Japan: The 77th Rice Bowl is a battle of unbeatens as the reigning champion Fujitsu Frontiers face the Panasonic Impulse

The stage is set for the 77th annual Rice Bowl, featuring the two No.1 regular season teams, both undefeated, the Panasonic Impulse, and the defending champions, the Fujitsu Frontiers.

Fujitsu defeated the Obic Seagulls 24-17 in the semifinals while the Impulse downed IBM Big Blue 47-23.

These two teams have history, having faced each other in the last two Rice Bowls with the Frontiers edging the Impulse 29-21 a year ago to win their seventh championship since 2014 and defeating Panasonic the year before 28-14.

Frontiers assistant coach Keven Lightner:

“This is my 8th season in Japan and my 8th time in the Championship game. This will be a classic match up with Fujitsu Oline vs the front 7 of Panasonic. It will be a very physical matchup. It’s what we play the game for!”

Powerhouse Fujitsu has had Panasonic’s number in recent history, defeating the Impulse in five of the last six matchups between the two squads. The last time the Impulse beat the Frontiers was Nov. 12, 2021 when they downed them 26-20 in a regular season game. As mentioned, Fujitsu earned their revenge though by defeating the Impulse in the Rice Bowl that season.

In what could be an offensive shootout, key players to watch for the Frontiers will include quarterback Tsubasa Takagi (762 yds, 12 TD), running back Trashaun Nixon (347 yds, 4 TDs)  who can decide a game on his own, as well as wide receiver Ricki Matsui (15 rec, 191 yds, 2 TD).

On defense, defensive lineman Joe Mathis (University of Washington) anchors a front seven that allowed an average of just 7.7 points a game while defensive backs Al-Rilwan Adeyemi and Bronson Beattie are keys to the secondary.

The Impulse will lean on either the starter in the semifinal win over IBM, Yuya Araki (369 yds, 6 TD), or Takuya Ishiuchi (697 yds, 9 TD) who came in the in the second half of the semi and secured the win. They will have two imposing targets in former Pittsburgh Steeler tight end Dax Raymond (Utah State) (16 rec, 262 yds, 3 TD) and wide receiver Shay Fields (University of Colorado) who has returned from injury. Add to this running back Victor Mitchell, who has been injured, and Panasonic’s offense is potent. Defensively, the return of linebacker Jaboree Williams (Wake Forest) from injury will definitely help put pressure on Nixon.

The Frontiers have a chance to three-peat against the same team they have beaten in the last two title games. Meanwhile, for Panasonic, there is no better time to break the cycle and capture a championship that has eluded them since 2015.

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