While the spring conferences in D1AA are coming down to the wire, there's the potential for a shakeup in at least one competition.
Chico State, long considered one of the favorites, almost lost last week to Fresno State, and will now have to run the table of three games in eight days to ensure a #1 seed in the Pac West playoffs.
Only lock Kevin Watson's second try of the day, scored at the death, coupled with flyhalf Anton Holm's conversion, rescued the 26-25 decision over Fresno State.
"We've been playing well but we haven't really been challenged, and Fresno State came right at us," said CSU Coach Lucas Bradbury. "We haven't had to play under pressure like that and we got rattled. Fresno came at us mentally and also physically, and it took us a while to respond."
In the end, said Bradbury, Chico State almost lost.
"We got lucky," he said. "Fresno State is a good team and really did well to control the ball. They scored one try after 14 phases. You look at the teams we've got in the conference, with Fresno and Stanford and Nevada—it's really competitive."
Bolstered by a powerful performance from big center Chris Rico, and with fullback Anthony Riley once again playing well for the Wildcats, Chico State did enough—Holm's final conversion just snaked in around the post to get the win.
So what's up now? With the conference on the line, Chico State takes on San Francisco State, where the Wildcats are favored. But next week, who knows? With a weather makeup game needed, CSU will split its squad, and host Sacramento State while also visiting UC Santa Cruz. That is a tall order.
And they need to win because Fresno State has tons of bonus points, as does Stanford. Those two teams face off this weekend. Stanford is led by Guy Kasznik, who has nine tries this season, and is 4-1-1. Fresno State is 5-1. The winner has a chance at being 1st. The loser will likely still make the conference semis.
UCSC plays at Nevada, with the winner likely to make the semis, also.
Also this week: It's a fairly mellow weekend in Florida before the final charge to the conference title. But in the Gold Coast, it's down to this game. Cal State Long Beach, led by their superb flyhalf, Steven Bodley, hosts San Diego. Neither has lost a conference game, and the winner will likely be the top dog in the conference (not counting small-college Claremont Colleges).
Iowa State is still unbeaten in the Heart of America, and should be after hosting Oklahoma State. We're all waiting for the showdown April 7 between the Cyclones and Kansas State. That should decide the conference.
Games this weekend, and our picks:
|Oklahoma State||at||Iowa State||Iowa State by 12|
|Florida||at||Florida Atlantic||FAU by 10|
|Florida State||at||North Florida||FSU by 30|
|San Diego||at||Long Beach State||CSULB by 7|
|UCSC||at||Nevada||Nevada by 15|
|Fresno State||at||Stanford||Stanford by 2|
Chico State by 35
|Sacramento State||at||San Jose State||SFSU by 5|