aspirations than taking on a power such as Navy for their first D1A game of the year. Navy has been in scintillating form so far this year, going 6-0 and have an average winning margin of at 32 points. They’ve been led by their number eight, Craig Thomas. Thomas has been a nightmare for opponents, averaging a try a game. Shutting him down will need to be one of Lindenwood’s major priorities. The other Mid-South game taking place, will see #18 Davenport take on Clemson. Clemson will be looking for a more encouraging result than what they got in their last Mid-South outing, a 78-14 loss to Navy. Davenport will similarly be looking to rebound after a big, 45-15, loss at the hands of Navy last weekend.   

In Rugby East, #8 Penn State looks to wrap their Fall season up with a victory and secure a second-place finish in the conference. To do this they will have to get by a Buffalo side coming off a drubbing at the hands of #10 Kutztown, 121-0. This game should prove to be a routine outing for the Nittany Lions. The big matchup coming out of Rugby East this weekend will be, Kutztown traveling to #14 St. Bonaventure. Both of these teams have skyrocketed up the rankings this fall. Kutztown began the season at 17th, while Bonnies began unranked, and after a big win over Notre Dame College last weekend they leapt 4 spots.

Big Ten will host their championship weekend, where teams will play in championship, bronze, 5th place and 7th place games. Ohio State and Wisconsin will face off for the championship. Indiana will take on Michigan State for the final spot on the podium; Purdue will play Illinois for the 5th spot and Michigan and Minnesota will both try and avoid being handed the wooden spoon.

Three Red River sides battling to keep pace with their divisional leaders will take the pitch this weekend. Long time Red River power, LSU has had a rocky start to the season going 0-2. This weekend when they take on Baylor, 2-1, they will need to pull a win out if they are to have any hope of keeping pace with the league leaders. Baylor won’t be an easy outing. They won their first two games by a combined scoreline of 176-10. However, they came hurtling back down after losing heavily to Texas A&M, 55-5. They’ll be looking to rebound this weekend. The other game will see Arkansas try and move up to 5-0 on the season when they take on North Texas. With a win here, Arkansas would retake the lead in the North division over Oklahoma and head into the Spring with a clear buffer between them and the rest of their competition.

In a crossover, #12 Iona, who have declined their invitation to the Liberty playoffs will take on a Notre Dame team that is searching for consistency. The Irish have played a tremendous first season in D1A, going a combined 5-3, with their three losses coming against ranked opponents. While they have been dominant against unranked opponents they have struggled to match the level of intensity that the Top 20 teams bring. This will be their last game of the season and if they can pull out a win over Iona, who has been having one of the most impressive seasons in all of Fall D1A, it will be a good foundation from which they can build. The key to their game this weekend will be playing the full eighty minutes. In their games against ranked opponents they have done enough to pester the sides, but haven’t been able to sustain it. If they can put together 80 minutes of their true potential they’ll have every chance of pulling off the upset.