Tuesday, 17 January 2012

BUAFL Breakdown: The SWAC

There are two old power houses reasserting themselves over the fast improving relatively new boys in the SWAC, but it is always competitive. Expect an 8-0 team this year that team should do better in the play offs with their stronger record.

UWE Bullets
UWE lost some key starters from last year, but unlike their neighbours in Bristol appear to have not missed a beat. The defence in particular looks very good, with the usual tricky offense being good enough (and getting better) to beat most teams. 

Their only challenge in the second half will come from Exeter (maybe) and Cardiff. That last game of the season will most likely decide the Conf. title and who will go undefeated. The Bullets are well equipped to cause teams real problems in the play offs and Head Coach Matt Dyke will be planning a clean sweep to the playoffs.

Cardiff Cobras
The Cobras are in the middle of a record breaking run of 12 victories stretching back to 4th Dec 2010. They started slowly last year but got better and better as the year went on. In that run they have now beaten every other team in the conference.

It was a particularly young team last year and that means nearly everybody returned this year so new HC Simon Browning, who also added depth and experience to the coaching team, will be looking to go further this year with a play off place and wins. 

The best way to do that is to win the conference which will require a second win in a row over the Bullets (the Cobras spoilt their undefeated season last year) in what looks like being the game of the season at the end of Feb. There are tests before then, first game back after the break in Exeter will test the team but with arguably the best QB in the conference in Tom Williams the Cobras have the talent to go undefeated into the play offs in their 25th anniversary year.

Exeter Demons
Not the biggest team in the conference, but they have speed and under a new HC Damon Kirby they appear to be getting better game by game. However the schedule has not been kind and their remaining games are all against the top teams in the conference and they could lose all their remaining fixtures and end with a losing season, which would be tough on a good team. 

The real test will come at home to the Cobras first game back after the break, if the Demons can win that one they have a legitimate chance to win out or at least make the rest of the season very interesting in the wacky world of the SWAC.

Plymouth Blitz
The Blitz have made the break through, they are probably wishing they had the top two teams later in the season as those early defeats to the Bullets and Cobras will consign them to the Trophy competition, but they are big, tough and physical and now appear to believe they can win. 

The difficult trick for the Blitz is playing local rivals Exeter twice in 2012, these games will decide the fate of both teams and could open the post season door for Titans/Killer Bees/Cuda.

Swansea Titans
Swansea are threatening to break into the top 4 in the conference, but the 3rd year team will have to wait till next year before they really challenge. They have size, but not enough speed to threaten the top boys, but they are on the verge of beating a good one and are probably a good recruitment class away from post season performances. The coaching set up is stable and the technical skills improving. This year will be probably be 4-4 season.

Bath Killer Bees
Are always a tough team to beat, but in recent years have been the "nearly" team in the SWAC. They are a  good, well organised, physical team that cannot quite beat the top teams in the conference. This year looks no different and expect them to finish with at least 4-4 and maybe better.

Bristol Barracuda
The Cuda have imploded! Last year they were arguably the best team in the conference, losing to UWE in a weather effected game, which cost them a perfect season and home field advantage in the play offs. This year they have lost 4-5 veteran stars and the replacements have not yet delivered, add in a couple injuries and the reality of the SWAC depth has hit home hard. 

Expect them to re group in the new year, but a losing season could be on the cards if they can’t beat the Titans in the season finale.

Bath Spa Bulldogs
Bath Spa look to have improved on their first year, but still have a long way to go to be competitive in this conference. A new head coach and philosophy should see continuous improvement but this year 2-3 wins is the best they can hope for, with one of those from an inter conference game. It is one of the toughest conferences to start life in as there is so much depth, but hopefully a good platform is being laid for future success.

Gloucester Gladiators
In their first year the Glads they looked like a team in desperate need of more coaching organisation. During the off season there were some noises that this was being sorted, but there is little sign of progress on the scoreboard. The middle of the SWAC has got better generally this year and it could just be a case of not progressing as fast as some others. Their best chance of a victory this year will come from the 2 inter conference games.

Tarannau Aberystwyth
Aber are geographically isolated which brings lots of problems for their programme including limited coaching resources, so they are more dependant than most established teams on the quality of their recruiting and who turns up each year. 

They usually manage to put together a decent team built on toughness and being well organised, which gives them a chance to be competitive. This year the offense looks very poor and the defence has not been up to their usual standard, which means it is ordinary at best. Apart from the shock in Bangor they have shown signs of some improvement but are likely to end the season with only 1 or 2 wins and if they see a repeat of the fall off seen last year they could struggle to get that.

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