It's an intriguing matchup in the West Division Semi-Final this Sunday when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers come to Mosaic Stadium to face the Saskatchewan Roughriders for their fourth meeting this season (3:30 pm Sask Time, TSN, 620 CKRM Rider Radio Network).
Here is an early preview:
We say early, because no one knows the absolute health of the Roughriders starting quarterback Zach Collaros. It appears like he is healthy and ready to go as he made a fan appearance during the bye week, but the Riders did make a move that got the CFL world buzzing as career backup quarterback Drew Tate was signed on Saturday.
Tate has spent the season as a defensive analyst (college coaching staffs are huge) for the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers of the Sun Belt Conference. They have had a solid season and are two wins away from qualifying for a Bowl Game for the first time in their brief history in the FBS. But the carrot of another paycheque playing football and the potential bonus money available for playing and winning playoff games had to have been too difficult to turn down.
For the Riders, this is a sign that they are in need of someone who can execute the offence if Collaros goes down again. Looking far ahead, expect yet another year of five or six deep quarterback battles at training camp next spring.
To make it simple, let’s say Collaros is good to go Sunday. He will have to be very good for the Riders to come up with their first home playoff victory since the 2013 Grey Cup.
Going head-to-head, the Winnipeg offence would have the edge over the Riders.
Saskatchewan was dead last in offensive touchdowns while Winnipeg was tops in the league. The Riders were also last in 2-and-outs and in the bottom third of the league in yards per game, first downs and plays from scrimmage.
But don't read too deep into that. The Saskatchewan offence is built for this time of season. They are in the top three in turnovers made and in time of possession. If the Green and White offence can hold onto the football, keep their mistakes to a minimum and hold the Bomber offence off the field, it will make for a much easier game.
Defensively, everyone would give the Roughriders the edge as well. It’s a big-play defence that is able to get to the quarterback and can make things difficult for Matt Nichols. Again, this isn’t a runaway because the Winnipeg offence doesn’t make that many mistakes (except to the Riders on Labour Day and the Banjo Bowl) and overall, they led the league in turnover ratio (+14 to the Riders +6).
In the end, give the edge to Saskatchewan.
Special teams is an easy checkmark for the Craig Dickenson kicking and return units. Brett Lauther had a career season kicking, Rider returners were second in punt return average and tops in kick return yardage as well. Those are the hidden yards that can flip the field.
It’s going to be sunny and cool at Mosaic Stadium on Saturday. If Saskatchewan can ride Cam Marshall running the ball, keep mistakes at a minimum and hold the Bomber offence to only a small handful of large chunk plays, the one or two big plays Saskatchewan can always come up will be the difference.
The Riders will win 25-18.
The East Division Semifinal between the Lions and Tiger-Cats in Hamilton may not be a pretty game. After winning six of seven games to get into the playoffs, the B.C. Lions hit a wall at the end of the season getting boat-raced by both Saskatchewan and Calgary.
Hamilton lost five of their last seven to finish 8-10 and they don’t look good on either side of the football. Without their best player in Speedy Banks, look for the Lions to make the step into the East Finals.
The Toronto Argonauts didn’t waste any time relieving Marc Trestman of his head coaching duties. He went from winning the Grey Cup just one year ago to a miserable four-win season.
With the new AAF gobbling up coaches across America, the list of available head coaches is getting thinner and thinner. So, will Jim Popp do something that Winnipeg has had some success doing with Mike O’Shea and hire a Canadian head coach? Or will he go to the college coaching retirement home like Montreal and Hamilton? It will be an incredibly interesting and important hire in the CFL’s biggest market.
This Week in Canada West:
It was an all-time CanWest semifinal thriller at Thunderbird Stadium in Vancouver on a cool and wet Saturday afternoon.
After a Trivel Pinto touchdown catch with 1:43 remaining and a Stavros Katsantonis interception it looked like the UBC Thunderbirds were on their way to a fourth-straight Hardy Cup Final.
But Kyle Siemens and the University of Saskatchewan offence was granted one last chance with 51-seconds remaining. He quickly engineered a drive that finished with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Jesse Kuntz to tie the game and force overtime.
In overtime, the Thunderbirds missed a field goal while fifth-year senior Sean Stenger drilled a 38-yard field goal for the Huskies first playoff win since 2009.
They will take on the Calgary Dinos who used a tremendous second half to smoke the Manitoba Bisons 37-13. Adam Sinagra was lethal again with 363-yards passing and three touchdowns in the victory.
The Dinos will be looking for their ninth Hardy Cup championship in 11 years while the Huskies last won the Canada West title in 2006.
Hardy Cup Final:
Saturday, November 10th
Saskatchewan Huskies at Calgary Dinos 1:00pm MST (McMahon Stadium)
This Week in the PFC:
The Saskatoon Hilltops now know who they will play in next weekend’s Canadian Bowl. The Langley Rams pounded the Hamilton Hurricanes 39-14 and will make the trip to SMF Field in Saskatoon.
With a win, the Hilltops will nab their fifth straight national title and ninth in ten years. It’s also a rematch of the 2014 Canadian Bowl where the Hilltops beat the Rams in Langley 39-14.
Saturday, November 17th
Langley Rams at Saskatoon Hilltops 1:00pm (SMF Field)
Brendan O’Leary-Orange – Soph.
Receiver - Nevada
High School – Canadian Prep Academy
After a fantastic freshman season (618 yards receiving and four touchdowns), O’Leary-Orange has had to fight through an injury filled 2018.
In seven games this season, he has 11 catches for 152-yards and a touchdown with his best effort coming this weekend. O’Leary-Orange had four catches for 51-yards and a score in a 28-24 victory over San Diego State.
(By RodPedersen.com Staff)