This year marks the 30th Austrian Bowl

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The Vikings have been on a roll and are finishing strong,after a tough period at mid-season (three losses in four games).Check out this full preview of Austrian Bowl XXX which will be played at NV Arena in St Pölten. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. CET, 1 p.m. EST.

Vienna Vikings Offense v. Swarco Raiders Defense

Not at all surprisingly, it starts with #8 QB Christoph Gross being his old self again. Not that he was playing bad but maybe a little tentative since coming back from an early season injury you can tell he wasnt himself. In the last four games, he has been on fire: passing at 67.2%, with 1,108 yards, 17 TDs,and just 2 INTs.

Im sure it has to be alot of fun to play quarterback with such a great cast of wide receivers. Speedy #6 Laurinho Walch who’s killed DB’s this year with (751 yards, 20 yards per catch) and physical #88 Stefan Postel are on the outside. #7 Dominik Bubik is quick and explosive in the slot. TE #11 Manuel Thaller is a matchup nightmare at over 2 meters tall. Good luck defending those playmakers!

The Raiders pass defense has been exposed for most of the year, allowing a mind blowing 315 passing yards per game in the regular season, the worst in the league (573 yards in one game against Prague). It is a young backfield even if safety #21 Markus Krause brings experience.

Head coach and defensive coordinator Shuan Fatah is a zone defense guy, he doesn’t play much straight man to man and anyway, he doesn’t have the personnel to do so against those Vikings receivers. He changed his defense to a 3-4 front this season. You can expect him to drop eight defenders in pass coverage most the time to counter the Vikings passing game. But can the Raiders put enough pressure on Gross with only a three man rush? Nobody wants to give Gross too much time to throw the ball. Plus, since the Vikings parted away with their American RB, his Austrian former backup, #20 Islaam Amadu, has been a pleasant surprise (163 yards versus Prague) behind a banged-up but very good offensive line. Also, don’t think the Vikings offense is one dimensional. Head coach and offensive coordinator Chris Calaycay loves play-action pass plays and he needs to set up the running game for that to work.

Innsbruck has really struggled defensively at times (457 total yards and +30 points allowed per game in the regular season). They gave up 51 points to Graz and 62 to Prague earlier this season, but they have improved in the last few games, shutting down the Dragons in semifinal and giving up only 18 points to Berlin in their Big 6 matchup. The Raiders’ veteran linebackers, #2 Florian Hueter and #36 Philipp Margreiter will have to step up big time. The defensive line will have to put pressure on Gross. Watch for Margreiter to be the extra guy blitzing on a regular basis.

Swarco Raiders Offense vs Vienna Vikings Defense

The Swarco Raiders offense is a true spread option offense. They run the fly sweep, zone read, speed option, triple option, lots of screens, … All American QB #7 John Van Den Raadt can be an amazing playmaker at times. He does most of his damage with his legs as a runner or scrambling forever before finding someone wide open. He has struggled in the passing game in the big games, especially against the Vikings. His wide receiver unit is solid, but not as explosive as their counterparts. #84 Clemens Erlsbacher is the go-to target.

League Offensive MVP, RB #29 Andreas Hofbauer (793 rushing yards and 16 total TDs), has not been used a lot since he came back from European Championship where he carried the load for Team Austria. Was it planned by the coaching staff to rest him? Anyhow, he’s gained only 145 yards in the last 4 games! A former track and field athlete, he might be the fastest player in Europe and burned the Vikings for a a 63 yards TD run and a 74 yards TD reception in their last game.

The Vienna defense is the best in the business. Only 15 points and less than 100 yards allowed on the ground per game. Their front 7 is dominant and lead by League Defensive MVP, LB #41 Dustin Illetschko. Yes, it is true, some teams had some success with the pass against the Vikes. The best example was Dresden in Big 6 competition (404 yards 4 TDs). But they have the cornerbacks, #4 Benji Bubik and #29 Andreas Lunzer, to play man-to-man all day and they match up really well against the Raiders receiving core.

It would make sense for the Vikings to play man and focus on stopping the run. Look for American S #26 Craig Sedunov to be the extra guy in run support and keying on the Raiders quarterback.

Raiders are the underdogs, no doubt about it, but it is good at times to be in that position. The Vikings are the two-time defending champions, and the pressure is on the them, not the Raiders. The Raiders will need a fast start. You have to make the Vikings doubt themselves if you want to have a chance. You cannot play catch up with them.

The AFL is the best league in Europe behind the German Football League. For a very small country, they do a great job to promote the game, their league and their championship game. Almost 4,000 fans came to St. Pölten last year for the same game. It will be actually the 9th matchup in the Austrian Bowl between these two traditional rivals (Vikings lead 5-3). After the great success of the European Championship in Austria last month, and if the weather is not too disagreeable (remember Austrian Bowl 2011?), it should be another great football game on the field and a great even off it.

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