Saturday, May 7, 2016

Varsity Cup Preview & Prediction

For the third straight time in the Varsity Cup and the 10th time in 11 years BYU and Cal will clash for a title. It's the most storied and intense rivalry in college rugby, not matter when or where the match is played. Simply put, these two teams have been the best teams in college history. Few teams have been as consistent and as successful as BYU and Cal. However, that's history, today's Varsity Cup final is very much the present.

Without question BYU head into the match as favorites. They have been unstoppable this year. Their closest result all year was a 30-29 win over St. Mary's in Moraga back in February. That also happens to be the most points they gave up on the year as well and they then pounded St. Mary's in March. It's hard to find a fault with the Cougars. They have an outstanding defense and it's very rare for them to score less than 50 points. Even against Central Washington, one of their toughest matches of the year, they scored 58 points. Given their dominance this BYU could arguably claim to be one of the best of all time.

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Cal are not bad themselves. They may not be as dominant as they once were (which is probably a good thing because it means the college game is growing) but they hardly ever lose. Their only losses this year are to the University of British Columbia and one of those was by only a try. UBC won the BC Premier League and could probably beat BYU so losing to them shouldn't be a mark against Cal and if anything should make them stronger for when they face the Cougars.

Like BYU, Cal have dominated their opponents. They have also regularly broken the 100 point barrier and almost always score more than 50. Defensively they are excellent as well. Outside of their matches against UBC they also only gave up 29 points as their high.

Both teams have played several opponents in common but tossing out results against teams like Arizona State and Utah you have matches against St. Mary's and Central Washington. As previously mentioned, BYU had a very close result against St. Mary's before winning big (although in defense of St. Mary's they had played Utah two days before and had travel delays). Against Central Washington BYU won 58-27. That match was closer than the scoreline made it look. Cal beat St. Mary's 27-14 and then narrowly got past Central Washington 14-13 in the Varsity Cup semi-finals.

There are several players to keep an eye on in the match. For Cal it begins with the halfbacks. Fly-half Russell Webb has been excellent for a long time while Nick Boyer is a very good scrumhalf. Center Anthony Salaber is maybe the most underrated player in college rugby. BYU is absolutely stacked. Kevin Schofield has Eagle potential. Tui Laei has already been in 7s camp. Then you have the likes of the Elkington brothers, Zane Mendenhall, and Calvin Whiting.

We think that the match will be closer than most people are estimating. Cal always rise up in big matches but it's hard not to see BYU coming away with this one. They have been so strong this year and have barely showed any weakness. Plus, playing at South Field makes them in more difficult to beat.

The match starts at 1:00 p.m. PT and cam be seen on NBCSN. 

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