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No game this weekend will have a bigger effect on D1A playoff bracket than Saint Mary's at Cal Saturday; the timing could hardly be any better.
Saint Mary's is coming in ranked #1, while Cal is #3. More importantly, this makes Saint Mary's the #1 seed in the West, and Cal the #2 team. That could switch if Cal wins.
So how did this ranking come about? Since Cal and Saint Mary's haven't played each other, the voters have been relying in part on last year's result, which was a 21-12 Saint Mary's victory in Moraga.
At the same time, last year's result for Cal against Life in the D1A final is also on the voters' minds. So, why did the voters not hold onto last year's Lindenwood win over Saint Mary's? For one part, injuries might have played a role in that game. For the other? At some point you have to look at this year.
Cal and Saint Mary's have played three common opponents, UC Davis, San Diego State, and Cal Poly. Both won by massive margins; Cal a bit more massive than the Gaels.
Saint Mary's probably has had a slightly stronger schedule. True the Gaels didn't play University of British Columbia, as the Bears did, twice, but Cal didn't play BYU, and Saint Mary's did (and won) twice. Saint Mary's also beat Navy 20-7, the same Navy that almost beat Life.
All of those factors lead to a #1 ranking for Saint Mary's, if only just. What's more is that these teams have been going back and forth for some years. Over the last eight seasons, Cal and Saint Mary's have won four each, and in fact three times it has been the road team that won.
Three of those games were within a try, and four more were within two tries. This is a superb rivalry, and one that usually brings the drama.
Coming into this game, Cal is led by Scholz Award nominee Nic Mirhashem, who has been having a stellar season on the flank. Center/flyhalf/fullback Aaron Matthews is a Scholz Award nominee for Saint Mary's, as is hard-hitting flanker Marcus Viscardi.
Several other players, from Gaels scrumhalf Sean Yacoubian to Cal wing Marcus Shankland, from forwards Ronan Murphy (Saint Mary's) and Sebastien Bader (Cal) to backs Christian Dyer (Cal) and Tavite Lopeti (Saint Mary's) could be considered for that award and are special talents.
Up front, the battle between Jack Iscaro and Payton Telea Ilalio will be one to watch, but really all over the field there are matchups to savor.
This Weekend's D1A Games
|Penn State||at||Life||Life by 15 - LIVE on FloRugby|
|Grand Canyon||at||Central Washington||CWU by 11|
|Davenport||at||Arkansas State||ASU by 17|
|Army||at||Navy||Navy by 6|
|Saint Mary's||at||Cal||Saint Mary's by 3|
|Arizona||at||Utah||Arizona by 20|
|SD State||at||Cal Poly||SD State by 12|