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Varsity Cup Round 1 - Our Picks

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Varsity Cup Round 1 - Our Picks

Penn State and Navy are both in action this weekend. Colleen McCloskey photo.

The Varsity Cup's 1st Round kicks off this weekend and in recent years we've seen a few surprises in this round.

While most would think that Cal and Central Washington are heavily favored to make the final (both teams get a bye this weekend), that doesn't mean all of the other games are foregone conclusions. 

Here's what we think (Goff Rugby Report rankings in parentheses):

Dartmouth (39) at Clemson (25). Upset special! While Dartmouth is ranked at #39, much of that has to do with strength of schedule. Clemson has struggled against tough teams, and Dartmouth, has, for the most part, won big against not-as-strong opposition. At their best, the Big Green can take apart a team that isn't on top of things on defense. Dartmouth has a reputation for being small and backs oriented, but that's a myth. It's possible Dartmouth can take the upper hand in set piece. If they do, they'll win. 

Notre Dame at Army (13). The University of Notre Dame rugby program is getting better, and the good news is, they aren't improving really fast, which would imply they just landed a couple of really good players and haven't really changed anything fundamental. No, the Fighting Irish are going to be a strong DI-level team in the future, but right now Army is much stronger. And despite the fact that West Point has a poor playoff record at home in the last several years, the Black Knights should handle the Irish.  

Penn State (10) at Harvard. No upset special here. Harvard will showcase their nifty new field against a well-regarded opponent, but Penn State has most, if not all, of the pieces of the puzzle, and should win.

Boston College (27) at Navy (18). Upset special! Navy can run, they can maul it, they are physical, and they defend well. But Boston College can lay claim to being one of the best true-club college teams in the nation. They scrum well. They have an impressive backline. And BC can be underestimated. This won't mean that BC will win, but they could, they most certainly could. 

Utah Valley at UCLA (33). Upset special! UCLA has not enjoyed a lot of success lately, losing big to Arizona, Utah, Cal, and Army, and losing a close one to Dartmouth. Utah Valley won the Mountain State Conference, which isn't a very tough conference, but they won it, regardless. UVU has a reputation of not backing down regardless of their circumstances. UCLA, playing at home, and tested against some solid teams, should be favored, but don't be surprised if Utah Valley makes it very tough for the Bruins. 

Arkansas State (7) at Oklahoma (43). ASU is very strong, can harness points from pressure, and is physical up front. They're been playing in a very difficult conference 15s schedule all spring. Oklahoma's preparation is not exactly the same, as OU has shifted between 7s and 15s. It's not going to be easy to be ready for the Red Wolves, and we figure Arkansas State will win.