Friday, 23 November 2012

BAFA Uni Football Week Four Predictions

Saltire Conference  

Edinburgh Predators at Stirling Clansmen 
Let’s start with easy one shall we. The Clans impressive march to the Saltire title should continue unabated this weekend with a rematch of BUAFL’s opening fixture. This time on the faster green rug of Gannochy in Stirling, the Preds will be looking to build on last week’s 24-6 win over UWS. Whilst that score line may have got Edinburgh their first win it will be the 68-12 loss in week 1 that is a closer indicator of how this game will go. 

With Stirling coming of a bye-week and signs of Coach Orr rotating and resting his squad this one can only go one way. Renowned for their Jet Sweep offense, the Clan have added an impressive passing game behind QB Dutch Stevenson meaning they will stretch the field both vertically & horizontally. 
Clansmen by 30 (at least)  
UWS Pyro’s at Glasgow Tigers 
The Pyro’s loss last week to the Predators means UWS really need to win this to stay in contention. A decent running game and a solid defensive line are UWS strengths this season and HC Bud McFerrin has also returned to the field. An opening victory over the Napier Knights saw the glimpse of things to come but this really has to be marked down as a ‘must win’ fixture. 

The Tigers come off a 20-0 victory, also over the hapless Knights, with a solid looking defense which scored 8 points last weekend. This puts them in the driver seat for that 2nd seed. Two wins on the (Tigger) bounce also means they have some momentum as they host UWS on the sandy concrete of Garscube 
Some good ol’ fashioned smash nose running football on display means this one should be a low scorer. (Note: Never pick a Saltire WR on your fantasy team) 
Tigers by 12

North Eastern Conference

Teesside Cougars vs Leeds Celtics
Are the Cougars in danger of getting this sort of reputation in the new North East division?

It was always going to be an uphill climb for Teesside and Durham in a more competitive field this year. But while Durham gave the Mustangs a game in their opener, Teesside provided Newcastle with a miracle cure for their early-season funk. Seriously, if they could package that sort of performance enhancer in a cream, it’d raise enough money to buy the university an island in the Bahamas.

Okay, maybe we’re being a little too cruel here. Any team with the guts to suit up deserves some respect, but it’d be a surprise if life got any easier for the Cougars in their second game. The Celtics fell to 1-2 with a loss to Hull last weekend, but they’ve been competitive in all their match-ups and haven’t given up many points. It may not be as horrendous as last week for the Cougars, but it still might not be pretty.
Leeds by three scores.

Bradford Bears vs Sunderland Spartans
Bradford are sitting at 1-2 right now, which sounds a bit “meh” from the outside. But it’s not a massive disaster. Losing to a red-hot Hull team isn’t a hanging offence, and they were about two minutes from beating York in regular time last week. Having said that, they’re going to have to start getting wins again, especially against other would-be playoff challengers.

Enter the Spartans, who had a decent start to the season before getting bogged down by the pitch squabble that called off their week two clash with Durham. Now they’re 1-1 after a game in which Carnegie’s defense did a fair bit of damage. Can Whitehead rally his troops for this wild card clash? Is this team for real, or was week one the high point of their season?
Bradford re-bound to 2-2 with a one score victory

York Centurions vs Newcastle Raiders
Going into last weekend, the Raiders were scoring an average of three points a game. On Sunday they put up 47. Playing Teesside does wonders for your confidence. But has that huge beating steeled the Raiders for a late run at the playoffs, or simply papered over the cracks?

The best place to find out is in York. The Centurions did an excellent job against the Bears last week, coming from behind and winning in overtime. Sam Parke got a couple of scores including a big catch to level matters late on, and quarterback Rob Wickham had a pretty good first game of the year. They’ll be a tough matchup for the re-building Raiders, particularly at home.
York win a close one

Durham Saints vs UH Sharks
So far, the Sharks have been the class of the new Northern division. Their win against Leeds Celtics last weekend means they’ve grabbed wins against three potential division challengers to start the season, and that last one came away from home. Nice work.

Durham did a pretty good job against Northumbria on Sunday, putting 22 points on the Mustangs and losing by less than a touchdown. Life might be a bit harder against Hull, which has a few weapons on offense. The smart money says the Sharks extend their unbeaten run to 4-0 here.
Sharks by two scores.

Leeds Met Carnegie vs Northumbria Mustangs
Northumbria won’t be overjoyed with their start to the season, although they’re not going to be too depressed about getting a tick in the win column on Sunday. Victory over Durham means they’re 1-1, but they haven’t quite dislodged the cobwebs of the offseason.

Carnegie spent the first two weeks of the season sitting on their hands waiting for their turn to get on the pitch, but they responded in the right way with a 19-0 shutout of the promising Spartans. While losing Emmanuel Amadi to an ankle injury was a blow, Carnegie came up with some crucial plays on defense including a touchdown. All that adds up to a likely home win.
Carnegie win by a score

Big North Western Conference

Staffordshire Stallions (1-1) Sheffield Sabres (3-0) 
These two sides have yet to meet after the Stallions moved from the MAC to the Big North Western conference and it will be interesting to see how both sides react to one another. 

In their opening week against the Derby Braves, the Stallions suffered a 12-42 loss, but last week bounced back to record a 13-28 victory over Liverpool Fury. Staffordshire QB Glyn Chadwick returned to action last week after not playing against Derby, he finished with a touchdown pass to Richard Adiyia and full-back Travis Bilham recorded back-to-back touchdowns after scoring against the Braves and Fury.  

The Stallions defence against the Fury is also worth mentioning, look out for linebacker Richard Bodinar and Steve Higgins who both came away with an interception, before Gareth Phillips and Ben Malbon sacked the Fury quarterback in the endzone for a Safety each. 

Meanwhile, the Sabres move to 3-0 after victory on the road against Manchester Tyrants (23-8), but didn’t have it all their own way, in fact at half time they were losing 8-3. However, the Sabres rallied in the second half, as QB David Saul leading the charge with three rushing touchdowns. The Sabres will need a better first half against the Stallions who looked good against the Fury. 
Sabres should have enough to secure the win – Sabres by two scores 

MMU Eagles (1-2) v Liverpool Fury (0-1) 
These two sides met on the last game of last season, where MMU Eagles recorded there only win of the season, beating the Fury 36-8. Both sides will be targeting this fixture for a potential win. 

MMU already have that first win under their belt after victory over Lancaster in Week 1, but two shutout defeats against Derby (58-0) and conference new-comers UCLan Rams (12-0) last Sunday mean it is important the Eagles not only get back to winning ways, but execute on offence. 

That responsibility will rest on the shoulders of QB Tom Hargreaves, who scored two rushing touchdowns in this game last season, in addition to throwing a passing touchdown to Matt NelanSpecial teams were also a big factor last season with the Eagles Kwame Oluwole-Wilson returning a punt, before Liverpool scored on a 5 yard rush after a blocked punt. 

The Fury played their first game of the season last week against the Staffordshire Stallions losing by 28-13 and must learn lessons from that game, as their quarterback threw two interceptions and conceded two safeties during the game (one from a bad snap). He did later make amends with a touchdown from a QB sneak and a 49 yard pass, but needs better pass protection to give him more time to operate. 

The Fury never gave up against the Stallions and were rewarded with two scores in the second half, needless to say they will need to get on the scoreboard quickly this week. MMU must also score early on. This is a must win for both sides – MMU by 10 points 

Derby Braves (3-0) v Bangor Muddogs (0-1) 
With Derby moving into the Northern Conference from the MAC last season, this is the first regular season meeting between these two sides and only the second fixture of the season for Bangor. 

Derby have already had a strong start to their 2012-13 campaign beating the Stallions (42-12), the Eagles (58-0) and last season’s Northern Conference champions – Sheffield Hallam (24-6) last Sunday 

The Braves have a potent offence with QB Joe Brammer at the helm and a strong power running game. But they also possess a strong defence, including Elliot Strong, who recorded three interceptions against the Eagles. 

Meanwhile, Bangor struggled with their waterlogged pitch during the opening two weeks of the season, but finally got their 2012-13 campaign started last Sunday against Huddersfield losing by 33-22.  

If Double Coverage scouting reports from North Wales are correct, Bangor Rookie of the year Quarterback Ben Archer makes a welcome return again this year under centre, but the Muddogs have lost some experienced players from last season, including Tom Jones (no jokes), Andrew Briscoe and LT Charles Holden. 
With the form Derby are showing, Bangor should offer little resistance – Derby by at least three scores  

Hallam Warriors (0-1) v UCLan Rams (1-0) 
Last week saw the Rams finally make their BUCS regular season with a 12-0 win over MMU Eagles, while last season’s undefeated Champions of the Northern Conference - Sheffield Hallam lost their first regular season game for over two years (24-6) against the high-flying Derby Braves. 

The Rams Head Coach Chris Bradley is a veteran player and coach for the Lancashire Wolverines who are based at Lancashire Academy of American Football and finished second in BAFANL’s Division 1 North in 2012. Inevitably many of the Ram’s players are former Wolverines, including GB Youth TE Sam Bloomfield and Chris Anderson. Other players to watch throughout the season are Brendan Walkin and Sam Drakeford 

Double Coverage scouting reports suggest that the Rams, with many of their experienced players will be a well-drilled and formidable offence, which the Hallam defence may struggle to cope with. 
Hallam finished the 2011-12 regular season as undefeated Champions of the Northern Conference, leading scorers in the league and with running back Danny Pyle rushing for over 2,000 yards. The team has lost some key starters this season, with QB Jacob Muncey, TE Michael Whitson, CB Michael Wood, LB Frazer Musonda and Pyle all graduating. 

Under centre for Hallam is Chris Webber, who was a backup quarterback for Sheffield Predators this season, in the backfield second year running backs Sam Adekanmbi and James Musonda return after standout year’s last season. Finally we see the return of Matthew Marsden at Linebacker and Aden Flanagan at Safety. 
This is the toughest fixture of the weekend to call with Hallam losing many starters over the summer and not showing up against the Braves last week we still don’t know the state of the franchise and conference new-boys the Rams are still a relatively unknown quantity – Hallam by two scores.    


Birmingham Lions vs NTU Renegades
With the Renegades only narrowly squeezing past the Longhorns 14-10 in a game they were tipped to dominate this weekend’s visit from the Lions looks a scary one. Birmingham meanwhile should be well rested from a week off following their 83-0 drubbing of Lincoln.

There will be no surprises in the result from this one, with even an above average team like NTU no match for the talent and depth Birmingham possess every year. A particular point to watch will be how NTU’s offensive line holds up against the Lions’ pass rush, as I expect Danny Miller to be shut down on the ground and NTU to be forced to throw early and often (with little success).
Birmingham by 50+

Loughborough Students vs Nottingham Outlaws
Loughborough have had a smooth introduction to the 2012 season with blowouts of DMU and Leicester, and I can’t imagine the Outlaws will put up much more of a fight. Nottingham meanwhile remain something of a mystery with only the one big loss in the xpLosION game.

With Lugbug and Brum the perennial forerunners of the MAC a loss to any other side would raise huge eyebrows around the league, and there is no reason to expect much less than what Birmingham put up on the Outlaws in week 1. Nottingham will be glad to have their two toughest games out the way early and start a plate push next week vs Northampton.
Loughborough by 42

Wolverhampton Wildcats vs Lincoln Colonials
After a couple of false starts (1st and 20 by my count), Wolverhampton are finally looking like they may actually play a game this weekend, welcoming the Lincoln Colonials to the West Midlands.

Had the Wildcats gone out and knocked heads with NTU and Loughborough as they were scheduled to, we may have given them a sniff against Lincoln. The Colonials are a very middling team, but should have little trouble dispatching the rookie Wolverines as they look to bounce back after being beaten soundly by the newly non-double winged Northampton.

This won’t be a pleasant experience for Wolverhampton, but seriously – lie back and think of next season’s 3-5 record like most other teams in the MAC do.
Lincoln by 21

Warwick Wolves vs Leicester Longhorns
Having seen tape of both of these teams, this is unlikely to be a classic, but it could well give a good indicator as to the team that will challenge Northampton and Nottingham for “Top MAC Also-Rans”.

Warwick are a team that always seem to be one good recruiting class away from a Challenge Trophy berth, while Leicester have been put to the sword (expectedly) by Loughborough before putting up a real (unexpected) fight against NTU.

This one all depends on whether Warwick can handle the double wing – if they can it should be a cake-walk, if not we could see a really tasty clash.
Leicester by three


Exeter Demons @ Bath Killer Bees
Bringing an undefeated record as well as the top scoring offence in the SWAC from their two games so far this season the Bath Killer Bees will be heading to Exeter looking to repeat this success they have had so far.
The Demons, coming off a 14-21 defeat to the UWE bullets, will be looking to rebound with a win but will most likely struggle to contain the Bath offence with the Demon D conceding an average of 20.5 points a game.
With the Bath players also having had a week of rest and preparation during their bye week in week 3 the Killers Bees should get the win, though expect the Demons to make a fight of it.
Bath Killer Bees by 14

Bristol Barracuda @ Aberystwyth Tarranau
Following a 14-7 defeat of Cardiff in which they returned the favour of last year’s 44-6 drubbing at the hands of the Cobras Bristol will be heading into their week 4 fixture at the 1-1 Tarranau with plenty of confidence.
Tarranau however will also be pretty confident coming off a 18-7 defeat of the Worcester Royals so sparks look set to fly from this matchup.
The Barracuda, boasting the SWACs stingiest defence with an average of 6.5 points conceded from their two games played this season will make it difficult for an Aberystwyth attack which leans heavily on the run.
This game should be a close one; Tarranau’s home field advantage could play into their hands but the ‘cuda are on a roll.
Bristol Barracuda by 4.

UWE Bullets vs. Swansea Titans
UWE teetered last week, going down by 14 to Exeter before finally turning it around and putting up 21 straight to take the win. This clearly isn’t the same dominant UWE team of seasons past, but is still made of tough stuff and will still be favourites to retain their SWAC crown.

Swansea were edged out in a thriller against the plucky Gloucestershire Gladiators last week, a loss that will certainly hurt as it would have almost certainly been considered a “W” when the fixture list was released. I don’t see things getting any better in week 4 as UWE will look to make a statement of intent.
UWE may look mortal, but Swansea won’t be the team to dethrone the reigning champs.
UWE by three scores


Tsunami v RHUL Bears
The Bear did better than I expected against Kingston. I have, however, been informed that Kingston rookies played the last three quarters, hence the surprising lack of points in the game. But, seeing as Kingston is a rookie programme, the above information seems somewhat confusing.

Brighton beat a poor Oxford programme by only 25-0. Solent beat Oxford so convincingly last week that the game had to be called at half time. I’ve seen Solent play a preseason scrimmage this year. Unless they have improved drastically since then, I can only deduce from the Tsunami-Lancers result that the Tsunami aren’t very good at all, as Oxford are downright awful in the early stages of this season.
This game will unlikely have any bearing on the end of season playoff picture, nor the plate playoff picture. I am going to assume that Brighton must have rested some starters against Oxford as the game went on, and on that assumption I am going to pick Brighton to win.
Brighton by 6     

Solent Redhawks v OBU Panthers
Solent are currently tearing apart terrible opponents in their quest for 7-1 and the championship playoffs.  Their first real test is a wounded OBU Panthers.  The extended preseason for OBU didn't do them many favours as they were beaten by BNU 17-16, when they failed to convert a 2 point attempt with seconds to go:

OBU are a copy of last years 7-1 team.  They look very strong on defence but aren't as dangerous on the offence... yet.  Solent haven't been tested yet after wins over a poor Oxford Lancer team that quit at half time.  Followed by the drubbing of the worst team in BUCS.  Solent havent been tested so they will have bled in their rookies with their starters staying healthy.

Solent by 21

BNU Buccaneers vs. Southampton Stags
Please refer to our game of the week article

Brunel Burners V Portsmouth Destroyers

Portsmouth have had a turbulent time since their championship winning season in 2011. In fact they fell so far from grace, in the perceptions around the TVC that many expected the rookie outfit that is the Kingston Cougars to beat them comfortably last weekend. How wrong we were as Portsmouth came out deserved winners in a tight scoring game.

Brunel are on a course opposite to Portsmouth. From a bottom of the division team, they have overhauled their coaching staff, enabling the athletes we know they have to play to their potential. Although they lost to the reigning TVC Champions last week, that should not change perceptions that they are team on the way up.

This, too, will be a tight game. Even without Russ Hewitt, however, I believe if the Destroyers can contain Modebe, and that's a big if, they will come out of the game 2-0.

Portsmouth to win by 6


Imperial Immortals v Hertfordshire Hurricanes
Imperial moved to the SEC after last season.  Most saw it as a chance for Imperial to take a shot at the playoffs in an easier division.  So far it's been going swimmingly with wins over ARU and KCL. Though this week I think they will be wishing for the TVC. 

Hertfordshire are just a big mean green machine at the moment.  The weight of their title defence is not bothering them.  In fact they are probably using the trophy to batter other teams.  They won’t be losing any time soon.  
Hertfordshire by 50

Westminster Dragons vs LSBU Spartans
The LSBU Spartans and the Westminster Dragons meet this weekend in a clash that will lift one of these 0-2 teams out of the SEC basement and back into contention for a play-off spot.

The Dragons are coming into this game following a ridiculously close game against the Greenwich Mariners, which saw the Dragons lose 32-39 in overtime. The Spartans suffered a tough loss away at Colney Lane as the UEA Pirates continued their winning ways with a convincing 39-12 victory.

The Dragons defence conceded less points than LSBU to the Pirates in their first game of the season primarily due to a strong showing from their DL, whilst on the other side of the ball LSBU showed their predatory instinct with two scores over the Pirates this weekend in comparison to the Dragons sole score.

LSBU have some talent on their roster, particularly in the shape of #33 Daniel Gyimah who scored both their touchdowns whilst showing incredible athletic prowess. Their weakness lies in numbers, with many playing both O and D and if the Dragons bring their A game exhaustion may begin to cause LSBU to falter.
Tough call. LSBU. By less than 6 points.

Blades vs Pythons
A blowout by the ‘Canes and a narrow victory are similarities shared by both these 1-1 teams. The Blades grabbing a single point victory over the Chargers this weekend after a 53-0 drubbing by Herts, whilst the Pythons scored a 15-14 win over the Spartans before being crushed by 61 points.

Essex are a proven play-off contender after making it through to the National play-offs last year and have the added motivation of coming out of a close game with a victory over an improved Chargers squad.

The Pythons suffer from a similar ailment to LSBU in that their roster is severely lacking in numbers with players forced to play both sides of the ball, as well as suffering from Herts biggest blow out of the year as of yet.
Blades to win by 12.

Canterbury Chargers vs. UEA Pirates
The midtable battle in the SEC has, so far, been a very close fought contest, with 1 point victories seeming to be the norm in this part of the UK. In fact the first three games of the Chargers season were all decided by a point, 2 losses and a win.

The Pirates started off with a bit more oomph with a 39-12 victory over the LSBU Spartans. Without much to compare the two teams, it is hard to predict a winner, but I think the Pirates might end up being the 2nd place team in the division.
Pirates by 11

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