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Men’s Preview: A look at conference tilts

Article Written by J.R. Eskilson
Published: October 22, 2015

For a few conferences, there are only a couple of weekends left in the men’s Division I college soccer regular season. This weekend’s games could handle the conference crowns to some programs. Take a look at some of the games to watch from this weekend’s schedule. 

Five Games to Watch (records as of Oct. 21)

No. 11 South Florida (9-3-1, 4-0-1) vs. No. 19 SMU (10-2-2, 5-0), Saturday, Oct. 24, 7 p.m. (ET)

The battle for the AAC is this weekend when the top two teams in the conference battle on Saturday night in Florida. SMU and the stout defense tries to slow down a USF side that has been rolling through the competition lately. Both teams like to keep the ball so this game should come down to the midfield and who is able to win possession of the ball in key spots to allow the attackers to flourish. 

No. 21 UC Santa Barbara (10-5-1, 4-2) vs. No. 20 Cal Poly (8-3-3, 3-1-2), Saturday, Oct. 24, 7 p.m. (PT)

It’s the return leg of the Blue-Green rivalry on Saturday at Harder Stadium. Cal Poly won the first meeting last week in overtime. The Gaucho Locos will pack the stands and hope to will the home team back to its winning ways. The Gauchos will be counting on forward Nick DePuy to get the group rolling again. The bigger concern for the UCSB coaching staff may be shoring up the defense and keeping the Mustangs off the scoresheet. This could be a huge game for the Big West standings at the end of the season, which is just around the corner. 

No. 17 Old Dominion (7-2-1, 3-1-1) vs. No. 23 Kentucky (8-3-1, 4-0), Saturday, Oct. 24, 7 p.m. (ET)

It’s another week where Conference USA has one of the best games on the schedule. Old Dominion hosts Kentucky on Saturday, which is a more meaningful game for the road team. Kentucky’s impressive record has not translated into a strong RPI standing. The Wildcats sit at No. 50 heading into the weekend, which would put Kentucky outside of the postseason without an automatic berth. A road win over the No. 20 team would go a long way into helping improve that RPI and setting up a good position heading into November. 

No. 3 Stanford (11-1-1, 4-0-1) vs. UCLA (7-6, 3-2), Friday, Oct. 23, 8 p.m. (PT)

This may feel like a repeat week with some of the recent games of the week ending up on the list again, but little has changed between the two periods. UCLA still looks like one of the best teams in Division I in the attack after the forwards have finally returned to close to game fitness. Meanwhile, Stanford is keeping everyone at bay while trying to lock up the Pac-12 title for the second consecutive season. Friday’s matchup could put the nail in the coffin for UCLA and seal the title for the Cardinal. 

Rutgers (9-4-1, 3-3) vs. No. 18 Ohio State (8-4-2, 3-1-1), Sunday, Oct. 25, 1 p.m. (ET)

The two hottest teams in the Big Ten square off on Sunday. Rutgers has won five in a row leading into the game. Star forward Jason Wright, who should be on the radar of MLS, has 12 goals this season. Ohio State rolls into this week with a nine-game unbeaten run.

Three Players to Watch

Chase Rau, Western Michigan - The senior goalkeeper started the last three games for the Broncos and picked up a pair of wins in those appearances Rau and the Broncos face off against Akron on Saturday in a big Homecoming tilt. The goalkeeper and the defense will need to be sharp against the best team that Western Michigan has faced this season. 

Adam Wilson, Cincinnati - Wilson is tied for second in Division I in assists with eight on the season. The Scottish midfielder has fit in perfectly with the Bearcats squad in his debut campaign, and leads the Bearcats as they face Temple on Saturday in what could be a high scoring clash. The two teams combined for five goals in the first meeting this season. 

Tanner Thompson, Indiana - The Hoosiers picked up a big win over Louisville on Monday and now head into the final three conference games of the season. This weekend, Thompson and his Hoosiers take on Michigan as both teams jockey for positioning in the Big Ten standings and the RPI. Thompson is key to the success of Indiana. If he is pulling the strings in the came, the home team will have a good chance at collecting all three points. 

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