Round 16 Preview: Four Top-20 ranked matchups spearhead a brilliant rugby weekend

D1A Rugby: Round 16 Preview: Four Top-20 ranked matchups spearhead a brilliant rugby weekend
Photo Credit: Lindenwood University Instagram
  • Mid-South powerhouses come out to battle for position in the toughest conference of the nation
  • PAC elites: UCLA and CAL will compete in a California Classic for the best UC in the state
  • Immense Crossover battle as Arizona look to avenge last week’s loss upcoming against a growing power in GCU
  • Red-River Rivalry Classic is set for Texas vs Oklahoma, along with positioning in the standings being up for grabs
  • California Inter-Conference matchups on the table between four hungry clubs looking to uplift their seasons

Through two official weekends of 2020’s premier collegiate men’s rugby division, there have been some great matches, some blowouts, and an upset. The third weekend of the spring season will be sure to ‘up the ante’, in terms of number of matches and ranked clubs competing, including all Top-3 teams in play. Ladies and Gentlemen, get ready to kick the tires and light the fires, because this upcoming Saturday will be an absolute stunner of a showcase of D1A rugby.

MID-SOUTH

We begin this weekend’s journey in toughest conference in the land, the Mid-South. With all 6 teams being ranked in the Top-25. This gauntlet of a schedule is not for the weak hearted, with no team coming away unscathed in every battle. In our Game of the Week, #3 Lindenwood (4-0) will travel to Jonesboro, AR to face the #7 team in the land, Arkansas State (0-0). The Red-Wolves have not played an official D1A matchup yet this 2019/20 campaign, but have shown their potential prowess in some preseason warmups with local collegiate clubs. Lindenwood, on the other hand, has had four official D1A matchups, three of which have been against Top-11 clubs (Army, Davenport & Navy). This experience should have the Lions at an advantage coming into the upcoming matchup, but surely don’t count Arkansas State out.

In their three head-to-head matchups in the 2018/19 season, Lindenwood came away with two victories, totaling only 20 points differential, and had lost by 6 in the defeat. This will be an incredibly exciting match to attend and report on, and will be a great starting point to see where A-State is this season. This will also be the first of two regular season matchups between the two powerhouses, with the latter just a month away.

Without any ease of tension, the next Mid-South match will ensure fireworks across the Marietta, GA skyline as #23 Clemson (1-2) travel to face the #1 team in Life University (1-0). Clemson has not had an easy schedule facing all Top-25 ranked clubs, with two of their losses at the hands of #5 Navy and #11 Davenport. With Life this upcoming weekend, their schedule will not get easier after with #3 Lindenwood and #7 Arkansas State in wake. Without jumping too far ahead, the focus on this weekend’s matchup will be to set the tempo and execute their game-plan to the best of their abilities. The two-time defending National Champions are currently riding an astonishing 27 game winning streak, and will be tough to slow down.

Life will host their first home match of the 2019/20 campaign in front of a large and passionate crowd, who will be sure in making their presence known throughout all 80 minutes. Led by their ferocious captain, Brian Muntanga, Life Running Eagles will have their sights set on the Tigers of Clemson in order to sink their talons in the win column once again.

PAC

In the lone PAC inter-conference matchup of the weekend, #2 Cal (2-0) will host their Southern California rivals, #17 UCLA (1-0), in a Battle of the UC’s. These two clubs have already faced-off in the Dennis Storer Classic, which was a 7s tournament, in which the Cal came out on top. Since their winter hibernations, both of these Bear-related clubs are currently undefeated in regular season play. The Bruins of Los Angeles looked sharp in their Cal Poly victory, but the Golden Bears of Berkeley have been demolishing their opponents with a total point differential of 263-0. Yes folks that is not a typo, Cal has been a buzzsaw in the initial two matchups against UC Davis and San Diego State, and will continue that determination this weekend.

This will be the one and only regular season matchup these two clubs will face-off head-to-head, but be ready for a grizzly clash with the winner taking the sweet ‘victory honey’ home as a spoil of battle. In last year’s efforts, Cal came away with the victory in a shutout of 81-0. UCLA will be ready to ’empty the tank’ against Berkeley, especially in front of a potentially 50/50 split crowd in this historic rivalry.

CROSSOVER

In the upcoming Crossover matchup, The PAC and California conferences will be in attendance with #14 Arizona Wildcats (1-1) will travel Northwest on I-10 to Phoenix to challenge the #20 Grand Canyon Lopes (2-0). Arizona will be looking to avenge their previous week’s close home defeat to Central Washington, and aim to get back on the winning track against GCU. Arizona has one victory and one defeat on the season, but this proud club will be prepared for an inter-state rumble versus the up and coming Grand Canyon RFC. In last year’s matchup, the Wildcats came away with the 34-12 victory, but as we all know – new year, new clubs.

Grand Canyon had an impressive 6-4 record in 2019, which included playoff matches, and are currently riding a two-game winning streak to start 2020. In their season opener against Cal Poly, the Lopes dodged a final minute try against them and held the Mustangs at 10 points for the eventual win. This will be the first week GCU has been ranked in the Top-20, and also their first top ranked opponent since facing St. Mary’s in last year’s playoffs. Watch out for this hotly contested battle in the Arizona dry lands, as these two desert dwellers seek a hydrating victory which would lead to a side effect of increased confidence moving forward.

RED RIVER

Don’t holster your pistols yet rugby fans, there’s a storm brewing across the southern conference leading off with the ‘Red River Classic’. Texas (1-2) will hit the road Northbound across state lines to face-off against their historic rivals, Oklahoma (3-1). Both of these clubs are coming off big losses; Texas 0 – 95 BYU, and Oklahoma 0 – 71 Lindenwood. Although both clubs had not scored a point versus the two Top-8 clubs, they have been showing signs of having successful seasons beforehand. Back in the Red River conference, these two clubs will hone in their efforts in retaining dominance within the standings. Texas is only 10 points behind Oklahoma and will be ready in shortening that lead, but will have to get past the Sooners who are undefeated in conference play.

Continuing within the Red River, conference leader #24 Texas A&M (4-2) will host Texas Tech (0-3) in their one-and-only matchup this 2019/20 campaign. The Aggies have regained their form with a dominant victory over rivals LSU last weekend, and will aim in continuing that success against the struggling Texas Tech squad. Tech had a couple close back-to-back losses against North Texas, but will need to put forth a solid effort against this On the Bubble ranked club in Texas A&M. The Aggies had defeated the Red Raiders handily in last year’s bout, and will be ready for the challenge once again.

In the final Red River conference matchup this weekend, the two-game win streaking North Texas (2-1) will travel to Waco and take on the Baylor Bears (1-2). Currently, Baylor is only 4 points behind North Texas in the standings, and are coming off two consecutive losses to Oklahoma and Texas A&M. The Bears have seen a tougher schedule so far, but it will be a great test for both clubs as they dive into the thick of their prospective seasons.

CALIFORNIA

Hopping over the West Coast once again, the California conference will be hosting a slew of matchups with three of the four clubs included are coming off loses. The lone team with a win in last week’s bouts is Santa Clara, having defeated UC Davis.

In the first match of this conference’s play, the SCUTS (1-1) (Santa Clara University Touring Side) will travel Southbound to the Coastal town playing the Mustangs of Cal Poly (0-3) on FTF’s Live Match of the Week and broadcasted by Eleven Sports Network.  The live broadcast will start at 5:00 PM Pacific Time. Santa Clara has traditionally been a ‘middle of the pack’ team within the conference, but their enthusiasm has never lacked in each match they play. This proud club will have a tough schedule ahead, especially against Cal Poly upcoming. Even though the Mustangs record does not show a victory, they had a wonderful preseason going 7-0 within 7s tournaments, even beating Cal in the process. This will be much closer of a game than their records reflect, and expect the Mustangs to run with fire at their heels in search of their first win of the season.

WATCH LIVE HERE » FTFNext.com, DIREC TV (channel 623), T&T U-verse (channel 1665), and Verizon Fios (channel 597).

ELEVEN can be found on various other cable and OTT providers such as  RCN 571, Atlantic Broadband 501, Hawaiian Telcom 1091 and FUBO TV

With the curtain closer match of this weekend’s preview, UC Santa Barbara (0-2) will travel to take on San Diego State (0-2). Both of these clubs have faced Top-20 opponents in Cal, St. Mary’s, Arizona and Grand Canyon, and never judge a book by its cover, especially with these two squads. With both first wins of the season on the line, expect a bruising battle between these two Southern California clubs, as they soak up the sun this upcoming Saturday. In last year’s lone clash, SDSU came away with the 59-7 win, but as we all know in sports, anything can happen on any given day.

DATEAWAYHOMELOCATION
Saturday,
February 8th
#23 Clemsonat#1 LifeMarietta, GA
#3 Lindenwoodat#7 Arkansas StateJonesboro, AR
#17 UCLAat#2 CalBerkeley, CA
Santa ClaraatCal PolySan Luis Obispo, CA
UC Santa BarbaraatSan Diego StateSan Diego, CA
Texas atOklahomaNorman, OK
Texas Techat#24 Texas A&MAustin, TX
North TexasatBaylorWaco, TX
#14 Arizonaat#20 Grand CanyonPhoenix, AZ