Here’s the preview for Week 1.
In fall 2023, Rocket League and VALORANT crowned their champions, the University of Akron and Northeastern University, respectively. Now with spring around the corner, Overwatch 2 and League of Legends take the stage. League of Legends can be found through Riot Games' own collegiate competition known as College League of Legends (cLoL).
Five Esports Collegiate Conference (ESC) teams placed in the top 50 of the Overwatch Collegiate Homecoming competition last fall. Three of the teams, Ball State, Northeastern, and Ohio, all placed in the top 32 and played in the Collegiate Homecoming Playoff that Northwood University ended up winning. Miami placed right outside of the top 32 cutoff at 33.
In this preseason preview, let's take a look back at last year's Overwatch 2 champion and Week 1's thrilling matchups across the conference.
ESC preseason preview
The 2023 season brought the Red Bird Rivalry to the championship event between Ball State University and Miami University. Although losing to team Miami in the regular season 3-2, Ball State showed dominance in the championship.
With the roster of Manwe, Ninjacurlyfry, Spencer, RavenStrider, and yakester all returning, Ball State is already the preseason favorite to run it back. In the fall, the Ball State roster was able to place top 16 in the Overwatch Collegiate Homecoming competition ran by Blizzard, which had 374 teams.
Their rivals, Miami University, comes back this year with nearly the same roster alongside a few additions and a notable role swap by tank player and captain Jude "KaBunga" Huff-Sliman. Three other schools to look out for this year include Northeastern and Ohio as they placed in the semifinalists last year.
ESC Week 1 preview
The spring season of Overwatch 2 takes the stage on Tuesdays from Jan. 23 to April 9. Some matches will take place on Thursdays as well, so keep an eye out for the weeks of double matches. For this Week 1 preview, take a look at our streamed match of the week and highlighted matches that you will not want to miss!
ESC Week 1: Broadcasted match of week
The ESC broadcast brings the defending champions into the light on the official ESC Twitch account. For the games that will not be on the broadcast, check out the individual streams from each school's broadcast channels linked below their previewed match.
Ball State versus Western Michigan (Overwatch 2): Jan. 23 at 8 p.m. EST*
The Broncos of Western Michigan start with an immense challenge against the defending champions. Ball State look to repeat this year and they have the roster to do so. After bowing out of the competition in the quarterfinals last year against Northeastern, Western Michigan look to go further and gain their first ESC championship victory across any title. With returning players in Jason "Vexa" Weber-Boling, Zachary "Arcane" Hufford, and Tyler "tyco", Western Michigan has enough seniority and chemistry. How things mix with their newer members on the roster will be what determines the outcome of their season.
The last time these teams met in the regular season, Ball State took the series 3-1. The Cardinals will be expecting a similar outcome, but do not put the Broncos out just yet. With a change in meta and some newer maps, anything is possible in Week 1. Tune in to the official ESC Twitch account on Jan. 23 at 8 p.m. EST to catch all of the action.
ESC Week 1: Highlighted matches
Northeastern versus Northern Illinois (Overwatch 2): Jan. 23 at 8 p.m. EST*
The Huskies battle it out to see who is the best dog in the conference. Northeastern achieved another ESC championship title in the fall thanks to their VALORANT roster. This put their total ESC championship count to four, which is only one title behind Akron for the most in the conference. Their Overwatch 2 roster has the chance to tie things up this year. After a close 3-4 defeat in the semifinals last year against Miami, Northeastern makes their revenge tour in 2024.
For Northern Illinois, the team reached the quarterfinals last year and faced the eventual champions. A 6-6 regular season put them as the last seed heading into tournament play. This year, they look to change that and move past the 0.500% mark. A tough duel between Northeastern and Northern Illinois marks the beginning of Week 1. Which pack will come out on top and howl into Week 2 victorious?
Kent State versus Ohio (Overwatch 2): Jan. 23 at 8 p.m. EST*
A rematch of one of last year's quarterfinal matches shapes out Week 1. Ohio University was able to sweep Kent State University last year in the quarterfinals and make their way to the semifinals before losing to Ball State. Ohio returns with a similar roster with veteran players Dillon "Muck" Muck, Aidan "Water" McCargish, and Zachary "craZmanG" Geiger. The Bobcats looked great in Overwatch Collegiate Homecoming and have shown a lot of promise heading into this season.
Kent State players, after a 7-5 regular season last year, look for revenge on the Bobcats due to that early quarterfinal exit. The Golden Flashes have been an extremely consistent program across all the titles in the ESC. However, they have fallen short of any championship run time and time again. Will this Overwatch 2 roster prove that they have what it takes to bring home Kent State's first ESC championship this year?
Stay tuned to esports.gg for more ESC esports news and updates.
*Match times are subject to change.