BUAFL Week Four

26 11 2011

Week four of the British University American Football League (BUAFL) sees some games that could shape a few team’s season. Although the season is in its early stages a victory for one team could mean the opposition faces an uphill battle to make the playoffs, something every team in the league believes they can achieve at the start of the campaign.

Here are five games that I believe will have a big impact on the league.

Nottingham Outlaws @ Birmingham Lions (Midland Athletic Conference)

The outlaws travel to the home of the Lions on the back of a drumming from another division favourite Loughborough Aces. Should they be on the end of a similar score line against one of the elite BUAFL teams then they could be looking at a very long and hard road to success this year.

With a schedule that includes matches against Derby Braves and Nottingham Trent, a loss could be too much to overcome for the Outlaws.

Birmingham Lions

Birmingham on the other hand are expected to beat Nottingham comfortably and if they were to lose, it would send shock waves through the league, but they won’t.

Prediction – Outlaws 7- 42 Lions

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Staffordshire Stallions @ Loughborough Aces (Midland Athletic Conference)

The Stallions have played one and lost one so far this season yet they have plenty of time to turn their fortunes around. Facing them is a schedule that would strike fear into most teams. A defeat away at Derby and then huge trips to Loughborough and Birmingham means they immediately start with an uphill task to reach the playoffs.

Staffordshire Stallions with Mayor of Crewe

With Loughborough and Birmingham unlikely to lose many, you would think they will have to get a result against either the Aces or Lions.

Loughborough have blasted out the blocks with two wins from two and will see the Stallions as a walkover and the rest of the conference is expecting them to win. Being a favourite is nothing new for the Aces and they should overcome a spirited Stallions outfit.

Prediction – Stallions 14 – 28 Aces

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Imperial Immortals @ Portsmouth Destroyers (Thames Valley Conference)

A matchup between two undefeated teams at the home of the reigning champions, you couldn’t script it any better.

The Immortals have overcome two decent teams and the Surrey Stingers to reach their impressive total but the Destroyers will be a very different test.

Imperials vs Surrey Stingers

Boasting their own winning record and the small matter of being the reigning champions, Portsmouth will not fear the opposition but they will have to have respect for them.

The winner will be in pole position to win the conference with only the  Southampton Stags holding any realistic chance of challenging them.

A tight encounter but you cannot ignore the pedigree of the Destroyers.

Prediction – Immortals 14 – 21 Destroyers

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Glasgow Tigers @ Stirling Clansmen (Borders Conference)

The Clansmen have yet to concede a point all season which is impressive, but scoring 166 points in three games is possibly more of a thing to talk about.

Stirling Clansmen

Beating the UWS Pyros 90 – 0 is almost unbelievable, before it happened you would ask yourself, is that even possible but Stirling pulled it off and credit to them for not stepping off the gas and putting the sword to an extremely poor UWS defence.

Glasgow have a winning record so far but have not dominated teams in the same fashion. Scoring 36 and conceding 28 in three games doesn’t sound like a playoff team but if they manage to become the first team to reach the Clansmen then they have chance of heading the conference going into the second half of the campaign.

Stirling’s defence will be too good for the Tigers and will run out comfortable winners.

Prediction – Tigers 0 – 35 Clansmen

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Bangor MudDogs @ Sheffield Sabres  (Northern Conference)

Bangor are quite likely the surprise package of the season so far. While they haven’t played any big teams to date, they are remarkably 3-0 for the season which is quite honestly astonishing considering their record last season when they failed to win a game.

A recent boost in funds and recruitment because of the rugby teams folding has given fruit to the idea that Bangor could be serious challengers in the Northern Conference.

This week they finally face a contender for the title in the Sheffield Sabres. The Sabres themselves are unbeaten so far after big wins against Huddersfield Hawks and York Centurions.

Sabres opening win vs Hawks

The Sabres schedule is fairly straight forward with the exception of their varsity encounter with Sheffield Hallam, so a win on Sunday will ease them towards the playoffs.

Prediction – MudDogs 28 – 31 Sabres





Thanksgiving Predictions

24 11 2011

Thanksgiving is one of America’s biggest holidays and what better way of spending it than a triple bill of football?

Week 12 of the NFL season sees some interesting match ups and a couple that could decide the fate of a few team’s years.

Green Bay Packers (10-0) vs Detroit Lions (7-3)

Possibly a game that lot of people have been waiting to see for a long time. The league’s ‘MVP to be’ Aaron Rodgers up against the ugliest team on the block at the moment, the Detroit Lions.

Why do I call Aaron Rodgers the league ‘MVP to be’? Simple.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers in action.

Look at his stats, 3,168 passing yards for 31 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions? Are you kidding me? Rodgers, just like his team, are on a massive high at the moment and nobody is going to stop them . . . or can they?

The Lions have been one of the leagues surprise packages this year. After a stale period in their history and a few outstanding draft choices, they are most definitely on the up.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford is finally fit and healthy which means that they now have somebody who can throw the ball to Calvin ‘Megatron’ Johnson. Eleven touchdowns in eleven games is some going and as of yet, nobody has been able to shut Johnson down.

That task  this week falls to the Packers defense who are having an indifferent season. Last year they were a beast that couldn’t be contained when pass rushing the offense but the dominance of Clay Matthews has not been what it was, which going into the playoffs could be a concern.

The Lions defence on the other hand, while not posting high on the rankings, have grabbed all the headlines this season and especially second year starter, Ndamukong Suh. Labelled the leagues dirtiest player by almost everyone, Suh has become one of the most feared defensive lineman around. Don’t get me wrong, he has the talent to pull off most assignments and regularly does but his vicious streak (ripping opponents helmets off) and big mouth (taunting injured players) is starting to draw attention.

Add the small factor that both teams have a chance of playoffs to the mix and you have one tasty game in prospect.

Prediction:  Green Bay Packers 24 17 Detroit Lions

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Miami Dolphins (3-7) vs Dallas Cowboys (6-4)

Miami make the trip to Cowboys Stadium on the back of three wins out of three. That sounds great but if you look at the fact that before those wins, they hadn’t won a game all season you say ‘Wow, that’s epic, but what is going on?’

Quarterback Chad Henne was placed on Injured Reserve… Again, so in came Matt Moore to replace him. Correct, I could also hear the groans coming out of Miami from my home in Stoke-on-Trent, but somehow, after a shaky start, Moore has galvanised the franchise and led them on this amazing journey.

Obviously with the likes of the Pats, Jets and Bills who they beat just last week in their division, the Dolphins will not be going to the playoffs this term but what they can do if they continue this form is save the job of their head coach Tony Sparano who has held the position since 2008.

Down in Dallas things are looking good for the first time in a long while. Billed as the great underachievers in recent years, the Cowboys go into this game in search of an illusive playoff spot but it won’t be easy with the Giants and resurgent Eagles following closely behind in on of the most intriguing divisions around.

Quarterback Tony Romo has had more than his fair share of critics this season with many questioning if he is the one who can lead the most supported franchise in the NFL to the big time, with most coming up with a negative answer. Yet in recent weeks, Romo has found his horse and stirrups and is riding the Dallas wave with a smile on his face instead of a grimace for a change.

Key to Dallas’ fortunes on Thanksgiving will be how they can handle to running skills of Reggie Bush. This season hasn’t been his finest after his move from New Orleans but it is no coincidence that his upgrade in form has resulted in Miami’s recent revival.

Reggie Bush breaking through the Bengals defence

Tough one to call but I’ll go with John and Clint.

Prediction: Dallas Cowboys 31 17 Miami Dolphins

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San Francisco 49ers (9-1) vs Baltimore Ravens (7-3)

Jim versus John in the first ‘Harbaugh Bowl’ on Thanksgiving, what a coincidence.

From growing up together at home to coaching against each other in the National Football League, it has been some journey for these brothers. The big question though is, who the hell is their father going to support?

John Harbaugh - Baltimore Ravens head coach

Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers make the trip to Baltimore in a season which has been unbelievable for them. Not only do they somehow have nine wins but they have done this with the same quarterback that has been a problem for them since they drafted him first overall in 2005 . . . the same year Green Bay picked up Aaron Rodgers, remember him?

Alex Smith has thrown for nearly 2,000 yards so far this year and is on course to beat his previous best of 2,890 which he set in 2006. One reason why he has had the success this year is due to defences having to keep a very close eye on running back Frank Gore.

Gore has had a cracking year so far, racking up 870 yards. These numbers might not seem huge but when you look at what runs Gore makes, you’ll see how impressive they are. Gore is a power runner, he doesn’t bother with the flash runs to the sideline and trying to dance his way to the end zone, no, he goes straight down the middle, through the trenches and out the other side. Not spectacular but when it all comes together, it is quite a site.

John and his Ravens team have been somewhat of an enigma so far this year. Beating their fiercest rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers twice would normally mean a great season was in prospect but that have stumbled to the rest of their victories and lost to teams that they should have beaten.

Running back Ray Rice has crossed the line for 8 touchdowns this year which is a career high. The great Ray Lewis has been as instrumental as always in that famous Baltimore defence and if they are going to fulfill their potential this season then they will need both to be fit all year.

Without question this is the hardest game to call this week and it could all come down to which brother knows the other siblings mind more.

I’ll go with John on this one.

Prediction: San Francisco 49ers 14 17 Baltimore Ravens





xpLosION Report

7 11 2011

On Saturday I attended my very first xpLosION in Birmingham and it didn’t disappoint.

A crowd estimated at about three thousand gathered to watch Birmingham Lions take on Nottingham Trent Renegades, in a hotly anticipated clash of two top programmes in the BUAFL MAC Conference.

Special guests Neil Reynolds and former NFL star Cecil Martin introduced the teams and initiated the coin toss with Birmingham electing to receive.

The game got off to a storming start with Birmingham starting from their own ten yard line and driving ninety yards for a touchdown and to open the scoring. The point after was good and they led 7-0.

The score would stay the same after Nottingham could not make any serious yards when in possession in the first quarter.

The second quarter began with a promising Renegades drive which took them all the way to the Lions twenty yard line. Once there though things went horribly wrong. The quarterback took the ball and threw an interception to his left. With a near clear pathway to the end zone Birmingham took a commanding 14-0 lead.

Another successful drive brought the score to 17-0 after a Lion’s field goal.

After a subdued second quarter, the game sprung into chaos in the final minute of play. The Birmingham quarterback threw an interception with just forty seconds remaining on the clock. This would have given Nottingham a great chance to throw some long balls and try to score before the end of the half but amazingly they fumbled the ball and Birmingham recovered it with only fifteen seconds of play available.

Going for glory, the Lion’s threw yet another interception that was halted at the Nottingham two yard line.

With only a mere seven seconds of time left and no timeouts, many of the crowd’s attentions were switching to the half time fireworks and cheerleading displays. All Nottingham had to do was take a knee, get to halftime and regroup but for some unknown reason they tried to play their way out and ended up giving away a safety to make the score at halftime 19-0 to the Birmingham Lions.

The third quarter followed the same pattern as the second with little action but plenty of penalties and flags.

The first bit of interest came when the Birmingham quarterback was sacked by the Renegades defence on his own thirty yard line. A blocked Lions punt was also of notice but nothing came of it. Unfortunately that was it for the third quarter.

The final quarter of play as it nearly always does in American football, was a bit livelier. Firstly Nottingham couldn’t capitalise on a strong drive up the field as they missed a chance to get on the scoreboard with a failed kick.

Birmingham made them pay for their miss when they ran over for a ten yard touchdown to all but seal a comprehensive victory for the 2010 losing finalists.

Nottingham did however manage to cross into the end zone with less than two minutes remaining which they just about deserved for a brave defensive effort.

That score made it a comfortable, yet not extravagant victory over the Nottingham Trent Renegades as many were predicting for the Birmingham Lions. It finished 25-6. Good effort from both teams.





xpLosION

5 11 2011

The University American Football season gets into full swing this evening with the annual opening game hosted by last season’s losing finalists, Birmingham Lions.

This year the Lions face a stern test in the form of the Nottingham Trent Renegades who finished last season with five wins and three losses.

Although the Renegades will be ready for the challenge of one of the countries elite teams, they will surely find it hard to erase last seasons 30-0 score line from their minds. On the flip side that same game should serve as a moral boost to Birmingham Lions who will be smarting from their narrow final defeat at the hands of the Portsmouth Destroyers.

A large crowd will be present to witness not just a great spectacle on the pitch but also in the skies with a bumper fireworks display organised for the half time show.

Also attending the game will be special guest and former Philadelphia Eagles fullback Cecil Martin who will present a show that will appear on Sky Sports in the near future.

Nottingham Trent Renegades defensive back Kieran Green reckons that if they can perform the way they have been training in the pre season then he sees no reason why they can’t cause an upset?

‘If we can keep it tight and perform the way we know we can then I reckon we can steal it’.

When pushed for a prediction, Kieran confidently said a 14 – 17 victory to the Renegades. If this was to be the final result then most spectators would come away from the game very surprised as Birmingham are heavy favourites.