Spring 2020 Preview: New season, year, & decade

D1A Rugby: Spring 2020 Preview: New season, year, & decade
Photo Credit: St. Mary's College Rugby Instagram
  • Welcome back to D1A rugby action with 4 conferences kicking off into the new season
  • Breakdown of individual conferences with upcoming matchups
  • Fall campaign clubs continuing their season into the Spring with cross-conference matchups

Welcome back everyone, to the D1A rugby season, where plenty of fresh teams and familiar faces which have been preparing to make their grand entrance onto the Spring 2020 stage. Continuing from their season in the Fall, will be the Mid-South, Red River conferences and Independent club, Central Washington, with multitude of these clubs having played games already. And joining them will be the fresh competition yet to play a conference matchup, which are the California and PAC sub-divisions. With a total of 12 currently ranked squads, expect incredibly quality play all around, and potentially a bit of musical chairs within the conference leaders and overall rankings.

Mid-South Conference

Debatably the toughest conference in the entire nation, the Mid-South is compiled of all 6 teams being ranked in the Top 25, with four of the clubs being within the Top 7: #7 Arkansas State, #24 Clemson, #11 Davenport, #1 Life, #3 Lindenwood, and #5 Navy. This gauntlet of top clubs should be as hotly contested as it was last year, with the eventual back-to-back national champions, Life, aiming for the ever-rare title of being 3-peat champs. Life university has proven themselves as one of the, if not, strongest club in the nation year after year. Being in the championship final for the past 7 straight years, the Running Eagles have won 4 of those matches, with 2 of them in just as many recent years.

Currently in the conference standings, #5 Navy leads with 12 points, but boast a 2-2 Mid-South record. #3 Lindenwood is in 2nd place with 9 points and a 2-0 conference record, while #1 Life lies in 3rd place with 5 points and a 1-0 Mid-South record. Many of these clubs, have already played a slew of Fall campaign matches, but will be heading into the heart of the lion’s den, which is their Spring schedule.

The conference’s inter-schedule will open its doors on Saturday, February 8th with #1 Life vs #24 Clemson, & #7 Arkansas State taking on #3 Lindenwood. Prepare yourselves for a very turbulent Mid-South year with all of these hungry clubs vying for a shot at playoffs, and the eventual national championship. We expect nothing less than a pin-ball effect of blowouts, upsets, ranking climbs and drops, and incredible storylines throughout this Spring campaign.

Life University Rugby Instagram

California Conference

The first matchup of the new season, year, and decade, will also be the only one played during the upcoming weekend. The perennial powerhouse #4 Saint Mary’s will travel a couple hours inland to face off against Northern California neighbor and rival, UC Davis on Friday, January 10th. Since winning multiple D1AA Championships, the UCD Aggies have had an impressive two-year stretch in D1A, going 8-8 within divisional matchups. On the other side of the field, St. Mary’s have appeared in 5 national championship games since 2013, and winning 3 of them in that same stretch. Unfortunately they have not made it to the final game in the past 2 years, but will be ready in taking on any challenges ahead in potentially reaching the ‘top of the mountain’, once again. This mid-January matchup will be quite the battle, and expect both teams to be firing on all cylinders after the Holiday slumber.

The remainder of the conference will begin their regular seasons throughout the month, with the next couple matchups on the January 18th/19th weekend, as #4 St. Mary’s will play UC Santa Barbara, & #21 Grand Canyon will host Cal Poly. Grand Canyon was last year’s runner-up in the conference, falling to St. Mary’s twice within inter-conference play. The 2019 3rd place finishing team was UC Davis, in the top-heavy sub-division with a 4-2 conference record. All other teams, San Diego State, Cal Poly, Santa Clara, and UC Santa Barbara finished with records under .500, but will dedicated in improving their odds greatly for a successful 2020 campaign.

J. Dalton Photography / Grand Canyon Instagram

PAC Conference

This tough conference has three of its four teams ranked in the Top 19, with #2 Cal, #14 Arizona, and #19 UCLA. Utah is currently unranked, but do not expect this side to remain quiet in the upcoming spring season, as this historically strong club will be vying for a shot at playoffs as Head Coach Rob Randall leads his club. Cal has been the familiar face to finish as the conference champion, along with earning themselves back-to-back national championship game appearances in the past two years. Unfortunately, both years the Golden Bears finished #2 in the nation, but Head Coach Jack Clark will have his club prepared to find their way into a third consecutive appearance in the ‘final dance’ of the year.

The first D1A regular season matchups of the PAC will begin on Saturday, January 25th with cross-conference opponents, #2 Cal vs UC Davis in Davis, CA, #14 Arizona vs San Diego State, and #19 UCLA vs Cal Poly. The first inter-conference match will take place in Berkeley, CA as the Golden Bears will host #19 UCLA on Saturday, February 8th.

Cal Rugby Instagram

Red River Conference

This conference boasts many improved clubs, along with consistent squads and quality players. Only 1 team is currently ranked within the Top 25, which is #23 Texas A&M, but expect for the number of ranked clubs from this conference to change and improve. Finishing atop last year’s inter-conference records were the following clubs: Oklahoma (8-1), Texas A&M (7-2), and Baylor (7-2). These three will be preparing to finish best in their prospective divisions, but keep your eyes on the remaining competitors as we’ve seen all of the Red River squads show talent within their opening round matches in the Fall, along within some 7s tournaments sprinkled in-between. The Top 5 of 7 Red River clubs currently have at least a .500 inter-conference record, and are within 10 standings points of each other.

The beginning of the inter-conference matchups start on Saturday, January 25th with the lone game consisting of Baylor hosting Oklahoma. Other cross-conference matchups will be on Thursday, January 23rd, with #23 Texas A&M hosting the Rocky Mountain champions, #8 BYU in College Station. The remainder of early season inter-conference games will take place on Saturday, February 1st with Texas Tech facing off against North Texas, and Texas A&M Hosting the LSU Tigers.

Oklahoma Rugby Instagram

Independent/Crossover Conferences

Specifically speaking towards the two Independent clubs; Notre Dame and Central Washington. Notre Dame looks to be finished with their XVs campaign, unless they decide to schedule a match later on in the Spring. While #18 Central Washington will begin their schedule against #14 Arizona on Saturday, February 1st in Tucson, and play a multitude of matchups between 4 different conferences throughout the season. CWU finished 2018/19 with an impressive 6-3 record, making it to the Sweet-16 of the national playoffs, against the Wildcats of Arizona. Expect the upcoming matchup to be a ‘revenge game’ for Central Washington, as these teams have not seen each other in a XVs match since that fateful one last April.

Other individual clubs from Fall campaign conferences will also be making appearances as they hope to crack into the national championship playoff bracket. #8 BYU from the Rocky Mountain, #10 Army & #12 Penn State from the East, along with Wisconsin from the Big Ten will be playing multiple games throughout the Spring season. The soonest Fall conference team to play their Spring counterpart, will be #8 BYU vs #4 St. Mary’s in an incredible showdown in Moraga, CA on Saturday, February 8th.

Central Washington Rugby Instagram