Gridiron Bowl Preview

Gridiron Bowl Preview

The entire season has built up to this, the Gridiron Bowl. After a long 19 week regular season, three weeks of playoff games, and one Playoff Bowl, the stage is now set for the championship of the GSL, the Inaugural Gridiron Bowl. The two teams entering this first Gridiron Bowl were both near the top of the league throughout the season, so it’s no surprise seeing either of these teams make it to the big game.

The visitors from the Western Conference will be the Arizona Eagles. The Eagles were one of two teams to start the year 6-0. This hopt start helped Arizona clinch the Western Conferences #1 seed entering the playoffs. The Eagles next 12 games were not as successful, as they went 7-5 down the stretch, but a big win against the Memphis Comets would prove crucial as it broke the tie between the two teams, giving Arizona home field advantage. In the divisional round, the Eagles easily handled a red hot San Antonio Texans team to advance to the Western Conference Championship. There, they faced a very talented Memphis team. After a slow start, the Eagles offense came alive in the second half, scoring 24 unanswered points, with an interception late in the 4th proving the final nail in the coffin, to seal a trip to New Orleans for the Gridiron Bowl.

The Eastern Conference champion Norfolk Commanders were arguably not expected to be here. This had nothing to do with their record, in fact, the Commanders had the second best record in the GSL this season, while playing in a tough East division. After a slow 2-3 start to the season, the Commanders won 10 straight games, the second longest win streak by any team this season. After winning the division, the Commanders breezed by the Louisville Lightning in the divisional round. In the Eastern Conference Championship game, Norfolk headed to Happy Valley to take on the league's most dominant team, the Pennsylvania Keystones. The Keystones had lost only one game all season, and many games weren’t even close. It took a masterful game plan for Norfolk to pull off the huge upset, as the Commanders were able to shut down the potent Keystones offense for most of the game. A key interception with just over two minutes to play was the final key to victory, as this set the Commanders up for a chip shot 26 yard game winning field goal with only 12 seconds remaining in the game.

With the stage set, how do these two teams match up against each other? Both teams have decent defenses that are evenly matched. They both go with a bend, don’t break mentality, while making key plays to win games. The Eagles have the edge on offense, with much of Arizona’s success can be attributed to their big play offense. No one has been better in big games than the Commanders this year. The term underdog doesn’t mean much to them, as proven by their huge win last week, as they came into the Eastern Conference Championship 13 point underdogs, with only an 8% expected win probability. They will need to overcome the odds again if they want to walk away as GSL Champions.

Here are the statistics on Sunday’s Gridiron Bowl.
Line: ARZ -5
O/U: 50
Win Percentage: ARZ 70.94%

On to the look of the game. The Norfolk Commanders will be the home team in this year’s Gridiron Bowl, giving them first choice of uniforms. Norfolk chose to go with their road whites, with white pants, arguably their best look, and one of the best looks in the league. The team has worn the white over white combo for their Divisional and Conference Championship wins. Here’s a look at the Commanders jersey for the game.

The Eagles went with their black over white combo, which was their most worn uniform combination this season, including both of their playoff wins. Here’s a look at a retail version of the Eagles uniforms in Sunday’s game.

This game just happens to feature the two teams that opted to go with an inaugural season patch on their jerseys all season. Fitting, as they now play in the inaugural Gridiron Bowl. Here’s a look at the teams’ complete uniform sets for the game.

Lastly, we get to the field design. This year’s field will feature a design that calls back to some of the classic Super Bowl fields between 1997 (Super Bowl XXXI) and 2003 (Super Bowl XXXVII). This particular field design is most reminiscent of Super Bowl XXXI, also played in the Superdome, especially with this year’s Gridiron Bowl logo (designed by Alex Zenzola, owner of the Arizona Eagles). Here’s a look at design schematics for the field.

And another look at the field from the stadium.

The Inaugural Gridiron Bowl Kicks off at 6:25PM EDT this Sunday, August 1st.

Austin Snelick
July 27, 2021