Monday, 2 January 2012

BUAFL Breakdown: The TVC


Southampton Stags

The Stags seem to have finally overcome the Solent split and are returning to their regular role as national contenders. Graham Thorpe has the offence firing, and the Stags have been scoring for fun with 166 points on the season so far. It would have been a lot more if ARU hadn’t awarded them a 1-0 win.

The offence had to bail them out in the opener against BNU, putting up 52 points in a wild shootout and their run defence was exposed, conceded 48 points to the Buccaneers, who didn’t attempt a single pass. HC Gareth Thomas has done a nice job turning the defence around since then, with convincing wins over Reading and Brunel, where they made plays on both sides of the ball. A strong second half comeback against local rivals Solent saw the Stags hit the break at 5-0 and top of the TVC. 

With Surrey still on the schedule the Stags are all but guaranteed postseason football, but this team will be looking at the playoffs and not the plate. While Imperial should test them, the Stags should have too much offence for them. Southampton look set to travel to Portsmouth unbeaten with the TVC title on the line. Unfortunately for them OBU’s easy schedule will mean they probably need to go undefeated to make the playoffs as OBU look likely to run the table, leaving them at 7-1 with far less points conceded (and with no head to head tie-breaker). While they will have the offensive fire power to cause Portsmouth problems, they will have serious problems stopping the power run game.

Portsmouth Destroyers

The champs may have lost some players from their championship season, but they have kept the swagger. They still have a large squad filled with athletes and they have an experienced coaching staff to match.

The Destroyers have started well with wins against 3 strong opponents (and Brunel) in BNU, Imperial and OBU taking them to 4-0 at the break. They were tested at times in each game, as BNU showed they could move the ball, while Imperial and OBU shut down their O for large sections of the game. None of them could stay with Portsmouth for an entire game, however, and all three took a pounding from Portsmouth’s powerful ground game and dominant defence. 

Portsmouth should roll over Solent, Surrey and Reading and head into the Stags decider full of confidence. If the Stags Oline can hold up against the pressure, then Pompey will be tested, and should concede some points. However they are likely to make plays of their own too, and with their offence likely to control the clock and put up a good score, the U should head into the playoffs unbeaten.  

OBU Panthers

OBU’s thrashing of Solent to start the season was a massive shock based on last year’s results. While Solent’s subsequent struggles made the win slightly less impressive, it’s clear OBU have made massive strides in the offseason, which is all the more impressive when you consider they changed coaching staffs.

They proved the result was no fluke with an impressive win over BNU, showing a dominant D that held the Buccs to their lowest offensive output in quite some time. They started the Portsmouth game in the same fashion, before wearing down in the second half. After thumping Holloway to hit the break at 3-1, OBU are in a strong position, and they deserve a lot of credit for turning the program around so quickly. 

While Imperial and Reading should test OBU, the Panthers have a great opportunity to run the table. They should have no problem beating Brunel or Gloucester and Reading’s defence just isn’t strong enough to compete with the top teams. This gives OBU a massive game against Imperial. If they win it they should go 7-1 and could potentially beat the Stags for a Championship playoff spot. It will be a hard fought game, but OBU should have a slight edge in the passing game. 

Imperial Immortals

Imperial got an easy start to the season, rolling over Surrey, and shutting down Holloway. Reading provided a better test, mounting a strong second half comeback through the air, before the Immortals won it with a pick 6. Their last game before the break was against the champs, and they simply couldn’t live with the U. With a small squad that’s light on big bodies, they were destroyed in the trenches.

If the Immortals want to make the playoffs, they will have to run the table, beating OBU and Soton in the process. This does not seem likely, and they are realistically looking to secure a spot in the plate for their first ever postseason football. If they can beat Brunel and Solent, they should have the tiebreaker edge to make the plate at 5-3. A win over OBU would all but guarantee it.  

Reading Knights

Reading returned a large number of starters from last season, and are much improved. They would probably contend for postseason football in a different conference, but have to contend with a difficult TVC schedule. After starting with a convincing win over Solent, Reading lost to Southampton. They were able to move the ball effectively against the Stags, but paid the price for poor red zone efficiency. They had similar problems against Imperial, turning the ball over 3 times in the red zone.   

Reading’s schedule after the Christmas break is incredibly rough with BNU, OBU and the U (Ed: so many U’s!) all coming up Reading will be hard pressed to win another game this year and will probably be the best 3-5 in the country. 

Royal Holloway Bears

Holloway have made positive steps since changing their coaching staff. They are playing stronger defence and have added a power run game. They are still some way from challenging in the tough TVC, but they no longer look like the whipping boys of old.    

The Bears lack the fire power to keep up with BNU, but with games against Solent and Canterbury, they will hope they can reach the .500 mark. While Solent have started abysmally, they have been improving each week, and could well sneak past the Bears.  

BNU Buccaneers

The loss to the Stags must have been heart-breaking as they were one drive away from knocking off a divisional power house. Following that game they ended up on the wrong end of a losing streak, as they were out muscled by Pompey and OBU. Still, they only have themselves to blame, they have routinely put up high scores on offence, while their defence seems unable to understand how to shed blocks or make tackles. If they can turn their defence around they could be a real force, as their offence has proved they can move the ball against some of the best teams in the country.    

BNU may concede to Reading, but Readingare unlikely to stop the wing. If the weather is poor, BNU will dominate, but even in good weather, they should have enough to edge past them. With games against Solent, Holloway and Surrey to follow, BNU should run the table to finish 5-3. This leaves them hoping that Imperial collapse and fall to .500, as they are unlikely to win any tiebreakers after conceding so many.  

Team Solent Redhawks

Having made the playoffs and the plate in recent years, Solent’s collapse is something of a mystery. They have a good coaching staff, good facilities, and a campus full of athletes. Losing almost every starter from last year’s D is going to be tough for any team, but Solent didn’t just struggle, they were embarrassed.

Thrashed by Reading and OBU to start the season, they were already all but out of the postseason hunt. They have shown some signs of life since then, having regrouped during the bye. A strong first half against the Stags and a win against Brunel will give them hope for a better run after the break.  

Brunel Burners

Brunel showed some promise in their first season, but they don’t seem to have taken the next step. They have a number of athletes, but seem unable to put it all together. Perhaps it’s not surprising considering the antics of their HC.

A hard fought loss to Portsmouth was followed by a win against Surrey and big losses to the Stags and BNU. Surrey aside, it was a tough start to the season, but a game against struggling Solent proved Brunel are still not ready to compete in the TVC, losing 11-8.  

With OBU, Imperial and Essex still to play, Brunel face a tough schedule, as all three will be fighting for postseason spots. Brunel will look to play spoiler, and add to their win tally. They should have enough to sneak past Essex.  

Surrey Stingers 

Surrey struggled last season, and have only gotten worse. A change in coaching staff has resulted in a new wing-T offence which struggles to move the ball, and a 3-4 D which struggles against the run and the pass. The Stingers go into the Christmas break at 0-4 having played the easy half of their schedule, and look set for an 0-8 season.

3 comments:

  1. Having played both OBU and Stags I have to say that the Stags appear to have the edge in the passing game rather then OBU. With GT coaching up the QB's and you must also consider the likes of Ted Baynham, Mike Katnik and Nick Bee have all been coached up at the Stags.

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  2. I wonder whether BNU's defensive record is due to having to train against the Double Wing. They aren't used to open field tackles and covering receivers.

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  3. Its not so much the tackling as the covering. They are solid against the run. its the passing game that beats them.

    I think it would be disappointing to see one of the most productive O's get knocked out on a tiebreaker because of their 52-48 shootout against Soton.

    Id rather see a 52-48 shootout than a 8-6 grind any day of the week.

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