Florida State vs Florida – 7:00 PM EST
As if one of the nation’s hottest non-conference rivalries wasn’t tantalizing enough already, added drama comes in the reality that the visitors will be aiming to knock off their second straight #1 ranked team on Friday night. The Gators had begun the season in horrendous fashion, getting blown out at home by Miami (FL) in a comedy of defensive errors before playing out a dull scoreless draw with North Carolina last Friday night. It looked like Florida were sinking without a trace again early against Duke, going down 2-0 early and facing immense pressure from the ACC side. Instead, Florida would surge back after a late first half goal, sealing the shock win in extra time. Having breathed life into their season, Florida will try to push forward again as they travel to Tallahassee to face bitter rivals Florida State, who ascended to the #1 ranking due in part to Florida’s upset over Duke. The Noles have looked dominant early in the new season, having overcome a big wobble against Minnesota early to grab a priceless win on the road before dominating Marquette before weather caused the game to be abandoned. A solid win on the road against UCF represented more progress, and FSU will be looking to tighten their grip on their #1 ranking in their last really big test before league play starts in a few weeks. These two clubs have a lot to live up to on Friday though, as last year’s game in Gainesville was an absolute classic, with Florida equalizing twice before Tiffany McCarty struck with the dagger as FSU won 3-2. Given that these two rivals almost always play it close, another classic could be in store on Friday night.
Washington State vs San Diego – 4:00 PM (USC Futbol Classic at Los Angeles, California)
Dead and buried after the first weekend of the season, San Diego are anything but entering week three of the 2012 campaign. The Torero’s looked to be in tough following two blowout losses against Pepperdine and Cal State Northridge that saw the club ship seven goals combined. Few likely gave them much hope against Texas A&M, even with home advantage. And then they humbled the Aggies’ electric attack on their way to a 1-0 win. Just as important was the victory two days later, where USD came from two behind at the break to win 3-2 in extra time. All of a sudden, the defending WCC co-champions are very much in the NCAA Tournament picture and could solidify their place with success this weekend against two Pac-12 foes. Opponents Washington State have breezed through the first two games of their schedule in Pullman, winning by a combined 9-0 margin, though neither of WSU’s opponents were much to write home about in the end. It could hardly be more different this weekend, with games against the aforementioned Toreros and Duke. Micaela Castain leads the way offensively for WSU with three goals and will surely fancy her chances against a defense that has leaked goals for fun for much of the season. At the same time though, the Cougars must be wary of their own defense, which hasn’t faced a side with nearly as much firepower as the Toreros thus far.
UConn vs North Carolina – 5:00 PM (Notre Dame Adidas Invitational at South Bend, Indiana)
Two old rivals will meet in South Bend on Friday to rekindle a battle that was fought many times in the past few decades. UConn was the unfortunate program who found UNC in their way to a title so many times over the years, seemingly always destined to play second fiddle to the Tar Heels on the national stage. While success hasn’t come as consistently for the Huskies in recent years, the club looks to be off to a great start, with two wins in three, which could have been three in four had the opener against UCLA not been cancelled as a result of awful weather. The Huskies really could have been 4-0-0 had they been able to outlast Boston College in a thriller last Friday night. The UConn offense has been electric thus far and will be looking to ignite again in their first match away from home this season. North Carolina is likely breathing a little easier going into this weekend with Summer Green and Katie Bowen back from international duty. Green should add some needed pop to an offense that had gone over two hundred minutes without a goal until the club scored in extra time against the University of Montreal last weekend. The defense has looked markedly better, despite the loss of Megan Brigman to injury, but Bowen should at the least add more depth to the unit. Carolina is still looking for its first official win of the season and certainly won’t want to go without one for the entire month of August. Especially not with the major rivalry match against Notre Dame just a few days later in South Bend.
Georgia vs South Florida – 5:00 PM (UCF Tournament at Orlando, Florida)
It may only be three games into the new season for South Florida, but this year must feel worlds apart from last year’s doomed affair, where the club was destroyed by UCF on opening night and never really recovered. This year? Well, USF still got beaten by multiple goals in the opener against UCF, but the Bulls have not been struggling since, with an upset victory over Miami (FL) just a few days later before a dominant 3-0 win at Indiana last Friday. Realistically, the rest of non-conference play eases up after this, so a win here could be a big feather in USF’s cap come November. It’s far from a given though, with SEC side Georgia coming to town. The Bulldogs are facing a potential make or break weekend as far as the non-conference schedule goes, with their best win thus far coming over UNC Greensboro, a result that may or may not hold up come Selection Monday depending on how the Spartans fare the rest of the year. A win this weekend is paramount to Georgia’s NCAA Tournament hopes, while a sweep would really do wonders for the Bulldogs’ postseason hopes. If the SEC club will have their two top players is certainly a question to be asked though. Goalkeeper Ashley Baker was dropped for Sunday’s blowout win after an error on Friday led to Kansas’ game winning goal, while attacker Alexa Newfield has played in just two of the club’s four matches thus far. Missing one or both in either of the club’s games this weekend could be difficult to overcome. In either case, UGA will be looking for more from redshirt freshman Bella Hartley, impressive thus far in 2012 with some real scorchers from distance that have made her the team’s leading scorer thus far. Hartley’s scoring threat means that Chilean rookie goalkeeper Christiane Endler could be called upon often on Friday for USF, with the freshman so far living up to the hype that’s made her one of her country’s most promising prospects of this generation.
Kentucky vs UNC Greensboro – 5:30 PM (UK Tropical Smoothie Invitational)
After two one-game weeks against rather tame opposition, Kentucky will get a sterner test on Friday as they host SoCon side UNC Greensboro. The Spartans sank like a stone last season amidst a coaching change and massive upheaval on the playing roster. The suicidal non-conference schedule surely didn’t help, a mistake that looked to have been repeated this season, with six major conference schools on the docket before league play commences at the end of September. Surprisingly, the Spartans haven’t fared badly at all thus far, running Georgia into extra time before shocking Wake Forest on the road despite not having the run of play for the vast majority of the match. With an ease in the competition last Sunday, UNCG took full advantage, blasting UNC Asheville by a count of 7-0 for the club’s second straight win. The Spartans’ win over Wake has them at least in the discussion for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, a claim that would gain more credibility with a good weekend in Lexington. The Wildcats will be feeling the pressure as well, with few big names on the non-conference schedule to boost the RPI with. While UNCG aren’t exactly a marquee name, they could be a decent notch on Kentucky’s belt with a win, especially given some of the other uninspiring names on the Wildcats’ non-conference slate. An adverse result here though could pile the pressure on UK ahead of a trip to Louisville next weekend.
USC vs Duke – 7:00 PM (USC Futbol Classic)
Two clubs who got a cold dose of reality last Sunday will be eager to avoid sinking into a two-game losing streak come the end of Friday’s matchup between USC and Duke. The hosts had done very well to win their first two games of the season considering just how many changes the Women of Troy had undergone through the playing staff in the offseason. But some defensive frailty had also been on display in those opening matches, a weakness that would be exposed in ruthless fashion by Minnesota last Sunday as the Gophers crushed USC, 4-1. That’s a potentially ominous sign for the home side ahead of their meeting with the Blue Devils. One thing you can’t accuse Duke of being is dull, as the Blue Devils have scored fourteen goals in three official matches in addition to seven more in two exhibitions. And all of that of course is without the club’s top two scoring options in Kelly Cobb and Mollie Pathman, both on international duty with the U.S. U20 team at the moment. The Blue Devils haven’t looked their usual selves on defense though, which is kind of puzzling considering that group returned intact from last season. The culmination of those woes came last Sunday, as Duke suffered a serious meltdown after going up 2-0 against Florida, losing in extra time, 3-2. An exasperated Robbie Church was less than pleased afterward and will surely be demanding better this weekend with two tricky matches coming up. Putting a young and enthusiastic USC squad to the sword would be a good way to reignite the Blue Devils’ title hopes.
Stanford vs Boston College – 7:00 PM
Stanford’s absurd regular season unbeaten streak ended with a shock defeat at the hands of West Virginia last weekend, but the club still clings to some pretty amazing streaks at home in Palo Alto. To be precise, the Card have won fifty-one straight at home, the second longest streak in NCAA history, along with a fifty-five match unbeaten streak at home as well. Those marks will be in danger on Friday though, with ACC side Boston College set to try and pull another upset. The Eagles were bounced by the Card on this very field in the Sweet Sixteen last season but gave the eventual national champions a stern challenge before falling by the wayside. This year’s Eagles have lit up opposing teams like a Christmas tree, though they themselves have shown signs of defensive frailty at times. That could be music to the ears of Stanford, who will likely be eager to get back on the scoresheet after an erratic performance in front of goal against WVU last Sunday. The home side will be sweating on the health of starting goalkeeper Emily Oliver, who has missed all of this season thus far through injury, while Courtney Verloo, a key to this year’s offense, sat out last week through a hamstring injury. Anything less than their best could lead to the unthinkable: a second straight loss for the Card. If that happens, Boston College could well elevate themselves to the role of national title contenders.
West Virginia vs Penn State – 7:00 PM (WVU 90 Minute Classic)
One of the stories of the season after last Sunday’s stunning upset of Stanford, West Virginia will try and keep the surprises coming on Friday night as they entertain Penn State in Morgantown. The Mountaineers had endured an indifferent start to the season with losses to La Salle and Central Michigan before shocking the world by downing the defending national champions. It was a tremendous accomplishment, but the Mountaineers can’t rest on their laurels with Penn State coming to town. The home side surely remembers being smoked by the Nittany Lions last year, losing 5-0 at Jeffrey Field in a humiliating defeat. Penn State has certainly shown an ability to pile on the goals this season, scoring fifteen in four games, including a 5-0 blowout of Central Michigan shortly after WVU had topped Stanford in University Park last Sunday. It’s been a little bit of experience combined with youthful exuberance that has fueled Penn State thus far. Christine Nairn looks like an early contender for the Hermann Trophy with five goals and three assists in her senior season thus far, while rookie Mallory Weber has four goals in four games and looks like one of the nation’s top freshmen thus far. WVU certainly isn’t about to roll over though. The Mountaineers will be riding a massive wave of confidence going into Friday and will aim for their second straight upset of a highly ranked opponent. Penn State will look to take another step towards a high national seed as they aim for another dominant win in this fantastic late August clash.
Dayton vs Central Michigan – 7:30 PM
Having already knocked off one their mid-major power brethren last week, Dayton will be looking for a repeat on Sunday with Central Michigan coming to town. The Flyers have successfully shook off their season opening loss to Texas and won three in a row, including the aforementioned win over Boston University last Thursday, followed by a win over Northwestern on Sunday. The high powered Flyers will have to deal with the absence of senior Alexis Garcia though, who was sent off towards the end of last Sunday’s win. Every little detail could count against the Chippewas, as Central Michigan comes in off a split weekend but one that still provided a big win nonetheless, with CMU taking down West Virginia a few days before the Mountaineers shocked the world with a win over Stanford. The follow-up from Neil Stafford’s side was a bit of a letdown, with the club being throttled by Penn State on Sunday, but the visitors will be looking to get back in the win column as they continue with a very demanding part of their schedule that sees them not return for a home match for another three weeks. Both of these clubs will likely be among the favorites in their respective conferences but will also be looking to do just enough to get themselves in the at-large bid picture as well. Victory here, especially for the away side, would go a long way in making that goal achievable.
Notre Dame vs Santa Clara – 7:30 PM (Notre Dame Adidas Invitational)
Affectionately dubbed the “Baby Irish” for their striking youth and inexperience, Notre Dame’s young 2012 side will get a real test this weekend as the club hosts Santa Clara and North Carolina in the club’s last home games before league play begins in the middle of September. Randy Waldrum’s side has certainly shown real signs of quality in the first few weeks of the season, but a clear picture of the club’s ceiling this year isn’t quite evident right now. Despite having chances against Wisconsin, the team fell to the Badgers on the road and was not severely tested in wins over Tulsa and East Carolina since. The time for tune-ups is over though, with the next five games likely to prove vital going forward. Their opponents for Friday have recovered quite nicely from their opening day drubbing at the hands of local rivals Stanford, winning against Pac-12 side Cal on the road before easing past UC Riverside. Though the schedule certainly isn’t forgiving from here on out, the Broncos will be heartened to know that replacements are on the way in short order with Sofia Huerta’s return from international duty imminent, with Julie Johnston to follow soon after. Until then, SCU will be hoping an experienced group of campaigners can get one over against the young Irish in South Bend. Though it’s largely been offense by committee for the Broncos thus far, the likes of Sarah Jackson and Meleana Shim should be among SCU’s most dangerous threats on Friday in this intriguing non-conference showdown.
Texas A&M vs Rutgers – 8:00 PM (Texas A&M Invitational)
It’s been a bit of an up and down beginning to the season for Texas A&M thus far. While the club is 2-1-0, the level of play hasn’t exactly been up to the Aggies’ usually standards, leading to no end of grousing from some of the club’s dissatisfied supporters. They managed to outlast UC Irvine in the opener but then had a total stinker a few days later in a 1-0 loss to San Diego. A 2-0 win over UTSA back at home was comfortable if not necessarily overpowering, and you get the sense that A&M still has much to prove. You could say much the same about their opponents on Friday night. Rutgers come in ranked and a perfect 4-0-0, but the club hasn’t exactly beaten a crop of title contenders thus far. The lone big win is over an Ohio State team, and that was in extra time after the Buckeyes had been reduced to ten following a red card. The club does have a fit and firing Jonelle Filigno on their side though. Filigno has often flattered to deceive at the college level despite starring for Canada’s WNT but has roared out of the gate this year with five goals in four games. The problem is Rutgers doesn’t seem to have much in reserve, as only one other player has scored this year. The good news is that Rutgers also has shown a strong defense this season, conceding just a single goal. They haven’t faced an offense with nearly as much firepower as A&M though, and the higher powered Aggie attack could do some real damage in this one. That is if everyone is pulling in the right direction. More of the lackluster performances of the first few weeks could lead to a rough night for the home side.
San Diego State vs Pepperdine – 10:00 PM
Two of the nation’s fast starting teams from the state of California meet up in San Diego on Friday night in a primetime clash of a couple of prospective Cinderella candidates come November. Most expected big things from hosts San Diego State after the return of a good many of last year’s key players, and the continuity has certainly paid off early on, as the Aztecs have won four straight at the Sports Deck to open up the new year. Defense has been the name of the game thus far for the Mountain West side, as SDSU has locked down opponents to the tune of four clean sheets out of four so far. Making it five on the trot isn’t going to be easy though, with the high scoring Waves coming to town. Nine goals in three games is evidence of the firepower available to head coach Tim Ward, with the duo of Anisa Guajardo and Amanda LeCave starting the new season on fire with three goals each. LeCave has shined especially bright with a pair of game winning goals to her name this season. The Aztec defense is likely the best the club will have faced thus far though and should provide a solid test for the Waves before the schedule eases up for a few weeks. By the same token, Pepperdine’s offense will certainly be the best the Aztecs will have faced, and keeping another clean sheet could be a tough ask. SDSU will undoubtedly try to grind a win out, while the Waves will aim to blow their opponents away in a flood of offense, making for a fun contrast in styles in San Diego. It should equal some very compelling viewing on Friday night.
UCLA vs Wisconsin – 10:00 PM
Pegged as a potential College Cup contender this season, little has changed through two weeks for UCLA, save their steady ascent up the rankings. While some might argue that the Bruins were a bit lucky their opener against UConn was abandoned due to weather, B.J. Snow’s side have hardly out a foot wrong since, using a capable offense and stifling defense to work their way to the top of some of the media’s rankings. What’s scary is that the Bruins aren’t yet complete, with Rosie White just now returning to the club from international duty, along with the return of Samantha Mewis and Sarah Killion in the coming weeks. UCLA managed to fell one Big Ten contender last weekend with a convincing win over Illinois and will look to do the same this Friday by toppling Wisconsin. The Badgers made a statement on opening day by defeating a youthful Notre Dame squad but haven’t been seriously tested since, clobbering a pair of overmatched mid-majors in their past two matches. The Badger offense has been well balanced, with three players leading on two goals, while the defense hasn’t conceded yet this year. Taking down the Bruins in Westwood is a whole different ordeal. But the rewards will be big for Wisconsin if they can pull the upset. They’ll likely shoot up the rankings themselves while also staking a claim as a potential dark horse for a run towards the College Cup should they walk away with a win here.
Washington vs La Salle – 10:00 PM (Husky Invitational)
La Salle raised some eyebrows on the opening night of the season with an upset of West Virginia in Morgantown and will get another chance or two at some giant killing this weekend at the Husky Invitational in Seattle. First on the docket is tournament hosts Washington, who themselves will be looking to extend a solid start to the season. The Huskies have come out strong, with three wins in three, including a weekend sweep on a trip to New York last week. The scoring has been steady, with Lindsay Elston and Chelsea Archer each netting a pair of goals, while the defense has been stellar as well, holding opponents at bay. The Huskies’ D hasn’t quite faced an opponent like La Salle yet though. The Explorers feature one of the nation’s most exciting scoring duos in Renee Washington and Kelsey Haycook, and the duo will be looking to ignore the Seattle night on Friday. La Salle has the tools to make a run at a national seed should they rack up the wins, but getting something out of this weekend looks crucial to those ambitions. Washington would likely settle for just a return to the NCAA Tournament, but a win here would be pretty big for the Huskies’ at-large bid hopes considering their opponents are likely to be in a lofty RPI position come the end of the regular season. It all adds up to a great matchup of two hungry teams looking to keep their 100% record intact on Friday night.