Round 8 Preview: Conference playoff picture will begin to unfold

D1A Rugby: Round 8 Preview: Conference playoff picture will begin to unfold
Photo Credit: Desiree Miller
  • #7 Kutztown looks to keep their East dominance
  • #10 Penn State aiming to rebound from their losses vs #5 Navy
  • Climbing #8 Davenport travels to face the #12 NDC Falcons
  • Liberty power clash: #14 Iona vs undefeated AIC

This upcoming weekend there will be three ranked matchups, two of which will be played between cross-conference clubs. The only ranked inter-conference match is Kutztown vs Notre Dame College in the East.

CROSSOVER

Beginning this weekend with a bang, is the earliest matchup commencing tomorrow, Friday, is Michigan (2-1) hosting Notre Dame (1-3). The Wolverines are coming off their Big Ten victory versus a very cheeky and underrated Wisconsin club (2-3), and will be aiming that momentum towards the Fighting Irish, who had been defeated by the strong #14 Iona side. Notre Dame almost beat #19 Ohio State earlier in the season, losing 7-15, and within that consideration, the Fighting Irish had competed well against their Big Ten opponent this season.

Next game on the cross-conference docket is a dynamite-packed matchup with the fiercest active team in the land, #5 Navy (6-0) hosting #10 Penn State (3-2). Be prepared for this bruising clash of titans, deemed as the Match of the Week. Currently this season, when Mid-South and East teams face-off, the Mid-South has taken all three games, coincidentally two of those wins have come from Navy. The Nittany Lions are riding a two-game losing streak to current Top-8 opponents, but have a decisive and talented coach in Justin Hundley, who will be determined in finding a solution in being the first team this year to bring down the Midshipmen. On the other side of the fence, Head Coach Gavin Hickie of Navy, has led a resilient, determined and quite honestly powerhouse club, on an undefeated streak with a trail of ranked teams in wake of their destruction. Of their six victories, five of those have come against Top-25 ranked opponents, and two of those being Top-10.

In the final crossover match, #8 Davenport (1-1) will travel to southern Ohio to face-off against the #12 Notre Dame College Falcons (2-3). Within this matchup over the previous two seasons, the Falcons have beaten the Panthers in both matchups. Although Davenport is riding a surge of confidence after defeating powerhouse Penn State last week, they will be sure to not make this a three-year in a row trend. Notre Dame College has lost to three ranked teams thus far, but have shown they are a team that should not be overlooked, on any given day.

EAST

In a jam-packed East Conference, there will only be two games to take place. The first matchup to take place will be #18 St. Bonaventure (1-4) at #7 Kutztown (4-1). The Golden Bears are riding a two-game winning streak since closely losing to #5 Navy, 22-26, on a last minute kick-to-try in the corner. Kutztown has been one of the most consistent and strongest teams to continues their winning ways. They will be taking on a Bonnie club side that has dropped its last three matches. St. Bonaventure has not beat the Golden Bears in the last 5 years, according to the USA Rugby databases. Kutztown will not take this Bonnie side lightly in their preparation for the last leg of their Fall campaign.

In the second and final East match, Mary Washington (0-2) will travel to West Point to take on the #13 Army Golden Knights (2-3). Mary Washington has been out of action for almost a month (Sept. 21st), and will be more than ready with their fresh legs in taking on this strong Army side. The Golden Knights have had an incredibly tough schedule thus far, and will not let up on them in the near future. Army will take the momentum from their previous week’s lopsided victory against St. Bonaventure, and will aim their canons towards Mary Washington.

LIBERTY

The Liberty Conference has already seen its first match (10/23) with Syracuse (6-1) dropping its first loss of the season to visitors, Notre Dame (2-3). Unfortunately this loss will have ripple effects for the upper New York club, especially as they were climbing the rankings attempting to place themselves in The Bubble, and even crack the Top-20. This is a big win for the Fighting Irish due to their drop in rankings and record, and will wear the badge of stopping an undefeated team in its tracks, for the remainder of their season. According to their schedule, Syracuse will have a quick turnaround in hosting Albany (0-7) this upcoming weekend for their regular season finale.

The inter-Massachusetts showdown will include Umass (2-2) traveling to face New England region foes, Boston College (4-1). BC’s only loss was to undefeated Northeastern, but have had a strong Fall 2019 campaign. Umass will be looking to find itself in their first win-streak, if they pull off the victory in Boston. In the next matchup, are the Tufts (1-4) on the road against Rhode Island (1-4). Although their records are the same, the Tufts have not won since their opening game, and RIU is coming off their first win from last week in a close victory vs Uconn. This clash will determine who will be in the 2nd to last place within the New England region.

Elsewhere in the Liberty conference, Oswego (4-2) will host Binghamton (3-2) in an underrated matchup taking place in upper New York. Oswego is on a current two-game winning streak, only losing to the top-2 clubs in their Empire division, Syracuse & Buffalo. The same can be said for Binghamton as well, coming off their most recent loss to Syracuse the previous week. Oswego is currently ahead in standings points, but with a potential win could see the victor with a new breath of fresh air underneath their wings.

Cortland (2-4) will be on the road, traveling to face Empire rival, Brockport (1-5), with the loser holding the 2nd to last place in their regional subdivision. Continuing within the Empire division, Buffalo (5-1) will host Colgate (2-3). The Buffalo side have been a wrecking ball through the division and conference all year, with their only loss to top of. the table Syracuse. Colgate will be aiming to play the role of upsetter in this divisional clash.

The big matchup within the conference will fall upon AIC (3-0) at #14 Iona (5-2). This will be a real test for the ranked Gaels, who have played in and out of their conference all year long thus far. American International have flown under the radar for the Fall campaign, but keep your eye on this matchup to have potential ripple effects for weeks to come.

Other than AIC, Northeastern (5-0) is one of the last two remaining Liberty conference undefeated teams with their streak riding on this weekend. They will travel to face Fordham (3-2), who despite their record, have shown great improvement and moxie. The Huskies will have their hands full with this hungry Fordham club.

In the final conference battle, Rutgers (0-3) will be on the road challenging their I-95 divisional rival, Stony Brook (3-3). Both teams are currently on a losing streak, but will be looking to break the impending trend. In their last two matchups, Stony Brook has taken the ‘W’, but lookout for Rutgers to throw the kitchen sink in their way.

ROCKY MOUNTAIN

As the matches head over the snow-capped Rocky Mountains, we find Wyoming (1-2) traveling across state lines to Provo, UT to challenge #9 BYU (4-0). The Cougars, coming off their 167-0 decimation of conference foe Utah State, will have the Cowboys potentially shaking in their boots.

Utah Valley (1-1) will be on the road against #21 Colorado State (3-1), and will be ready to avenge their 1-point loss to last week’s opponent in Colorado. The Rams of Fort Collins have stayed consistently as on of The Bubble teams this entire season, not dropping below #23. CSU had lost to UVU in their only other matchup two years ago. Even though these are essentially different teams, Utah Valley will be aiming to regain their prominence within the ranks of the Top-25.

Hosts Utah State (2-2) will be ready for the Air Force (1-5) attack as they will be undoubtedly hungry for a win to regain their confidence after a rough game against BYU. Air Force have been searching to find consistency this entire Fall campaign, but have their sights set on a vulnerable Utah State side.

BIG TEN

The visiting Minnesota (1-3-1) have not found a victory since their season opener against currently winless, Purdue. The Gophers will be traveling to face a very underrated Illinois (2-3) side in Champaign, IL. The Fighting Illini have beat the Gophers in four of their last five matchups, respectively four in a row. Illinois have two of their defeats coming at the hands of ranked clubs in Indiana and Ohio State. Minnesota will be hungry for a victory, but watch out for a clash in the Midwest this upcoming weekend.

Purdue (0-4) will travel and take on hosts, #17 Indiana (5-1). The Hoosiers only loss of the season was to tough inter-conference foe in #14 Iona. Look for the Boilermakers to put in a a valiant effort, but Indiana has been a dialed-in team that will have plenty of momentum helping them into this upcoming match.

Hosting side Wisconsin (2-4) will accept the challenge of #19 Ohio State (5-1) in Madison, WI. The Buckeyes have won the last three of their matchups, coincidentally all Big Ten clubs. The Badgers on the other hand, have lost their last three games, also coincidentally Big Ten opponents. The Ohio State attacking efforts are near unstoppable, scoring 168 points in their last three games. Wisconsin’s defensive schemes will be the key in keeping this game at reach for a potential upset.

ALL UPCOMING GAMES

DATEAWAYHOMETIMELOCATION
Friday, 10/25Notre DameatMichigan7:00 PM CDTAnn Arbor, MI
Saturday, 10/26#18 St. Bonaventureat#7 Kutztown1:00 PM EDTKutztown, PA
Mary Washingtonat#13 Army1:00 PM EDTWest Point, NY
#10 Penn Stateat#5 Navy11:00 AM EDTAnnapolis, MD
MinnesotaatIllinois1:00 PM CDTChampaign, IL
Purdueat#17 Indiana1:00 PM CDTBloomington, IN
#19 Ohio StateatWisconsin1:00 PM CDTMadison, WI
Air ForceatUtah State1:00 PM MDTLogan, UT
Wyomnigat#9 BYU1:00 PM MDTProvo, UT
Utah Valleyat#21 Colorado St1:00 PM MDTFort Collins, CO
UMASSatBoston College1:00 PM EDTChestnut Hill, MA
TuftsatRhode Island1:00 PM EDTSouth Kingston, RI
Albanyat Syracuse1:00 PM EDTSyracuse, NY
BinghamtonatOwsego1:00 PM EDTOswego, NY
CortlandatBrockport1:00 PM EDTBrockport, NY
ColgateatBuffalo1:00 PM EDTBuffalo, NY
AICat#14 Iona1:00 PM EDTNew Rochelle, NY
NortheasternatFordham1:00 PM EDTBronx, NY
RutgersatStony Brook1:00 PM EDTStony Brook, NY
Sunday, 10/27#8 Davenportat#12 Notre Dame College2:00 PM CDTSouth Euclid, OH