Friday, 3 February 2012

BUAFL Predictions Rivalry Special: MAC

Worcester Royals @ Gloucester Gladiators
The first game of our rivalry weekend sees this hotly anticipated varsity preview between two titans of the British American Football scene...

Let's be honest this game is low on most peoples lists of "games I give a damn about", but for both ball clubs its a serious matter of local bragging rights and the possibility of the only win of the regular season (they will meet again in their post season Varsity game).

Worcester have struggled since their entry to the league, as an unstable coaching situation has led to an inexperienced group leading the team. This has often led to poor decisions with regards to scheme (the constant QB substitution is a classic) and practice in general. 

Gloucester have also had a similar situation, with coaches leaving and joining and a recent graduation that has deprived them of a lot of their starters has seen their promising start to life in the BUAFL disappeared into the rear view mirror as a huge losing season faces them.

A tough one to call as both teams are equally as awful, but we think Worcester may actually find some nuts and play with pride.
Worcester to win by a score (that's right. WORCESTER TO WIN!)

NTU Renegades @ Nottingham Outlaws (played at the Harvey Hadden Stadium)

The Harvey Hadden Stadium will play host to Nottingham's rivalry clash which, with both teams competing for a place in the post-season, has more than just pride at stake, 

Both sides enter the game on the back of a winning return to action from the Christmas break, with Nottingham Outlaws beating DMU Falcons 23-0 on Sunday, and NTU Renegades thrashing Lincoln Colonials 52-6 at South Notts College a week ago.

The NTU offence relies heavily on American full-back Danny Miller, who scored four touchdowns against Lincoln, while their impressive secondary will look to stifle any deep threat posed by the Outlaws offence.  New head coach Adrian Giles has added a spark to NTU's passing game, with giant wide receiver Jerome Edwards giving quarterback Adam Grant a top-class outlet.

The Outlaws meanwhile will be looking to continue the improvements they have made since the team's heavy defeats to Loughborough Aces and Birmingham Lions - Adrian Scorey's defence have only conceded 13 points in the Grove Farm outfit's other three games.  Offensively, the Outlaws showed signs of breaking the shackles against DMU - two touchdowns were called back in addition to the three scored - and will be looking to improve on their previous two Varsity showings, where they have scored just one touchdown.

The game also marks the end of an era, with it being the last Varsity game to feature players that played for the old Outlaws before the 2009 split.

Since then, the Renegades have had the better time, winning both Varsity clashes and reaching the post-season twice.  Last year's run in the Challenge Trophy was ended by Cardiff, but defeats to Derby and
Birmingham thus far in 2012/13 means that their aspirations of a post-season three-peat will be ended by defeat in Sunday's game.

The Outlaws have taken longer to adjust to the split, but the return of Justin Smith as head coach has seen a change in attitude at the club.  With their record now sitting at 3-2 following last Sunday's win, and
with the easier portion of their schedule ahead of them, a win at the Harvey Hadden on Sunday could catapult the side into contention for qualification to the plate.

The previous two matches between the sides have been hard fought, low scoring encounters, with the last year's game finishing 8-0 to NTU in windy conditions.  Expect a similar kind of cagey game, with a similar result.

Nottingham Trent by a score.

Leicester Longhorns @ DMU Falcons

The newest rivalry in the MAC sees DMU Falcons welcome Leicester Longhorns for their first ever regular season encounter.

One of the latest institutions to split, DMU were taken under the wing of the highly successful Leicester Falcons BAFANL team in 2010, adopting the club's colours and utilizing their impressive range of coaching knowledge.

As is often the case with "new" teams in the league, DMU have found it tough against the more established divisional teams - they were on the wrong end of a hammering by Derby - but have more than held their own against their other opponents.  An opening day win against Worcester will have raised spirits in the Falcons camp, while a close defeat to Northampton and a good showing against Warwick suggests that DMU will soon be among the teams competing below the usual post-season contenders.

Leicester meanwhile have had a lot of negative comments following their switch to the much-maligned double wing offence.  An organization with a long history but seemingly on a downwards curve in recent years, the Longhorns struggled to find a rhythm early in the season, managing a win against Coventry but falling to defeats against Lancaster and Lincoln - both of whom are having poor seasons.  A narrow defeat to Northampton in their pre-Christmas clash seemed at the time to say more about the Nemesis than Leicester, but the Longhorns have exploded out of the Christmas break.

Until last week, this game had appeared too close to call, with DMU seeming most likely to thrive under the unique pressures of their first Varsity clash.  However, last Sunday's results and performances by both teams have skewed the looking glass towards the more experienced Longhorns.

While DMU struggled to a shut-out loss at the ever-improving Outlaws, Leicester ran riot over Warwick, notching over 50 points for the first time in a VERY long time, illustrating that perhaps their new offence is working better than many imagined.

As is always the case in rivalry games, pre-match preparation will be the key, and whoever enters the game in the right frame of mind has a huge advantage over their opponent.  Leicester's huge win on Sunday has seized the initiative, and the Longhorns have too much for the Falcons.

Leicester by two scores

Coventry Jets @ Warwick Wolves

Another of the "new" rivalries to have been formed by the split-institution rule, Coventry and Warwick both sit with losing records in the MAC.

Our mid-season breakdown had Warwick pushing on in 2012, rolling with a series of wins starting last Sunday against Leicester.  Things didn't quite go to plan for the Wolves, and their goring by the Longhorns will have left more questions than answers for head coach Peter Buckley. 

Fortunately for Warwick, they could not have picked a better opponent to bounce back from a fifty-burger than Coventry.  The Jets have yet to fly in 2011/12, and their ten points from four games is third -worst in BUAFL behind Tarrannau Aberystwyth's six from five games and Huddersfield's "Perfect Zero" from three matches.  Conventional wisdom suggests that Coventry are unlikely to suddenly evolve into free-scoring offence, and Warwick should have enough on the defensive side of the ball to restrict Coventry to single figures.

In terms of rivalry, you can't really get much closer than this pair - their training facilities are a Tristan Varney pass away from each other, and their home fields are only separated by a fence - but on the field this will not be anything like a contest.

Warwick's struggles against Leicester can be put down more to the fact that even an average double wing offence can be very tough to defend against than any fatal flaw in their team, and they are expected to bounce back from the disappointment with a comfortable win against Coventry.

Warwick by a four score shutout

Surrey Stingers @ Northampton Nemesis

The much-maligned Nemesis take a road trip down to Surrey for Sunday’s out of conference game looking to continue their unbeaten start.   Northampton appear to be on the path to the play offs due to a weak schedule and look set to deprive one or more of the MAC’s “Big Four” of post-season football .  With the Nemesis running the double wing offence, Surrey will have a tough day trying to stop it.

For Surrey to win they need to step up on defence and go all out with their linebackers. Currently residing 0-4 at the bottom of the TVC , Surrey have a very tough game on their hands.  Another Northampton win seems to be on the cards as they look to cause even more of a kerfuffle in the BUAFL community.

Northampton by two scores

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