BOULDER, Colo. – After stepping away from D1A Rugby for a season to play in the Southwest Conference, the University of Texas returns to college rugby’s elite competition Saturday to play Texas Tech.
Texas’ year away from D1A was a successful one, which included a Southwest Conference Championship and an opening round victory over Notre Dame in the Varsity Cup invitational. Now, the Longhorns embark on the inaugural season of the Red River Rugby competition, a conference that will also include Baylor, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Tech, who Texas hosts Saturday.
Texas Tech is coming off of an improved season as well. The Red Raiders’ quest for the now-debunked Allied Rugby Conference Championship ran through the last week of the season. Oklahoma eventually topped Tech, 39-34, in the final week of the ARC, stealing the Championship from Texas Tech.
In a conference full of young teams – including favorites Oklahoma, whose roster is dominated by underclassmen – picking up an early victory could be vital to either team’s success this fall. Saturday’s result could go a long way in setting the tone for Texas and Texas Tech’s seasons.
Weekend preview: Non-conference action
Texas versus Texas Tech is the only conference match of the week, but plenty of teams are getting prepared for their conference openers with non-conference fixtures.
Big Ten Universities
Ohio State vs. Buffalo
In the other match between two D1A teams, Ohio State hosts Buffalo. The Bulls from New York are one of three new teams in Rugby East this season, and are coming off of a 20-19 win over Notre Dame College. The Buckeyes are looking to get back on track after falling to a very good Navy team, 28-10, last week.
Illinois vs. Western Illinois
The Fighting Illini haven’t finished near the top of the BTU Conference standings in recent years. A win versus in-state rival Western Illinois could build some much-needed momentum for Illinois.
Michigan vs. Notre Dame
In a Friday night fixture between two of the biggest names in college football, Michigan takes on Notre Dame in a yearly matchup that will now be played for the DeHaven & Harless Trophy. The Wolverines should be feeling sharp after taking care of Wheeling Jesuit last week, 24-15, in new head coach Brandon Sparks’ debut.
Iona vs. Fordham
Iona is another newcomer to Rugby East. The Gaels won’t be looking beyond backyard rival Fordham, even though the likes of Kutztown, Penn State, and West Point await Iona.
Wheeling Jesuit vs. Wake Forest
Any frustration lingering from last week’s loss to Michigan will be felt upon Wake Forest as Jesuit looks to get back in the win column.
Kutztown vs. Ottawa University & Algonquin
Defending Rugby East Champions Kutztown heads north for a two-match tour of Canada. Kutztown added a large and talented freshman class to an already deep roster. The two matches played against the colleges residing north of the border should present plenty of playing opportunities for this impressive Golden Bears roster.
Army vs. American International College
West Point, which was recently awarded varsity status, has high expectations for the Rugby East season. However, the Cadets understand they can’t look past AIC, which finished last fall’s season 7-1.
Colorado vs. Colorado College
After losing eight starters to graduation, the Buffaloes will be bleeding plenty of new players into their first XV in a friendly against Colorado College. The match against Colorado College will be followed by an intersquad scrimmage for the Buffs, who are seeking match-like experience as the West shifts to a split season between the fall and spring.
Wyoming vs. Montana State
A week ahead of hosting their annual Jackalope tournament, the Cowboys travel to Montana to play Montana State.
Davenport vs. Western Ontario
The Panthers return home to host Western Ontario who they beat just last week in Canada. Davenport has plenty of depth throughout its roster, and may look to mix up its combinations after easily handling Western Ontario, 44-19, last week.
Red River Rugby
Oklahoma vs. Missouri
The Sooners open their fall 15s season against Heart of America’s Missouri. Oklahoma is on a quest to improve on a 2013-14 season which netted them a Conference Championship in sevens and 15s, and will have standouts Jayce Crowder and Michael Al-Jiboori retuning to help the cause.