Two top 20 match ups highlight this weekend of D1A action. The Fall, so far, has produced some classic games with its fair share of upsets. This weekend the stage is set for more of the same, as plenty of quality matchups will highlight which teams are serious contenders and which teams are a flash in the pan.
The weekend kicks off with three Friday games. Delaware kicks off their 2018 campaign against Rutgers in New Jersey; while, #16 Iona and Fordham will duke it out in the Bronx. This will be the biggest test for Fordham yet. The Rams have shown marked improvement this year and have been quietly having one of the best fall seasons, for a team outside the Top 20. They’ll face Iona’s Gaels, who are the favorites to take the Liberty crown. The Gaels have been neck and neck with some Top 10 programs this Fall, this game will be their best indicator yet of how far Fordham have really come.
The other big game on Friday will be between Navy and Air Force. These traditional rivals and powers of college rugby will meet in Colorado Springs, as each try to get bragging rights for the next twelve months. #8 Navy has started the season undefeated, holding off a resilient St. Bonaventure side and playing a tight contest against Iona. This will be their last preseason game before they kick off their first season in the Mid-South, next weekend. For Air Force, they have gone 1-1. They lost a nail-biter to Colorado State in their first game of the season and then beat Colorado in another close affair. This will be the first of two games in three weeks they play against a Top 10 opponent.
One of the best games this weekend promises to be #19 Wisconsin hosting #14 Indiana. Wisconsin has been a team that’s caught many off guard this year. They were expected to be a strong team, but they have shot out of the gates in the Fall and are proving to be a team on the rise. Their opponents, Indiana, have had an impressive start to the season as well, but have not been as convincing some expected. This fixture will show whether or not it has just been a case of shaking off the rust for Indiana, or if Wisconsin is a legitimate threat to Indiana’s Big Ten dominance. Other teams from the Big 10 in action this round are Ohio State at Illinois and Michigan State heads north to take on Minnesota.
#15 Kutztown will continue their tough opening stretch to the season, this week, against the #11 Notre Dame College Falcons. Both teams have been in fine form this season and have been unlucky to walk away without results. The Falcons pushed #5 Penn State to the brink, while Kutztown was a thorn in the side of #6 Army all of last week. This is the toughest game of the weekend to pick. The other Rugby East game this weekend, will see St. Bonaventure take on #5 Penn State. The Bonnies, similarly to Kutztown and Notre Dame College, have been full of promise but haven’t been put it together for a full eighty-minute performance yet. They are knocking on the door of the Top 20 and a strong showing here could catapult them into the rankings.
Wheeling Jesuit, another Rugby East side, will play against the University of Notre Dame on Saturday. Wheeling Jesuit, will be looking to get their season back on track after a couple of early losses. Notre Dame will be searching for consistency. They’ve opened the season at 2-1, winning big games against Michigan and Ohio State but falling to Davenport. If they can string together a series of wins they could find themselves Top 20 bound.
In the Rocky Mountain conference, #7 BYU will have their first game of the season as they head to Laramie to take on Wyoming. This will be the first match they play under their new head coach Steve St. Pierre. Colorado and Colorado State will face each other for the second time this season, and the Rams will look to avenge their three-point loss from last their last encounter.
Red River play sees the debut of Ron VanArmburgh as head coach of the Baylor Bears, when they welcome in Texas Tech. The Red Raiders will give the Bears some headaches in the early stages, but Baylor’s class will shine through and they’ll most likely pull away. Texas will look to rebound against Oklahoma, after a heavy opening losses against Texas A&M and #9 Arkansas State. The Sooners lost their first match of the season against Arkansas and will hope to turn the tables this weekend. North Texas will also make their D1A debut when they take on the LSU Tigers.
In the Liberty Conference Syracuse will face their first test of the season against a big and powerful Cortland side. Oswego will continue their search for win number one against Empire division leaders, Albany. Binghamton looks to sharpen their divisional defense against a struggling Brockport side. Rhode Island will face Stony Brook in a divisional cross over and in the New England Conference, UConn hosts UMass in a top of the table clash. It will be a high scoring affair. Tufts will take on Fairfield, as they look for their first win of the season. Boston College will get their second taste of D1A action when they take on Northeastern.