The 2014 men's college season kicked off in earnest this weekend. Here's what you need to know:
BIG MEN ON CAMPUS
Ricky Garbanzo, Coastal Carolina – Down 2-0 away to perennial powers UCONN? No sweat for Coastal Carolina senior forward Ricky Garbanzo. The Chanticleers’ striker assisted on two goals to tie the score, and then, still unsatisfied with his performance, added a goal in the 72nd minute to make it 3-2. That’s how it would end up, giving Coastal Carolina a huge win to kick off their season.
Markus Naglestad, Providence – Who's the best Norwegian goal scorer you've ever seen outside of Ole Gunnar Solksjaer? Providence’s redshirt senior forward Markus Naglestad hopes to enter that discussion after scoring four goals in a 5-1 rout of Rhode Island this weekend, all coming in a 13-minute, second-half span.
TOP 10 RANKINGS
1) UCLA, 2-0-0
The Bruins weren’t fooling around when they scheduled a road trip to face No. 11 Wake Forest and No. 22 North Carolina for their first two games of the season. And the gamble paid off. UCLA kicked off their road trip on Friday with a 3-1 win over Wake and then handled UNC 1-0 on Sunday, making sure we all know that the Pac-12 is still one of the strongest conferences in America, and that the Bruins might be the best team in it.
2) Notre Dame, 1-0-1
The Fighting Irish kicked off their title defense on the right foot, beating No. 12 Marquette out of the gate, but then ran into a stone wall on Sunday against No. 9 Georgetown. Notre Dame had 23 shots in the 0-0 draw, eight of them on target, but none of them could get past Hoyas ‘keeper Tomas Gomez. The Irish will return home on Sept. 5 to take their frustration out on Dartmouth.
3) Virginia, 1-0-0
Virginia almost suffered a similar fate against No. 26 Old Dominion as ACC rivals Notre Dame did against Georgetown. Despite peppering ODU with 19 shots in regulation, the Cavs couldn’t find a breakthrough. Just 1:46 into overtime, senior forward Ryan Zinkhan fixed that with his right foot, giving UVA their first win over ranked opposition of the season. Next weekend won’t necessarily get any easier, though, with a trip to face the Golden Hurricane and UAB.
4) Louisville, 1-0-0
Louisville kicked off their new life in the ACC with a bang, notching a 1-0 over No. 2 Maryland courtesy of a header by Real Salt Lake academy product Andrew Brody. Yes, senior goalkeeper Joachim Ball needed to make five saves to keep the shutout intact, but the Cardinals are obviously not to be trifled with.
5) Washington, 1-0-0
The Huskies only had one game on Labor Day weekend, but they made it count with a 4-0 takedown of Gonzaga. Senior forward Darwin Jones scored a brace, redshirt senior goalkeeper Spencer Richey got a shutout and Washington limited their neighbors to just five shots. Hard to say they were really tested by the unranked Bulldogs, but it's still a perfect start to the Huskies season.
6) North Carolina, 1-1-0
No. 7 Cal is probably not as good of a team as they were last season, but getting a 3-1 win against them is still an excellent result for the Tar Heels, and at least proves that they have a few more goals in them than they did last year. Some of the luster from that win was taken off by a 1-0 loss to UCLA on Sunday, but a narrow loss against the best team in the country is no embarrassment.
7) Georgetown, 0-0-2
Two draws on opening weekend doesn’t seem like a particularly good showing, particularly considering that one of those draws came against Indiana, a team that went 8-12-2 last season. The Hoosiers then went on to beat Marquette, though, and Georgetown followed it up by holding reigning champions Notre Dame scoreless. Tough to know exactly how good the Hoyas can be, but their weekend results are enough for them to hold their position.
8) New Mexico, 1-0-0
Alright, our bad, guys. We didn’t think New Mexico could recover from losing so many starters from their semi-final season last year. We were wrong. The Lobos opened their season with a 1-0 win over visiting No. 13 Akron, a team which, although not quite at the lofty heights they reached a few years ago, is still a very talented team. New Mexico also forced ‘keeper Jake Fenlason into eight saves. The Lobos can’t rest on their laurels, though, because UCLA is coming to town next weekend.
9) Maryland, 0-1-0
Losing to Louisville is not the worst thing in the world, so we’re not ready to give up on the Terrapins just yet. Still, questions surrounding Maryland’s goal-scoring production entering this season are still unanswered, even if they did put a ton of pressure on the Cardinals going forward. The Terps will get a chance to redeem themselves against No. 17 Coastal Carolina on Monday.
10) Michigan State, 2-0-0
The Spartans probably should be winning against Florida International and SMU, but scoring four goals over their two games and earning a shutout in both leaves a solid impression. It will take a little while before State gets truly tested – against Maryland, no less – but in the meantime we can at least take away that they have as good of a team defense on the field as they do on paper.
It’s early days still, but it’s looking like the Big Ten is going to be much better this year than they were last year. If that’s the case, don’t sleep on the Nittany Lions. Penn State opened their season with two wins this weekend, and nearly 3,000 fans turned out for their second to watch a 3-0 takedown of St. John’s (WATCH HIGHLIGHTS HERE).
You may have noticed that our darkhorse pick from last week, Stanford, is nowhere to be found in this week’s rankings. That’s because Creighton handed them a 2-0 loss in their opening game of the season (WATCH HIGHLIGHTS HERE).
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Washington vs. Seattle, Sept. 4, 10:30 pm ET (Pac-12 Networks)
This is just a fun game, usually. Seattle has an excellent chance to knock their more esteemed neighbors of their perch, while Washington can cement their status as one of the nation’s best in a derby win.
Wake Forest vs. Connecticut, Sept. 5, 7:00 pm ET (watch on WakeForestSports.com)
Both of these teams need a mulligan after disappointing opening weekends, but they remain two of the best teams in the country. We’ll see if a mixture of talent and desperation can produce a cracker in Winston-Salem.
Nate Sulat covers the college soccer scene for MLSsoccer.com.