The Varsity Cup starts this weekend with six matches with some top, top sides. Here's a look at what to expect from each.
Boston College at Navy
Like most of the first round matches this one has a favorite. Previously Varsity Cup semi-finalists Navy should be the favorites to win. They have tested themselves against the like of Army and Penn State so far this Spring and have the athletes to be successful. They are also well coached. Boston College come into the tournament as underdogs. They have had conference success but haven't always faired well against the likes of Navy. Adding that they have to go on the road makes it that much more difficult.
The winner of this match will face finals favorites Central Washington in the next round.
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Utah Valley at UCLA
We're going to go out on a little bit of a limb but we think that Utah Valley can pull off the upset here. Utah Valley has a surprisingly large student body to pull from (it is the largest school enrollment wise in Utah) and has a bunch of fantastic rugby players that have played for a number of years. They did take home the DI-AA invitational the Varsity Cup ran a few years back. That said, UCLA has done well in this competition in the past and can also draw on a large student body with players that have played from a young age. UCLA are the favorites but this could be an upset.
Arkansas State at Oklahoma
Arkansas State will be the heavy favorites in this one. The Red Wolves have been playing very well this Spring and they have some of their mojo back from the team that played BYU in the DI-A final a few years back. They have the athletes and they experience to do well. They will have to go on the road but that is nothing new for the Arkansas State. Oklahoma are a good team and will be a tough test but Arkansas State has beaten similar sides easily in the past.
The winner of the Utah Valley-UCLA and Arkansas State-Oklahoma matches will face off in the next round.
Dartmouth at Clemson
For us, this is the closest match of the first round. Dartmouth haven't been as lethal ever since Madison Hughes moved to play with the Eagles 7s but they still have a great program. They have continued to do a good job of recruiting some of the best athletes on campus. They have also seen more success in the Ivy Conference. Their opponents Clemson have been slowly increasingly their game ever since they pulled off a Varsity Cup upset over Arkansas State a few years ago. Clemson were strong at the LVI and have put up good fights in the Mid-South. It's that experience playing Life, Lindenwood, and Arkansas State that should serve them well here. They are well-coached and have a game plan. If we had to predict we'd go with Clemson but it's close.
The winner of this match will play Cal in the next round.
Notre Dame at Army
Army have been playing some great rugby this year. They went on a tour of California and while they lost to San Diego State they did get their rhythm back and played well when they went back East. They have some great, fit players on the team and the Varsity Cup is a great opportunity for those players to take a stand up. They will face a good team in Notre Dame but this should be Army's match to lose.
Penn State at Harvard
Harvard have been called into the competition late and will face a big task against Penn State. The Nittany Lions have been very solid this Spring and enjoyed a great trip to the UK. They will be heavy favorites to win this match.