Round 18 Preview: High-flying rankings shake-up have clubs vying for top spots

D1A Rugby: Round 18 Preview: High-flying rankings shake-up have clubs vying for top spots
Photo Credit: Davey Wilson
  • Mid-South gauntlet continues for all teams included; with #2 Lindenwood facing off versus #5 Life
  • PAC battle of ranked Pacific South clubs going down in Los Angeles
  • California Conference in full swing with 6 teams clashing for standings positions
  • Utah’s first D1A XVs game in Ellensburg, WA taking on #15 Central Washington
  • All Red River clubs (except Baylor) in action this upcoming weekend

Regarding the upcoming weekend of Round 18 D1A Rugby action, there will be a host of matches including all active conference in play. Leading from last week’s big upset of (former #1) Life by rivals Arkansas State, the conference is currently in flux as big matchups continue on the horizon. Regarding other conferences, the newly crowned #1 team, Cal, is on bye this week, and will watch the competition unfold as they prepare for Round 19. Three head-to-head ranked matchup will take place over Saturday the 22nd, while three other top ranked clubs will also be in action across the D1A landscape. Buckle up tight as we experience another “rollercoaster” of exciting matchups which could lead to ripple effects throughout the premier division for the foreseeable future.

MID-SOUTH

In the first conference matchup of the weekend is a BIG ONE. #2 Lindenwood will travel to Marietta, GA to challenge #5 Life University on the Running Eagles’ home turf. From last week’s clash with Arkansas State, Life had been recently dethroned as the #1 team in the nation, but are still incredibly dangerous to deal with. This will be the first time Lindenwood has been ranked higher than Life, and will not take the challenge lightly. The Running Eagles will certainly be ready to avenge last week’s defeat to conference rivals, and will give their absolute all to not have a first back-to-back loss in over 6-7 years (which could be longer, or ever, but our CMS system only goes to 2014).

Lindenwood will have their hands full with the defending back-to-back national champions, especially on the road, and having not defeated Life within the last 6-7, or potentially more, years. The Lions of Missouri have played and defeated 6 ranked opponents so far in their 2019/20 XVs campaign, and will use that experience in boosting their chances against Life.

In the second and only other Mid-South competition, #24 Clemson will hit the road and travel to Jonesboro, AR to face-off against #3 Arkansas State. The Red Wolves are certainly riding on Cloud-9 after defeating the defending back-to-back champions in Life, but will have to reground themselves before playing a tough Clemson side. These two sides have faced each other every year since being in the same conference, in which Arkansas State has taken every victory of those opportunities.

Clemson is currently riding a two-game losing streak, which those have been to the #6 and #10 teams in the nation. Their incredibly daunting schedule has tested the Tigers of South Carolina every week, but their resolve has continuously been a strength of theirs in being excited for each matchup, week-after-week. This will be the second to last match of the Spring schedule for the Tigers, and be sure they will be ready as ever to prove their toughness.

PAC

In the lone PAC conference matchup of the weekend, #13 Arizona will travel Westward on I-10 to Los Angeles, CA to play their conference rivals, #17 UCLA. The Bruins will be fresh off a recent bye week from D1A play, and will have their paws full with the Wildcats, who will be attempting to avenge their loss versus Cal. In last year’s bout between these two clubs, Arizona had defeated UCLA 35-24 at home in Tucson. In order to reverse the trend of the prior year, UCLA will have their home advantage to help them. Both these clubs have shown strength and promise for a successful 2019/20 campaign, but in order to help their chances in the conference standings, they will need to survive this PAC battle.

UCLA RFC – Wes Schwartz

CALIFORNIA

With the first of three California Conference matchups to preview this upcoming weekend, we’ll start in San Diego, CA as #4 Saint Mary’s travel down South to challenge San Diego State. The Aztecs have yet to conquer a victory this 2019/20 campaign, but have recorded one tie with UC Santa Barbara. Two of their matchups thus far have been against the current #1 and #14 teams in the nation, which have been tough uphill battles for SDSU. With a formidable opponent in Saint Mary’s this upcoming weekend, the Aztecs have a task in front of them, which no other club has yet to accomplish, which is defeat the Gaels of Moraga. Regarding Saint Mary’s, the #4 club in the nation has been on an impressive run this season, but more impressively this past weekend. The Gaels had recently played #7 BYU and #19 Grand Canyon just three days a part from one another, defeating BYU 25-24 on a last minute maul for the score, while later handily beating the Lopes of Phoenix 68-7.

In the second matchup of the conference play, UC Davis will travel to Coastal California to face-off against Cal Poly. Cal Poly is currently coming off their lone victory of the year versus Santa Clara, 39-13. They will be determined in taking this momentum forward playing their conference rivals, and former D1-AA National champions, UC Davis. The Aggies of Davis are in similar stances as Cal Poly, coming off their lone win thus far far from weekend’s past. In last year’s bout, UC Davis came out on top of the Mustangs 26-11 at home, but they will have more of a difficult time achieving back-to-back victories on the road.

In the final match of the conference, UC Santa Barbara will host Santa Clara (SCUTS). So far this season, combined, the two clubs have recorded only one win and tie collectively. Although they have both played difficult competition thus far, this will be a n evenly played out match which should have ripple effects throughout the conference’s standings. In 2018/19 season, Santa Clara had defeated UCSB 30-13 at home, and will aim to repeat that success in Santa Barbara.

CROSSOVER

In an exciting Crossover matchup, University of Utah Utes will play their first XVs test this 2019/20 campaign challenging the #15 Central Washington Wildcats. Having previously played a number of 7s tournaments across the country the past few months back to last Fall, Utah will be hungry to make a splash on the XVs scene. In order to do so, they will need to advance their odds of success against a resilient squad in Central Washington, especially on their home turf in Ellensburg, WA. CWU has played in only one match this XVs season, beating Arizona in Tucson. Their next challenge will be against the Utah club that has not shown their “XVs cards” yet this season, but have shown promise and potential on the 7s circuit. According to our CMS system, these two have not played one another since May of 2015, in which Central came out victorious. Being that match was so many years ago, we should expect a brave battle between these historically successful clubs.

RED RIVER

In the FTF and Eleven Sports Televised Game of the Week, the Texas Longhorns will travel to College Station to take-on the #23 Texas A&M Aggies. Texas currently coming in the weekend at 2-3, record-wise, with one of their losses at the hands of the Aggies in the first test of the season. Since these two clubs are very familiar with each other, already played a match, we shall expect a close game knowing each of their strengths and weaknesses. This test will take place on Saturday, the 22nd with live broadcast beginning at 4:00PM EST. Texas A&M is currently on top the conference standings, besting Oklahoma by mere points in a race for the Red River’s finest. Texas will be ready for the challenge, and will throw the ‘kitchen sink’ at the Aggies to stop them in their 1st place conference progress. Tune in for this awesome and historical university sports matchup!

FTFNext.com Televised Game of the Week

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

In the second match of the conference this weekend, 2nd place in the standings, Oklahoma, will travel to Texas Tech to take on the winless Red Raiders. Although Texas Tech has yet to tick the W column this year, they have had multiple close defeats which could have bounced their way. Oklahoma is currently sitting on just one loss thus far this season, which came to current #2 Lindenwood. Their impressive record has also included a victory against Texas Tech in their opening conference matchup on November 2nd, 2019.

In the final Red River rivalry matchup, LSU will host the lone non-Texas located test in Baton Rouge, LA versus North Texas. These two clubs have yet to face-off this 2019/20 campaign, but will be ready to see what the other squad has prepared. LSU has yet to win this year, while North Texas has been on an impressive 3-game winning streak since losing to Oklahoma. In last year’s head-to-head between the two sides, North Texas slid by LSU for the narrow victory 22-21 in Baton Rouge. In order to repeat that success on the road in Louisiana, they will have to rely on their competitive momentum from the past three matches. LSU has the chance to play the upset-card this weekend, and will need to come hungry, which we wouldn’t doubt from the Tigers.

AWAYHOMELOCATION
#24 Clemsonat#3 Arkansas StateJonesboro, AR
#2 Lindenwoodat#5 LifeMarietta, GA
#13 Arizonaat#17 UCLALos Angeles, CA
Utahat#15 Central WashingtonEllensburg, WA
UC DavisatCal PolySan Luis Obispo, CA
#4 Saint Mary’satSan Diego StateSan Diego, CA
Santa ClaraatUC Santa BarbaraSanta Barbara, CA
Texasat#23 Texas A&MCollege Station, TX
OklahomaatTexas TechLubbock, TX
North TexasatLSUBaton Rouge, TX