It’s the calm before the storm as major playoffs start up in U.S. college rugby.
The Red River Conference is also heating up, and everyone now knows that Texas is for real as the Longhorns opened their schedule with over Baylor and TCU in back-to-back weeks.
Red River Running
Texas hosts Texas A&M on Saturday in a game that will tell us much and set us up nicely for our live coverage of next week’s Oklahoma at A&M game, which kicks off FloRugby’s regular coverage of the Red River Conference.
“We did well [against TCU on Nov. 3],” said new Texas head coach Zac Mizell, whose team beat the Horned Frogs 67-11. “It was a much better defensive effort than against Baylor (a 57-29 win), and I would say we’re on the right track building for A&M.”
No. 8 Robert Hughes and hooker (and captain) William Wang have been solid for Texas.
Mid-South Fall Madness
Another notable game to keep an eye on is Arkansas State at Davenport. The Davenport Panthers have had their moments but have also stumbled recently, such as losing last week to St. Bonaventure. But in the Mid-South, the Panthers are 1-0 and looking to leverage another fall home game against the mighty Red Wolves.
Arkansas State is easing into its schedule this fall under new coach Blake White and beat Arkansas 31-19 last weekend. That was not as emphatic a victory as ASU would normally get against the Razorbacks, so one wonders if that’s an indication that Arkansas is getting stronger or that ASU has some work to do.
Calvin Genty has shined in the centers for Arkansas State, and Patrick Meagher, the captain, leads by example, which is good because below the Red Wolves looked a little rough.
For its part, Arkansas gets no rest and plays Kansas State, which won last week over Kansas behind tries from Even Morrical, James Elder, Jon Lister, and Colin Acedo. That result handed the Jayhawks their first loss and possibly delivered the conference title to Missouri. More likely, the result just made everything much more complicated. Arkansas vs. K-State is a non-conference game.
Life Goes On
Life University is on the road and back from having many of its undergraduate players on its Elite Training Group. Now the undergrads get to face college opposition, and Thursday night defeated Penn State 51-34 to launch another season. PSU led 34-31 with less than 20 minutes to be before a try from Harley Wheeler put the Running Eagles ahead, and Wheeler added another for good measure to end the game.
On Saturday, Life faces Navy is another huge clash.
Big Ten Plays 5
Two champions get decided this weekend. In the Big Ten, it’s a "Weekend o’ Rugby" with Iowa playing Northwestern for ninth, Purdue vs. Minnesota for seventh, Illinois vs. Michigan for fifth, and Wisconsin vs. Michigan State for third.
While Northwestern is not normally in the Big Ten rugby conference, organizers try to include NU when they can and this playoff is a perfect time. Wisconsin had a shot at getting to the final last week but lost 43-19 to Ohio State. Michigan State actually has the second-best record in the conference, but the Big Ten pits the top three teams against each other twice and the lower six against each other once, with one game against the top dogs. So, to make the final, you have to beat one of the top three, and the Spartans lost to the Badgers earlier this fall.
The final, then, is Ohio State (3-3) and Indiana (6-0). Ohio State lost 18-14 to Wisconsin on Oct. 7, but this past Saturday’s victory showcased the Buckeyes’ outstanding scrummaging and tough work up front. It was good enough to put OSU into the final. No. 8 Matt Stauder scored and generally made life difficult for the Badgers. Jamie Barlow and Jojo Erasmo both scored two tries.
“We really like the new format,” said OSU head coach Tom Rooney, who is also the conference commissioner. “This year, at least, it did what it was supposed to do, and we at Ohio State got more consistently tough games. That has helped make us better.”
Indiana is undefeated, but those close to the league think the Hoosiers are ripe for an upset. (Also of note: the Big Ten runs a very robust B-side league and IU will play OSU in that final, too.)
Maybe There's A Reason Ivy Is Green
And the Ivy League gets, finally, a fall championship with Dartmouth taking on Harvard. While Harvard lost to Yale last week, the Crimson still are the No. 2 team. The Dartmouth Big Green have swept all before them and are heavily favored.
Final D1AA Playoff Spot
The Chesapeake has a playoff, too, but the champion is already known — Mary Washington. Instead, Virginia Tech will travel to play host James Madison in Harrisonburg, VA, for a chance to be in the D1AA playoffs.
Like the Big Ten, the Chesapeake has a very strong B-side competition, this time called the Futures Cup. JMU won that, going 8-0.
Our Picks Below
Last week we got 27 out of 33 winners right (actually 27 12 since one prediction was a pick ‘em). Twice we got the winning margin exactly right. The games we got wrong included Tennessee's 27-17 win over South Carolina, Navy's 38-29 victory at Penn State, and Yale's 28-19 win against Harvard.
|Life||51-34||Penn State||Too late. Ha! Would have picked Life anyway.|
|Ohio State||vs||Indiana||IU by 17|
|Wisconsin||vs||Michigan State||Wisconsin by 9|
|Illinois||vs||Michigan||Illinois by 18|
|Purdue||vs||Minnesota||Purdue by 8|
|Northwestern||vs||Iowa||Iowa by 14|
|Virginia Tech||at||JMU||Pick 'em. OK VT by 3|
|Harvard||at||Dartmouth||Dartmouth by 21|
|Colgate||at||Northeastern||Northeastern by 16|
|Fordham||at||Rhode Island||Fordham by 8|
|Binghamton||at||Rutgers||Binghamton by 19|
|Arkansas State||at||Davenport||Arkansas State by 11|
|Delaware||at||Lindenwood||Lindenwood by a lot|
|NEC||at||Penn State||Penn State by a lot|
|Life||at||Navy||Life by 13|
|Texas A&M||at||Texas||Texas by 9|
|Houston||at||TCU||TCU by 43|
|Oklahoma||at||Texas Tech||OU by 12|
|Colorado State||at||New Mexico||CSU by 61|
|UNF||at||FAU||FAU by 20|
|FSU||at||FIU||FIU by 21|
|MTSU||at||Georgia Southern||MTSU by 31|
|UCF||at||USF||UCF by 34|
|Kansas State||at||Arkansas||Arkansas by 18|
|Oklahoma State||at||Nebraska||Nebraska by 10|
|Boise State||at||Washington State||BSU by 8|
|Western Washington||at||Oregon||WWU by 17|
|Eastern Washington||at||Gonzaga||Gonzaga by 12|
|Western Oregon||at||Oregon State||OSU by 22|