Wednesday, 28 December 2011

BUAFL Breakdown: Northern Conference

Sheffield Hallam Warriors
The Hallam Warriors are looking unstoppable at the moment. Their offence is averaging over 76 points a game with MVP candidate Danny Pyle leading a potent rushing attack. Their defence is also strong having conceded only to Hull and they have only one real challenge left this year against their cross town rivals the Sheffield Sabres. That said, the Steel Bowl will probably only be a formality for Coach Batty and his boys.

Without a serious upset, Hallam are destined to go 8-0 in regular season games, but they have everything to prove in the playoffs. Many have written off Hallam as soon as they come up against one of the big four (Portsmouth, Hertfordshire, Birmingham and Loughborough), so it’s up to the Warriros to show that they have the versatility to cope with the other teams that are regarded as the league’s best.

Sheffield Sabres
With a relatively easy first half of the season, Sheffield will have to step it up for the second. The Sabres have played some of the north’s worst in Huddersfield and Lancaster and although they still have bottom of conference Tyrants to play, they also have to take on Hallam, Carnegie and Bradford. 

Losses against Bradford or Carnegie will put them out of the playoffs and perhaps out of the plate, however the biggest game of them all will be against Steel City rivals Hallam. If they win, they will clinch the conference. If they lose they will be in a ‘points conceded’ battle against Hull who have only been scored on by Bradford and Hallam – two teams the Sabres have yet to play.

UH Sharks
Hull have an easy schedule after Christmas which is probably a good thing as they have had some close run ins in their last three games. Their special teams did the scoring against Carnegie, but they conceded over fifty against Hallam and couldn’t get their offence to finish against Huddersfield. With games against three teams whose offences have only managed to put up a combined 117 points in 13 games, the Sharks will be looking to their defence to win them some games.

If Hull can go the last three games without conceding a point then they’re in with a good shot at the playoffs. Either way, they are likely to see some form of postseason football.

Bradford Bears
Although the Bears had a slow start, it looks like they are starting to find their form. Perhaps this is what you’d expect from a rookie team with a large and experienced coaching staff and with Hull being the only team to have scored on the Bears, they look to have taken on the ‘Defence wins championships’ philosophy. 

Bradford will be looking to build on their momentum and come in to the Sabres game with all guns blazing. This is a huge game for both teams because if Bradford cause an upset and win, they could be in the plate in their first season and depending on how Bangor do against Carnegie, could potentially push the Sabres out of postseason all together! However This eventuality is unlikely, leaving Bradford as a long shot for postseason and a favourite for 5th place in the conference.

Bangor Muddogs
Bangor have had a great season so far. Their first victories came this year, with the only loss being to the Sabres. With talk of some new imports coming over from the states for the start of 2012, Bangor will look to continue their form and hit post season football. They have two obstacles in their path though. 

The first is Carnegie and their stingy defence, a game which has the potential to be one of the highlights of the Northern Conference in the New Year.
The second is their schedule; they have already missed a game against Huddersfield and Bangor need to ensure that this game is replayed. Failing to do so could result in the game being awarded a tie, which could potentially cost the Muddogs a place in the plate.

York Centurions
Having only scored 28 points in four games, it’s a bit of a shock that the Centurions have got to the Christmas break with a 3-1 record. However if you look at their opponents, it’s not hard to see why. York will have to step it up a number of gears if they want to compete in the second half of the season. With four games left to play, they aren’t a favourite for ANY of them. Their closest will be their first matchup which is against Lancaster. They then play Hallam, Derby and Hull. York have done just enough to win in three of their games, they need to really step it up if they want to come anywhere near a winning season this year.

Leeds Celtics
Having only just scraped past MMU and being shut out by both Bradford and Hallam, the Celtics aren’t the Celtics of old. They have perhaps the most varied offence in the conference but this balanced O seems to be less effective than the more gimmicky offences they’ll see this season. Leeds should be expected to beat Huddersfield and lose to Hull with their only debatable game left this season being their rival match against Carnegie. This should be a low scoring affair which will depend on how well the Celtic’s D can shut down Leeds Met’s flexbone offence.

Leeds Carnegie
Carnegie have perhaps one of the most under-rated defences in the league. Their D has only conceded one score all season and that was early on in their opener because of terrible field position. This puts them tied with Birmingham and only just behind Newcastle on defensive TDs conceded.
 Although it’s claimed that defence win championships, offence wins games. Carnegie’s problem is that their offence is one dimensional and therefore fairly easy to shut down by any team that has any scout on them from the past few years.

Carnegie also suffer from having the most difficult schedule of the conference. The only team they don’t play who have wins under their belt is York and York are not very good. Leeds Met’s upcoming games get steadily harder as they progress through the back end of the season. On the strength of the Carnegie D, there is a small chance of playoffs but the triple option O needs to step up and start winning games. For postseason progression, Carnegie must win every game left in their schedule.

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