No. 2 Arizona State (6-0) at No. 3 Colorado State (4-0) – 7 p.m., Friday
COYNE: The teams considered the last two contenders to hand Michigan a regular season loss meet in Fort Collins on Friday night. Who’s going to win it? I’m going to take my cue from last year, when the Rams traveled down to Phoenix and beat the Sun Devils, 14-10.
That ASU team was better than this year’s team when one considers the losses: All-Americans Tyler Westfall (attack), Anthony LaFlam (middie) and Justin Krider (defense). This year’s Colorado State squad is nearly identical among its key players as last season, and the Rams boast the better faceoff man in Scott Gelston. Throw in home field advantage and this one is easy to call. The only wild card is Ryan Westfall. While I think he’ll go off, he won’t be enough. Ram tough, 13-12.
SCHOOLER: There is no question I am going with the red hot Sun Devils. Altitude? No problem. Snow? No problem. Sleet? No problem. ASU is the best team in the county. I am not on their jock or anything (Jac thinks I am), just stating the truth. And to be honest, I saw Colorado State play, and they have a lot of weaknesses, one being their defense.
But Alex Smith seems to know that, changing their playing style accordingly. They play a very slow game, similar to Michigan and the old Mike Allan UCSB squads. They hold the ball on offense to keep it out of their defensive end of the field. This could frustrate the Devils, but with their offense, they will score every time they get the ball. I’m going with Arizona State by 5.
No. 4 Chapman (6-1) at No. 7 BYU (9-2) – 7 p.m., Saturday
COYNE: In order to win this game, Chapman must keep BYU in single digits. Can they do it? A couple of weeks ago, I wouldn’t have thought so, but after this past weekend when the Cougars managed only six goals against Michigan and seven against Michigan State, I’m starting to believe it’s likely. Playing at home will certainly help, but the Panthers defense is probably the best one BYU will see all season.
Obviously, Chapman’s Achilles heel is they can’t score — an odd transition from the run-and-gun Panthers of the last three seasons. And the Panthers will be trying to double down, as they play Utah on Friday night. This raises serious concerns, but I’m going to assume the defense will carry the day. Chapman, 8-6.
SCHOOLER: If this game is in SoCal, I am going with Chapman. But since this is in Provo, the pick is BYU. Aside from the Duluth game, the Cougars have been solid at home. After a tough “double down” in Michigan, they are looking to turn things around. Ted Ferrin (34g, 28a) and Tyler Monteath (15g, 13a) are an unstoppable combo. The Panthers have some guns as well, but they do not have the depth to win in Provo. This game will be close throughout, but the Cougars will pull away in the fourth and hold for to victory.
No. 10 Santa Barbara (6-2) at No. 8 Michigan State (4-1) – 7 p.m., Thursday
COYNE: All things being equal, Michigan State is the deeper, more talented team. Add in the fact they are playing at home and will be sharper than the Gauchos — UCSB hasn’t played a ranked team in a month — and this is an easy pick.
There is room for the Gauchos to pull the upset. Sparty is not a dominant faceoff team and Oisin Lewis has proved to be a handful at the ‘X’ this season. This will allow UCSB to hang around, probably until mid-third quarter, but Michigan State will start to pull away at that point. All the Gauchos will have at the end of the contest will be insomnia — from the game as well as the three hours they lost on the flight out. Sparty, 13-9.
SCHOOLER: No question who I pick here, but I am honestly a little scared of Michigan State. The Spartans play very well at home and that is how they have emerged in the national picture. They have been able to catch some teams looking ahead to the Michigan game. Another factor in this game is UCSB’s rustiness: the Gauchos haven’t practiced or played in two weeks.
It’s one of the downfalls of attending a school with the quarter system. They just finished finals last week and are in the middle of spring break. On the bright side, that could also mean that some of the banged up Gauchos get healthy. CJ Jacobs, their best middie, has been nursing injury after injury all season. He should be back to 100 percent this week. I’m looking for Jamie Bridgman and Jacobs to be lights out in this game. Lots of top cheese from the Gauchos. UCSB in a close one.
For more: http://www.laxmagazine.com/college_men/club/2010-11/news/032211_schooling_schooler_nick_takes_the_plunge