Another week full of college soccer action is upon us, and with that, we get more pivotal conference matches. In addition to these important conference showdowns, we also have some storied rivalries on tap this weekend. With that being said, let’s dive into five more matches that you need to watch this weekend. By Brian Ludden
Michigan State @ Michigan – Tuesday
Kicking off this week’s slate of games is an in-state rivalry that is not only for state bragging rights, but also a key game in the conference standings.
Looking at it from the top, Michigan’s record of 2-3-6 doesn’t seem all that impressive. But taking a closer look allows us to see some good results for the Wolverines, including a draw vs. then-#15 Akron and a draw vs. last season’s national championship runners-up, Indiana. It’s been a season of draws for Michigan, both in and outside of conference play. In Big Ten action, the Wolverines have just a single win, but also four draws. But these results put them at a total of seven points, which is currently good for 4th in the conference. After failing to make the conference tournament last season, Michigan currently sits in a good position to rectify that and qualify this year. At the moment, Michigan’s resumé isn’t good enough to get them an at-large bid. There are opportunities for the Wolverines to improve their resume, with matches at Notre Dame and Penn State, along with a home match vs. Northwestern left on their schedule. But assuming they have to win the Big Ten Tournament to get to the NCAA Tournament, Michigan will want to set themselves up in as best a position as possible. A win over Michigan State would temporarily push them to a tie atop the Big Ten Standings, and closer to securing at least one home match in the Big Ten Tournament.
Michigan State will enter Tuesday’s match as the better team and likely be considered the favorites. However, the Spartans haven’t had the greatest of success in Ann Arbor, failing to win in their last four trips and winning just twice in their last ten visits to UM Soccer Stadium. However, they’ll be hoping to overturn the past history, and may feel that they can do it, as Michigan State owns an unbeaten 6-0-4 record. Wins over Notre Dame and Indiana are the notable results on Michigan State’s schedule, while a 2-0-2 record in Big Ten play puts them at second in the standings. A win for Michigan State on Tuesday will see the Spartans officially secure their spot in the Big Ten Tournament, and keep the pressure on Northwestern in the race for the Big Ten regular season title.
A player to watch for Michigan is Bryce Blevins. Blevins is tied for the team lead with three goals, while also adding two assists. Alex Waggoner also has three goals on the season.
For Michigan State, Sean Kerrigan and Jonathan Stout are the team’s top scorers, with four and three goals respectively. Jeremy Sharp leads the team with three assists.
How to watch: Big Ten Network
Prediction: Michigan State 1, Michigan 1
Army vs. Navy (in Philadelphia) – Friday
While this rivalry is typically mentioned in a football sense, the Army-Navy Cup is one of college soccer’s best rivalries. The two military schools will face off on Friday night at Subaru Park in Philadelphia.
Army will bring a record of 3-6-1 into Friday’s matchup, and will look to complete a sweep of the military schools after a season-opening win over Air Force. From an in-conference perspective, the Black Knights have taken a step backwards after last season. Despite finishing as regular season champions in 2022, Army currently has a conference record of 1-3-1, putting them at 7th in the Patriot League standings. With four conference matches remaining, there is still plenty of time for Army to pick up points and move up the standings. The top six teams in the Patriot League qualify for the conference tournament, and with Army currently sitting level on points with 6th-place Holy Cross, three points vs. Navy could prove to be the difference once the tournament field is set. Averaging just one goal per game, Army’s attacking prowess is less than stellar. In order to find success and get those three points, Army will have to take advantage of a Navy defense that has conceded 8 goals in their past two games.
For Navy, they go into Friday’s matchup with a slightly better record, at 5-5-2 on the season, and 2-1-1 (7 points) in conference play. The reigning Patriot League champions are currently 4th in the conference standings, three points clear of the aforementioned Army. The Midshipmen saw a five-match unbeaten streak come to an end on Saturday, falling 4-1 to Boston University. The top two teams in the Patriot League will earn a bye to the conference tournament semifinals, and with a six-point gap between Navy and second-placed Loyola Maryland, Friday’s game seems to be a must-win for Navy if they want to keep pace and try to earn the first round bye. Navy only has one victory in the past 8 meetings between the two sides, but will hope to undo this narrative and move closer to the teams at the top of the Patriot League standings. As we mentioned above, Navy’s defense in the past two matches hasn’t been good, and this will have to be corrected on Friday.
On the Army side, Gage Lyons, Cooper Warren, and Jubril Bamgbala lead the team with two goals each. The trio will hope to take advantage of a Navy defense that has been shaky in the past few games and add to their totals.
A player to keep an eye on for Navy will be David Jackson. The senior leads the team in both goals and assists, finding the back of the net on seven occasions and dishing out five assists. Andrew Schug also has five goals on the season.
How to watch: ESPN+
Prediction: Navy 2, Army 0
Northwestern @ Penn State – Friday
Another key Big Ten showdown is on tap this weekend, as Northwestern and Penn State will meet under the lights on Friday night.
Penn State is featured here on “Games you need to watch this week” for the second straight week, after being included last week ahead of their matchup vs. Indiana. It was a disappointing day for the Nittany Lions, however, as they were outshot by Indiana and suffered a 2-1 defeat. Despite the loss, Penn State enters the week third in the Big Ten standings as teams reached the midpoint of the conference schedule. The Indiana loss was only Penn State’s second on the season, along with a 3-0 defeat to Pennsylvania back in September. However, with only three points separating 3rd and 8th in the Big Ten standings, there is little time for Penn State to dwell on the result. A win over Northwestern on Friday could see Penn State move to the top of the Big Ten depending on other results, and would also give the Nittany Lions a resumé booster.
Arguably the biggest surprise of the season has been the Northwestern Wildcats. After just one season at .500 or better since 2014, the Wildcats weren’t expected to do much this season, being predicted to finish 8th in the Big Ten preseason poll. Northwestern has already matched their win total from the past two seasons combined, with wins over Ohio State and Maryland being part of a 9-0-3 record. Northwestern heads into the week at the summit of the conference standings, with ten points from four matches following a 2-0 win over Rutgers on Sunday. After sneaking into the Big Ten Tournament on the final day last season, Northwestern has already mathematically secured their spot in this year’s edition. Of course, the Wildcats will want to be more than just participants this year, and on the verge of their first ten-win season since 2013, Northwestern will look to continue their impressive season and show that they are a team to look out for come tournament time.
A player to watch for Penn State is leading scorer Peter Mangione, who has recorded five goals and one assist on the season. Penn State will be without Mohamed Cisset on Friday, as the freshman defender was shown a red card in the loss to Indiana.
On the other side, Justin Weiss has been a key factor to Northwestern’s success this season, as he leads the team in both goals (six) and assists (seven).
Where to watch: Big Ten Network +
Prediction: Northwestern 2, Penn State 1
Yale @ Harvard – Saturday
Known as The Game in a football setting, Yale and Harvard have a historic rivalry on the soccer field as well. The two sides have faced off 108 times since 1907, with world wars and a global pandemic being the only things that have momentarily paused the rivalry. A meeting between two teams in the upper half of the Ivy League standings will be not only for rivalry bragging rights, but also an upper hand in the conference standings.
Harvard enters the week with a record of 2 wins, 3 losses, and 5 draws. The most impressive results for Harvard are draws vs. Seton Hall and then-#10 Vermont. Despite the unimpressive record, Harvard sits at third in the Ivy League standings, with five points from their first three conference matches. It is important to note that the Ivy League does not have a conference tournament, as the regular season champion will be the conference’s representative in the NCAA Tournament. A win for Harvard would allow them to keep pace with Dartmouth atop the standings, and potentially lead us towards a final day title-decider on November 4th, where Harvard and Dartmouth will face off. But before we can even think about getting there, Harvard will have to hope they can get one over their rivals on Saturday.
For Yale, they’ve found a bit more success than their counterparts. The Bulldogs boast a record of 5-3-2, with wins over UConn and UC Irvine. Like Harvard, Yale have tallied five points from their three conference matches, meaning they sit even with Harvard in the conference standings. Currently on a six-game unbeaten streak, Yale makes their first of two trips up to the Boston area this week, as they will face Boston College on Tuesday night. A win in Chestnut Hill would allow the Bulldogs to continue their hot streak and carry plenty of momentum into Saturday’s showdown. Although Yale will enter Saturday’s meeting as the better team on paper, history will tell us that maybe Yale shouldn’t be considered the favorites. The Bulldogs haven’t defeated Harvard in Cambridge since 2004, and have only won in Cambridge twice in the last 33 years. Yale will hope that history doesn’t continue to repeat itself, and will look to win their first game at Harvard in nearly two decades.
A key player to watch for Harvard will be top scorer Dylan Tellado, who leads the team with three goals on the season. WIllem Ebbinge leads the team with five assists, and will hope to provide Tellado and the other Harvard forwards with plenty of goalscoring opportunities.
For Yale, Max Rogers is one of three players tied for the team lead with two goals on the season. Rogers also leads the team in assists, with four. Joseph Farouz (2 goals, 3 assists) and Eric Lagos (2 goals, 2 assist) are also players that Yale will likely lean on to provide the goals.
How to watch: ESPN+ (U.S.), portal.stretchinternet.com/harvard (international)
Prediction: Yale 1, Harvard 1
North Carolina @ Wake Forest – Saturday
A Saturday night ACC showdown wraps up this week’s slate of games you need to watch, with Wake Forest hosting North Carolina.
Wake Forest enters the week with a record of 8-1-3, with their only loss coming back in September at the hands of Pittsburgh. The Demon Deacons have clearly been able to recover from that minor setback, as they currently sit atop the ACC Atlantic standings, and ride a seven-match unbeaten streak heading into this week. A comfortable 3-0 win on Friday over NC State was the most recent victory for Wake Forest. Looking ahead to the ACC tournament and keeping seeding in mind, Wake Forest cannot clinch a bye to the quarterfinals this weekend, but a win will put them closer to securing a top four spot and bye that goes with it. The Demon Deacons can technically secure at least a home tournament game (first round or quarterfinals) with a win and other results going their way, but we won’t get into that. At the end of the day, Wake Forest will just be looking to keep their winning streak going and continue gaining momentum and playing well.
For North Carolina, the Tar Heels suffered a minor setback on Friday night falling 1-0 at home to Syracuse. The loss to Syracuse was North Carolina’s first of the year, as they have a 5-1-4 record on the season. In terms of conference play, three draws vs. ACC opponents have seen the Tar Heels slip down to 5th in the ACC Coastal standings (8th in the overall conference standings) with six points. However with three conference matches left (including Saturday’s match vs. Wake Forest), the Tar Heels have plenty of opportunities to shoot themselves up the standings, as they’re just three points off overall third place Clemson. Matches against Louisville and Virginia will round out conference play following the Wake Forest game, so with nine points still available, North Carolina will undoubtedly be looking to take all three points and push themselves up the ACC standings, as well as give them a key win and bolster their resumé.
A key player for Wake Forest will be Roald Mitchell, as the junior is by far the Demon Deacons’ top scorer, with seven goals on the season. Mitchell will enter the week on a four-match goalless run, but a match vs. Wofford on Tuesday could possibly give him a chance to get back into goal scoring form ahead of Saturday’s matchup.
On the North Carolina side, Quenzi Heurman will look to lead the line offensively for the Tar Heels. We mentioned Heurman in last week’s edition, and although he was unable to find the back of the net vs. Syracuse, he still leads the team in goals and has scored three in his past four games.
How to watch: ACC Network Extra
Prediction: Wake Forest 2, North Carolina 1
Picture from University of Michigan Athletics
Brian Ludden is a contributing writer for College Soccer News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org