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.
Stirling Clansmen vs Leeds Beckett Carnegie
by Andy Loch
This week’s top tier game of the week takes a look at the second meeting between these two outfits. Carnegie got the best of the first meeting, and in a big way - posting up the first and so far only fifty burger of the year in the top tier. However, since then the Clans’ defence has steeled itself, holding the two top-power-ranked teams in the North, Nottingham and the Saints, to just a single touchdown a piece in their most recent outings.
Can a similar performance from Stirling’s steeley D move the Clan back into contention in the Prem North? Or, following a strong start to their campaign where they’ve only been edged out by the currently undefeated Nottingham, will Carnegie be heading into the Christmas break potentially contesting the top of the table?
We’ve seen both these outfits in Game of the Week articles before, so less need to get to know them better, so much as learn how they’re feeling coming into this game:
The Stirling Clansmen have been a stalwart of the university game for nearly a decade now, and can boast three of the last five National Titles, added to their previous Natty back in 2004. Much of this success was down to previous Head Coach Rob Orr who created one of the best programmes for students to be part of - providing strong academics with a great football experience, and strong ties to the local community, which allowed the programme to lure in many internationals from around Europe, as well as top domestic talent.
As mentioned in our Game of the Week Four, Victor Peredo duly took on the job when Coach Orr stepped aside back in 2016, and added his own National Championship a year later. He has continued to draw players from around Europe and top domestic talent to combat the high number of imports at Durham, and now Nottingham, which has allowed the team to stay competitive in the top division of University football.
The Clan have had an up and down season so far, losing Week One to Carnegie, before really throwing a cat amongst the pigeons in their strong defensive stand against Durham, and then succumbing to Notts this past week in another defensive showdown. This match could really be make or break for Stirling’s pursuit of a Northern title.
Going into the Christmas break 1-3 would cause a fair amount of concern, especially if Derby were able to discover some talented additions to their roster over the next two months.
Ones To Watch
Emmanuel Bawa has been the driving force on the ground for the Clan this season in the absence of the graduated Thomas Campbell.
Defensively Stirling has been stout since the Week One fifty burger, due to a number of iron-men and great all-round team performances. Can they slow the highest scoring Offence in the Premier Division?
Leeds Beckett Carnegie
Carnegie formed in 2009 under the tutelage of Paul Wake, and this year marks their tenth in the league. Still able to boast that they have never had a losing season after becoming the first newbie to the Prem North to win a game on the field, they also set a new standard by successfully staying afloat in the top tier - displacing longtime powerhouse, Loughborough. They hit playoffs in their first year in the top tier, trouncing the Hertfordshire Hurricanes on the road, before falling out of the race thanks to the weather and the rulebook in the Semi-Finals.
Coach Dale Bottomley, now into his third season as HC, has progressed the programme tremendously, and in the last couple of months has also taken the reins at the Yorkshire Academy Rams, as well as helping bring together the Yorkshire Academy of American Football. This year marks the first time that Carnegie have moved to bring in some American talent, after relying on domestic players to win the Division One title and then to keep them in the Premier Division.
I reached out to Carnegie Chairman Arron Hurst earlier in the week and he had this to say,
“The team had massive reaction behind the scenes after the Nottingham game with the whole team coming together and realising our potential. I think the loss to Nottingham came at a good time because we are ready for it all now.”
Carnegie sit at 2-1 after their strong showing last weekend against Derby, which followed a 1-point loss to Notts.
Ones to Watch
Tyler Broad continues to play a huge role in all three phases of the game, with Sheldon Campbell continuing to impress after his summer with the GB team.
Kam Fry, who exited the game against Notts due to injury, is still expected to be sidelined through the winter break, meaning Josh Green will continue to lead the offence off the back of a 49 point effort last week, that included two passing TDs in his first ever game at QB.
Sarunas Tiskus also returned from a lengthy injury last week, which he sustained early in the offseason, and provided some instant impact at LB.
When last they met…
The teams last met back in week one in Leeds, where Carnegie pulled away in the second half to secure a 50-28 victory. Looking back to last season, the teams split their wins, the home side earning victory on each occasion.
But who’s winning this one?
Given the hefty margin of victory for Leeds last time around, surely they’ll be coming into this one as favourites? However, missing one of their key weapons, and against a Clan defence that has found its form in recent weeks, will we see a flip of fortunes this weekend?
Let us know your thoughts on who’s taking the W this weekend, and in the meantime we asked our BUCS office to make their pick of who they think have the edge - open the spoiler tab to reveal their choice!
Predictions for all BUCS fixtures are also incoming, they’ll just be in a simpler, pick’em style format this season.