BTU Final hopes remain for four teams

D1A Rugby: BTU Final hopes remain for four teams
Photo Credit: SJanicki Photography (homepage)

BOULDER, Colo. – The Big Ten Universities’ regular season wraps up this weekend with four teams vying for a place in the Nov. 15 BTU Championship game. Indiana, the conference’s only undefeated team and point leader, is ineligible to compete in the BTU Championship due to penalties stemming from eligibility issues a season ago.

With Indiana out of the postseason picture, the door remains open for Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State and Wisconsin to reach the Championship match. Interestingly enough, those four teams are in action against one another Saturday as Minnesota hosts Wisconsin, and Michigan travels to Ohio to face the Buckeyes.

Wisconsin’s 4-1 record and 22 points in the standings gives the Badgers the clearest pathway to the BTU Final. If Wisconsin beats Minnesota Saturday, or even prevents the Gophers from a bonus point-win, the Badgers advance to the BTU Championship.

Like Wisconsin, Michigan controls its own destiny. If the Wolverines beat rival Ohio State, then Michigan moves on to the conference final. Ohio State, on the other hand, needs a victory and keep Michigan from scoring four or more tries while beating them by more than seven points to prevent Michigan from two bonus points and overtaking Ohio State.

Adding another wrinkle in to an already complicated scenario is the possibility of Michigan backing into the BTU Championship with a bonus point-loss and a loss by Wisconsin in which the Badgers fail to pick up a bonus point.

Now that the BTU Championship scenarios have been cleared up, let’s get into Saturday’s matches.

Wisconsin heads to Minneapolis as heavy favorites. The Badgers are coming off their biggest win of the season in a 48-24 stomping of Ohio State. Meanwhile, Minnesota hasn’t tasted a victory since its Oct. 4 win over Illinois. Giving the Gophers a fighter’s chance be the comfort of playing at home, as well as a poised and capable leader in scrum half Jack Butterfield. Still, too many variables may be needed for Minnesota to keep their season alive beyond Saturday.

On paper, the Michigan versus Ohio State matchup looks a bit more even. Although Michigan beat a Wisconsin team that doubled-up Ohio State, the Buckeyes have dangerous playmakers on the edge and have seen a few key contributors return to form after early season injuries.

“They’re going to be a fast, wide team,” explained Michigan Head Coach Brandon Sparks. “They’re also just getting healthy while other teams are healing or trying to maintain their health.”Given the must-win occasion hovering over Saturday’s match, it would be understandable for either side to have a case of the pregame jitters. However, Sparks is convinced his squad is loose and excited for tomorrow’s opportunity.

“This is the best rivalry in college sports and there is championship implications on the line, said Sparks. “You can’t ask for anything more out of a Saturday of rugby.”

The win or go home match between Michigan and Ohio can be seen live thanks to Coaches Aid.