In line with feedback, we’re changing things up a bit this year in how we do our Uniball predictions. One thing we continue to receive feedback on is the inconsistency of the depth and quality of predictions between one conference and the next, due to the available time and ability of the writers that cover each group of teams, and how much information is made available to them.
To that end we’re going to shake things up this year and rather than attempting to cover all games with as much detail as possible with the resources available, we’re instead going to focus on particular stand out ‘Games of the Week’ – looking more closely at anywhere between one to three games, spread across the tiers, focusing on those games that perhaps looks particularly tasty and we can go into greater detail in the coverage of.
It’s a stacked slate of fixtures in the largest tier of the University game, but the Leeds Gryphons vs Liverpool Raptors matchup caught our eye, as two teams more familiar with one another than many might realise meet to open their campaigns!
Meanwhile, we’ll take a quick glance at the other fixtures, with picks from each of the members of our BUCS Office.
The only thing in football that might be less predictable than who the Cleveland Browns’ Head Coach is from one year to the next… is a Uniball roster following an offseason of graduations, particularly in Division Two!
UWS Pyros vs HWU Wolverines
The Pyros return for 2018/19 campaign, and you can’t fault these guys for their commitment to the game. While they seem to struggle with roster numbers each season, to their credit they’ve stuck it out through some miserable campaigns and kept coming back for more every November.
Last year was particularly troubled as the Pyros were unable to field a team for any of their post-Christmas fixtures, but they’ve worked hard with local senior programmes during the offseason and reportedly recruited some players with National Leagues experience.
Heriot-Watt meanwhile were also plagued by a frustratingly succinct season last year, only taking the field for four games due to either withdrawals from other outfits, or pitch problems on their end.
Interesting rumbling we’ve heard - Heriot Watt, or the Wolverines per their unofficial/unsanctioned moniker, have a female QB on the roster this season - count down to the first BUCS TD thrown by a female baller?
Edinburgh Predators vs YSJ Jaguars
Bangor MudDogs vs Edge Hill Vikings
Amongst the preseason favourites to shine this year, Bangor found themselves stuck in the mud in Week One, unable to post up a single score against the realigned Lancaster Bombers.
They’ll look to improve on Sunday against an Edge Hill side they bested 22-6 last year, but the Vikings will be hoping they can cause an upset - look out for the addition of former LJMU Fury Running Back Gary Plunkett to provide some more grunt in the ground attack.
Keele Crusaders vs Chester Legion
If they’ve managed to maintain momentum Keele may be a team to watch out for this season - they finished their 17/18 campaign with a four-game win streak.
Chester meanwhile did at least manage to pick up their first competitive victory as a team with an actually fairly hefty 40-6 win over the Bradford Bears. Frustratingly that was a rare bright spot in their second season, and we’ve heard little out of them building up to their 2018/19 opener.
Huddersfield Hawks vs DMU Falcons
Huddersfield quietly put together a rather strong season in 17/18, culminating in a first-ever playoff appearance.
They took a 6-16 win last time they faced the Falcons in a bird-off, as DMU’s strong opening to their season stagnated - playing just a single game ahead of the Christmas break, a 0-46 win over the Colonials, the Falcons wouldn’t play another fixture until late January and by then they seemed to struggle to get off the ground.
2A South West
OBU Panthers vs Bath Spa Bulldogs
The Panthers found themselves in pole position in our Power Rankings this week following a nice win over the Gladiators to open their campaign.
It’s worth noting that the scoreline however certainly represents a team effort, as the Glads actually did a fairly good job of shutting down the OBU offence, a big breakaway play and a punt return given the Panthers the edge in a game that was otherwise very closely contested.
Still, they’re almost certainly hot favourites this weekend as they face a Bath Spa Bulldogs team that failed to score a single point in 2017/18.
New committee, new Head Coach, but will it be enough for the Bulldogs to turn a new leaf as start stacking up some wins?
Worcester Royals vs Oxford Lancers
The Worcester Royals made the offseason hop from the midlands to the South West - but will they fare better in their new home after only managing the two wins last year, their first back in Division Two?
Well they certainly headed to the offseason carrying good momentum after rounding out their regular season with a 70-0 win.
Still, the South West is historically a hotly contested conference and they’ll face a Lancers side eager to improve its consistency after an up-and-down 17/18 campaign that saw a blend of convincing wins, but also hefty losses against true title contenders.
Royal Holloway Bears vs City Wolfpack
The Bears kicked off their year with a modest win over the Saxons - but the scoreline looks a lot more meaningful when you consider the Sussex side were playing D1 football only a few months ago.
They host a Wolfpack who are looking to improve after their promising 2-1 start to their 17/18 campaign went awry post-Christmas with three straight losses to close out the year.
Last time these two met it was a nail-biter that the Bears edged 9-7… can we expect a similarly tense affair this weekend?
Sussex Saxons vs Chichester Spitfires
Chichester were an interesting one last year. Sure, they didn’t make a lot of noise on their way to equalling their team-best record of two wins, but in truth they were more competitive than perhaps they were given credit for - three of their four losses coming by a score or less.
They’ll travel to a Sussex outfit who are clearly still finding their feet after relegation at the end of last season.
Graduations have left them with a large rookie class, but a couple of experienced international additions could yet boost the Saxons to success this season.
BNU Buccaneers vs Greenwich Mariners
BNU bowed out of their 2017/18 season after two games, and though we’ve heard nothing out of them in the preseason best we can tell they’ve been recruiting and in an expanded conference they’ll get an opportunity to test themselves against some new faces this winter.
Among those fresh additions to the conference are the Mariners, shifted out of the South East during the offseason and given a rude welcome to the 2A South with a 0-24 loss to the KCL Regents in Week One.
A long-tenured programme with a proud history, Greenwich were frustrated to only pick up two wins in 2017/18. As such, expect both outfits to look at this game as one of their better shots to get a notch in the W column.
2A South East
Cambridge Pythons vs Essex Blades
Cambridge are coming into 18/19 off the back of a troubled campaign that saw them drop from Division One football.
They take on an Essex Blades side that’s been getting some attention in the early Power Rankings despite being yet to step onto the field.
Whichever way things go, at least in this undersized four-team conference, whichever team comes off worse will get a shot at revenge later in the year - a rare occurrence in the normally one-shot lowest tier.