BOULDER, Colo. – There is a lot to look for this weekend. The Allied Conference will crown a champion and the Big Ten will do the same next Saturday (April 13) after the semifinals this weekend.
In the East Conference, Penn State and Kutztown are both fighting for their postseason lives. The winner of that game will be in the D1A quarterfinals, the loser will clean out their lockers and hope for better luck next year.
The game that rugby aficionados are buzzing about, ironically, won’t affect standings. St. Mary’s (#3) travels to #5 Central Washington in a matchup of the unbeatens. The teams certainly won’t play like it doesn’t matter, let’s put it that way.
Here we go:
Texas @ Texas A&M (ARC Championship)
Pick: Texas A&M. The Aggies won 44-17 last time and they’ve only gotten better since. Texas has been a blast to follow this season though and I think they’re going to be a force that can legitimately challenge A&M in the ARC next year.
Oklahoma vs. Texas Tech (ARC 3rd Place Game @ Texas A&M)
Pick: Oklahoma. They’ve got something to prove after the shellacking they took last weekend at the hands of the Aggies. What I said about Texas above applies to Tech here. Those two teams have been great additions to a conference with enormous potential.
Indiana @ Wisconsin (Big Ten Semifinal)
Pick: Wisconsin. They’re red hot after an undefeated tour of Ireland and their confidence will carry over. The big bodies of Indiana will be a challenge, but the Badgers won’t try to out-muscle the Hoosiers.
Illinois @ Ohio State (Big Ten Semifinal)
Pick: Ohio State. They get a number of starters back from injury and they’ve had a chance to knock off some rust in 15s in the preseason. Illinois has the size, but OSU won’t get tangled up in the breakdown if they can help it. They’ll run around and wear the Illini out.
St. Mary’s @ Central Washington
Pick: I’m going with St. Mary’s to blemish Central’s record. It’s a game that both teams need to play to get ready for the intensity the postseason will bring. It’s going to be very, very, very tight I expect. St. Mary’s has had a rougher go of it in their conference than Central (keep in mind that is extremely relative, both have been pretty dominant) and that experience in tighter games will come in handy in Ellensburg.
The stat that sold me on SMC is the Points For: Points Against ratio. The Gaels have been challenged more and they’ll be sharper and harder because of it.
St. Mary’s – (PF)468:(PA)73 (6.4:1)
Central Washington – (PF) 282: (PA) 20 (14.1:1)
UCSB @ Sac State
Pick: I am going with UCSB. They’ve found their feet a bit quicker than Sac State in D1A and will be keen to finish their season on a high note after dropping a winnable game against UC Davis the last time the Gauchos played.
Santa Clara @ UC Davis
Pick: Both are 2-3 teams, but I think I’m going with Santa Clara here. They’ve shown some good attack and their defense is a little more solid than the Aggies’.
Army @ Delaware
Pick: Army. I’m afraid Delaware is in for a rough one against the playoff bound Black Knights.
Penn State @ Kutztown
Pick: This one is going to be an instant classic. Two Pennsylvania teams that compete for recruits and in-state bragging rights playing for their postseason lives against one another. If you use their respective performances against Army as the metric, Kutztown lost 19-24 and Penn State lost 15-22. Not much in that. I think it comes down to whose pack decides to play meaner. The battle up front will decide it, I reckon. I think I’ll give the edge to Kutztown because of the home field advantage.
Life @ Davenport
Pick: Life. Davenport will be tougher having run the Arkansas State gauntlet, but Life will still come out on top. Give Davenport a year and this one might be a coin toss this time next season.
Northern Colorado @ New Mexico
Pick: Northern Colorado. The Lobos are a little out of their depth and Northern Colorado will smell blood in the water after the first 10 or so minutes.
Wyoming @ Colorado
Pick: Colorado. The Buffs have had time to work and played a tough preseason to get ready for their playoff run. I think they handle Wyoming pretty handily on Saturday.