BUCS 18/19 Playoff Picks: Premiership

Playoffs are upon us!

And so this week I’m mixing it up a bit and trying out a new format to our postseason fixture previews – we’ll still use our usual postseason format of DC Pundit picks and Britball Nation Pick’Em polls, but for the game previews I’m gonna try to break each fixture down for you by looking at each contender in a few key areas….

For each fixture we’ll take a quick glance at their tangible stats from the season (average points scored and conceded, and how that ranks them against the other teams in their tier), look at their recent postseason experience, as well as the highs and lows of their campaign so far.

With that said, let’s jump right into it!

 

University of Nottingham (N1) vs Hertfordshire Hurricanes (S4)

The hot-new-thing plays hosts to Uniball’s venerable powerhouse programme as Nottingham look to take their first postseason step towards a National Championship by dispatching one of the teams with the largest trophy cabinet – Herts have five University National Titles in their history, their most recent in 2011/12.

Nottingham look like they’re headed into playoffs playing their strongest football of the season, with four nice wins following the midseason break… Herts meanwhile are still trying to re-ignite the spark their offence was showing heading into the Christmas break.

Record
 8-0-0  3-4-0
Offence
 25.88
(2nd)
21.14
(6th)
 Defence
 5.25
(1st)
 20.58
(7th)
Previous Playoff Experience

Nottingham: It’s Nottingham’s first season in the top tier, and thus their first appearance in the Premiership Playoffs.  They comfortably won through the four-game Division One postseason fixtures last year.

Hertfordshire: Herts may boast the most National Championships of any Uniball outfit, but the emergence of the Premiership North as the Powerhouse conference in the top tier has meant the last time the Hurricanes won a playoff game was ’15/16 against the Derby Braves. This will be the first time the ‘Canes haven’t had home advantage in the first round of the playoffs since ’14/15.

Season High:

Nottingham: You could easily argue this squad has had a full season of highs, going undefeated in their first season in the tier. Their biggest scoreline was a 43-0 win over the Braves in Week Four, but I suspect if you asked them they’d probably pick their closing-seconds win over the Saints in Week Six, where they fell behind in the final seconds, only to emerge on top with a 12-14 victory.

Hertfordshire: The Hurricanes might have had a shaky start to their season with two losses, but they bounced back strong in Week Five with a whopping 35-0 win over long-time rivals, the Lions! The Hurricanes’ offence seemed to be firing on all cylinders going into the Christmas break.

Season Low:

Nottingham: Tough to pick out a low for a team that went undefeated through their debut campaign – but Nottingham certainly had a couple of squeakers – they opened their season with a 1-point win over Leeds, bested the Clansmen by a single score in Week Five, and then had to pull a win out of nowhere to defeat the Saints in Week Six. They’re undefeated, but far from unchallenged.

Hertfordshire: Though Hertfordshire’s season-high came against Birmingham, you’d probably have to pick their season-closing loss to the Lions as their low point – taking a heavy loss to a team you bested comfortably earlier in the season is a tough pill to swallow right ahead of the playoffs.  This, combined with a voided fixture versus the Destroyers means the Hurricanes close out the regular season with a losing record for the first time in… something like 23 years?

—–

Nottingham are top dogs in the half of the premiership typically considered a cut above their southern rivals in recent seasons. Herts have a proud history of success as a programme but a cabinet of trophies can’t help them here and their quality passing game is going to need to be on point to find success against the best defence in Uniball.

Who wins?

Click or tap the spoiler tab below to reveal our BUCS office picks, as well as the results of the Britball Nation Pick’em poll!

Spoiler
BUCS Office:

Pick’Em Poll:

This one’s pretty conclusive – a whitewash from our BUCS office along with a 97% favouring in the Pick’Em poll.

It looks like the Hurricanes are going to need to do something pretty special to turn the tide here.

Leeds Beckett Carnegie (N2) vs Birmingham Lions (S3)

This one’s a pretty intriguing matchup, as two teams who’ve experienced roller-coaster seasons enter the playoffs in positions few might have expected coming into their campaigns!

For Leeds, a strong start to their season caught everyone’s attention, but they struggled down the stretch with some key injuries and suspensions.

Meanwhile, Birmingham may have lost their grip on the Premiership South crown, but they’ve actually been playing their best football in the build-up to the playoffs – but will it be enough to pick up a first playoff win in three seasons for this proud programme?

Record
 6-2-0  5-3-0
Offence
 24.63
(4th)
24.75
(3rd)
 Defence
 15.75
(4th)
 23.75
(8th)
Previous Playoff Experience

Leeds Beckett: Last year Carnegie made it into the postseason in their first year in the tier, and impressed with a comfortable away win in a trip south to Hertfordshire. They were frustrated to drop out of playoffs in the semis without taking a snap due to snow delays and are eager to make a first ever National Championship appearance this year.

Birmingham: Brum hoisted the Premiership South title last season, but home-advantage and strong seeding weren’t enough to get them past a gotten-hot Derby Braves in the first round… For the second season in a row!

In fact, the Lions’ last postseason win was their ’15/16 championship win, the programme’s fifth to bring it level-pegging with the Hurricanes in terms of titles.

Season High:

Leeds Beckett: Leeds certainly got their campaign off to a great start when they turned heads with a fifty-burger to open the season – stomping a 50-28 win on the Stirling Clansmen in Week One.

Birmingham: Birmingham were looking like a beaten team going into the midseason break, and were genuinely circling on the edge of relegation conversations if they couldn’t find a way to restore their roar… However, roll forwards to 2019 and a revitalised Lions outfit has found its bite through their final three fixtures of the year, averaging an offensive output of 40ppg this side of midseason compared to just 15.6 going into the break.

Season Low:

Leeds Beckett: Leeds come into the playoffs having lost two of their last three outings – and indeed the win sandwiched between those two Ls was perhaps the most concerning – a narrow 13-15 win over a Derby Braves side they dominated earlier in the season.

Birmingham: No questions here, the Lions 35-0 loss to Hertfordshire in Week Five might well be the biggest defeat this team has ever suffered.

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summary

Who wins?

Click or tap the spoiler tab below to reveal our BUCS office picks, as well as the results of the Britball Nation Pick’em poll!

Spoiler
BUCS Office:

Pick’Em Poll:

Both the pundits and the poll have a heavy leaning in favour of the home side – but with Birmingham coming in off the back of their strongest run of form, and Leeds looking lacklustre to end the regular season… there’s definitely potential for a possible upset here.

 

UWE Bullets (S1) vs Stirling Clansmen (N4)

A bit of a mirror-matchup for Match One, as we see the rising stars of the south play host to the team that’s won more Championships in the noughties than any other – the Clansmen.

Record
 6-2-0  3-5-0
Offence
 26.50
(1st)
16.88
(8th)
 Defence
 16.75
(5th)
 19.88
(6th)
Previous Playoff Experience

UWE: The Bullets came out shooting in the second half of their 17/18 campaign to rack up am eight-game win streak that saw them crowned southern Champions in Division One, earning their first appearance in the Premiership this year. Though they took a beating in the D1 Trophy final against Notts, their scholarship programme stepped it up a gear this year and with a sprinkling of NCAA talent now on the roster they overcame a day one loss to lock up the Prem South crown with a game in hand. The Bullets have some National Title pedigree in their history, back in their days as the Bristol Bullets.

Stirling: The Clansmen have appeared four of the previous five National Championship finals – missing out for the first time in quite some time last year after they came-a-cropper against an on-form Derby Braves. They’ve won three titles in the past five seasons and could tie Herts and Brum should they pick up a fifth Championship this season.

Season High:

UWE: They’ve had a pretty good season across the board – their narrow loss to the Lions in Week One immediately drew the eye, and when they followed it up with a win over the ‘Canes it was clear the Bullets weren’t in the prem just to make up the numbers. It bodes well for Bristol that they’ve definitely played their best football when at home – their 32-6 win over the Titans in Week Eleven pretty much secured a Southern title in their first top tier season.

Stirling: In an up-and-down season one clear high for the Clansmen was their Week Four win over longtime rivals, the Saints. Having struggled in their opener, the Stirling defence found its form against the Durham offence, holding the Saints to just a single score through four quarters.

Season Low:

UWE: The Bullets mentioned they’d probably pull starters going into their final fixture of the season… however, another little birdy told us even their star scholars remained on the field through at least three quarters against the Titans in Week Twelve, and if that’s the case their 48-6 loss to the Titans is far more concerning than was first apparent.

Stirling: Coming into the season tipped to probably contest another National Title… conceding a fifty burger in your first fixture of the year is not a good start.  Indeed, the Stirling defence has been something of a mixed bag all season long – holding top teams to a single score one week, then allowing them to rack up a healthy margin of victory in the next meeting.

—–

As top seeds from the South the Bullets might well be the only southern outfit not coming into this as underdogs, given the North’s postseason domination in recent years…

Who wins?

Click or tap the spoiler tab below to reveal our BUCS office picks, as well as the results of the Britball Nation Pick’em poll!

Spoiler
BUCS Office:

Pick’Em Poll:

Both the polls and pundits seem in agreement here – this is UWE’s game to lose.

Time to prove themselves a true contender.

 

Swansea Titans (S2) vs Durham Saints (N3)

If you’d told us in the preseason that Swansea would be going into the midseason break undefeated, while the reigning National Champions wouldn’t even have a winning record during the holidays we’d’ve given you a similar look to that reserved for when someone says Manziel should still be on an NFL roster.

However, the Titans have had a troubled start to 2019, while the Saints seem to be showing their steel down the stretch with wins over two teams they’d come-a-cropper against earlier in the season.

Record
 5-3-0  4-4-0
Offence
 21.75
(5th)
19.13
(7th)
 Defence
 21.75
(5th)
 14.13
(3rd)
Previous Playoff Experience

Swansea: The Titans may have earned postseason action every year since their promotion, but they’re yet to actually pick up a first playoff victory since joining the top tier. Having hit the road to northern outfits the past two seasons, this’ll be the Titans’ first home playoff game in the Premiership.

Durham: Yeah… Durham did pretty well in 17/18… Ya know, only undefeated National Champions!

It was their second-straight title game appearance, having come up just short in 16/17. They’re coming in with a lower-seeding than perhaps expected, but they’ve proven themselves capable of winning on the road in the past – having taken away wins over both Herts and Loughborough two seasons.

Season High:

Swansea: Going into the break undefeated has got to be a pretty good feeling? And beating Birmingham in front of the big xpLosION crowds has got to count as a high point, too… However, we suspect this week the Titans’ locker room will be feeling particularly positive courtesy of their regular-season-closing bullying of the Bullets!

Having been shot down by UWE just a week prior, the Titans put in their best offensive performance of the year at the perfect time – sealing the deal on home football for round one with a 48-6 win over UWE.

Durham: The Saints had a pretty nice valentines day this year, as their date with Leeds Beckett went better than expected – just four days after suffering a significant loss to Leeds, the Saints turned things around with a narrow 10-9 win that they swiftly followed up with a win over the Clansmen – finishing our their regular season with great momentum off the back of two wins against teams that had beaten them earlier in the season.

Season Low:

Swansea: Riding high from an undefeated first half of their season, in Week Ten the Titans played hosts to a Birmingham Lions side that had suffered a three-game skid. Heavily favoured to take the win, an unfortunate injury to playmaking QB Sam Huxtable in the second half suddenly took the win out of the Titans sails – and it looks like it’s taken them quite some time to figure out how to bounce back.

Durham: Sure, the Saints had suffered two losses in the first half of their season, but considering they were by 3 and 2 points respectively? It was clear Durham were still right up there as a contender in the top tier. However, a shutout loss to Notts in Week Eight showed the Saints had lost a step on the new boys in the North, and they’ve been playing catch up ever since.

—–

It’s not often you earn yourself a home berth in the playoffs and then find yourselves playing host to a defending National Champion. Swansea may be the higher seed, but I suspect most of the Uniball community will still be considering them underdogs…

Who wins?

Click or tap the spoiler tab below to reveal our BUCS office picks, as well as the results of the Britball Nation Pick’em poll!

Spoiler
BUCS Office:

Pick’Em Poll:

It’s a heavy leaning in favour of the defending Champions to advance from this one, moving ever-closer to a title defence!

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Nick

Nick 'Willy Tee' Wilson-Town hails from the South West where he's spent the last decade bouncing around various teams at the university and senior level. He came to fame on the now departed unofficial forum thanks to his regularly irreverent Uniball predictions and general 'BUAFL wafflage'. Follow him on twitter @WillyTee1