Friday, 4 January 2013

Mid-season reviews: MAC

As we enter 2013, we take a look at the state of play in the BAFA University League, starting with the Midlands Athletic Conference...

Once regarded as the strongest conference in the University set-up, the 2012/13 version of the MAC has seen the rich get richer, and the rest get mediocre.

As is customary, two of the country’s top three teams lead the way with 5-0 records, with the only team likely to stop #1 Birmingham Lions and #3 Loughborough Aces going unbeaten being each other.

The Lions have left both Nottingham sides, Warwick, Lincoln and Coventry in their wake, conceding just one offensive touchdown and scoring over 300 points in reply. It didn’t seem possible for Birmingham to be more dominant than they looked in the regular season last year, but the return of Tristan Varney has lifted the team’s performance level once more.

Statistically speaking, the honour of the conference’s best defence in the first half of the season goes to #3 Loughborough, with just six points allowed in five games – the BUCS website reports that their game with Wolverhampton has been awarded to them as a walkover victory. DMU, Leicester and Nottingham were all dispatched with ease, and – despite a brief early wobble against Northampton – the conference’s second spot looks to be partially wrapped by the Aces.

#16 Nottingham Trent sit healthily in third place and have every reason to be happy with their efforts so far. Having put up the strongest fight of any of Birmingham’s opponents, wins over Leicester, Coventry and DMU give the Renegades a really strong launching pad for 2013, where they will hope to go two better than last year and win the Plate. Also on one loss, #22 Warwick will be pleased with the first half of their season, and should be in the mix come Easter.

#25 Northampton have proved that their offence can be seriously explosive, and the fact that their defeats came against sides above them in the league is a sign that a decent football team has emerged from all the mudslinging regarding the team’s soft schedule in their rookie season. Coventry sit alongside the Nemesis on 2-2, but heavy shutout defeats against Birmingham and NTU suggest that they may be in a false position – both of the Jets’ wins have come against the woeful DMU Falcons.

Given their head coaching situation, Lincoln’s one win (against a rookie Wolverhampton side) could well end up being their only in 2012/13. 139 points conceded in losses to Birmingham and Northampton doesn’t bode well.

Nottingham’s early hopes of a Plate challenge seem to have evaporated with defeats to Birmingham, Loughborough and Northampton, and their overtime scramble to beat Leicester suggests a team lacking confidence.

Leicester are probably a better team than their 1-4 record suggests, having been there or thereabouts against both Nottingham sides and notching a late win over Lincoln, but a charge at the post-season seems a long way off.

Wolverhampton’s failure to field a team against Loughborough is a really bad sign for the rookie team. With a 20-0 loss to Lincoln in their only on-field showing this season, the Wildcats have six games to squeeze into the remaining weeks – this could be ugly.

Propping up the MAC are DMU, a team that are certainly a contender for the biggest disappointment of 2012/13 so far. Winless, pointless and looking pretty desolate, something good needs to happen for the Falcons, and fast.

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