On Friday, the Atlantic Coast Conference will have the chance to prove why it is regarded as the best college soccer conference.
The #1 Maryland Terps (12-0-1) host the #2 North Carolina Tar Heels (11-1-1) in a nationally televised showdown. That is not #1 in the ACC against #2, it is #1 in the TopDrawerSoccer.com Tournament 48 against #2.
The action kicks off at 6:00 p.m. (ET) on ESPNU from, what is expected to be, a sold-out Ludwig Field.
Setting the stage for this college soccer blockbuster is the current run of form of both programs.
Maryland enters the contest with its best start to the season since 1968, which is to say this is the best the Terps have been since most of you were born.
The Tar Heels are riding a seven-game winning streak, including six shutouts, into Friday’s road clash.
The previous results only tell part of the story. Based on statistics, this is also billed as the top defense in the nation against the top ranked attack.
Collectively, North Carolina has basically eliminated the opportunities to give up goals. In those six shutouts, the opposition only managed eight shots on goal, which is even more impressive considering six of those shots came against Virginia on September 21.
The stout defensive work of the Tar Heels has earned the defending national champions the top ranking in shutout percentage in Division I.
However, there are very few attacks in the nation quite like the Terps. The speed of play for Maryland is faster than pretty much any other team, which has resulted in Sasho Cirvoski’s team garnering the top billing for goals scored per game (2.92) in the country.
The high-profile ACC game is not the only nationally televised college soccer contest worth keeping an eye on this weekend. UC Santa Barbara hosts Cal Poly in an important Big West game on Fox Soccer Channel on Friday at 11:00 p.m. (ET), which means no one outside of California will awake to watch it.
The Gauchos enjoyed the return of senior captain Machael David to the lineup on Tuesday in a 2-0 win over Sacramento State. Junior center back Peter Schmetz will be back in the lineup for Friday’s contest against the Mustangs.
Rest of the Top Five:
The #3 Akron Zips, fresh off announcing Jared Embick will be the new head coach in 2013 following current head coach Caleb Porter’s departure to the Portland Timbers, host West Virginia on Saturday.
Akron leads the conference with a 4-0-0 record, but the Mountaineers are only two points back of the top of the table. The Zips are attempting to move into second place all time for conference unbeaten streak. Currently, Akron is undefeated in its last 42, which is tied with Clemson (1972-1980) and four behind Furman (1999-2003).
In the Big East, #4 Marquette returns home for a game against Seton Hall on Saturday. The Golden Eagles, who lost their first game of the season over the weekend, took care of business Wednesday night, bouncing back with a 4-0 defeat of Pittsburgh
Team to Watch:
The Michigan Wolverines (4-7-1) face Indiana in Bloomington on Friday with the season on the line. The Wolverines cannot afford another loss, but winning in Indiana is not something that comes easy.
Chaka Daley’s side took on a daunting schedule this year, which only does the team any good if it can start generating results. The losing record will keep the Wolverines out of the postseason unless they can win the Big Ten tournament.
Friday’s clash may be a turning point in that quest after Michigan showed some guts and determination on Tuesday playing down a man against Akron in a 1-0 loss on the road.
It is not the game of the week because Maryland and North Carolina are hogging the spotlight, but if you want to watch one of the best rivalries in college sports, find the game online on Sunday.
These two teams genuinely do not like each other. This is not a manufactured rivalry based on proxy between the campuses. Rather, these are two programs that see the game in different light. Also, this may be the last time these two teams meet with both joining new conferences in 2013.
Oh, and Gyasi Zardes is playing.
Can Washington keep rolling through Pac-12 opposition? The Huskies travel down to the Bay Area for games against California and Stanford this weekend. If Washington is going to claim the Pac-12 title, six points are probably a necessity from this trip.
Chris Thomas or Daniel Haber? Who will be the top scorer in Division I on Monday?
Who is the top dog in the Big Ten? Northwestern and Indiana have switched spots in the TopDrawerSoccer.com Top 48 this week as the two Big Ten programs have both enjoyed good starts to the season. The two teams meet on November 1.