FOOTBALL -- Many including my self have been so wrapped up in other sports (The World Series, NHL expansion, Dorzan’s torrid pace, TFC battling for a title and Thanksgiving NFL action) that the Grey Cup has snuck up on us. The 104th instalment of the Grey Cup is set to take place this weekend here in Toronto at BMO field and just in case you have neglected your CFL coverage this season I’ve gathered some key facts to know for Sunday tilt so that you can enjoy the game with even your most dedicated of friends and not feel out of place.
The Canadian Football league’s Holy Grail will be awarded for the 104th time this Sunday when The Calgary Stampede take on The Ottawa Red Blacks. Anyone who has followed the CFL in 2016 will know that this matchup is anything but a surprise as both teams finished first in their respective divisions. Ottawa finished atop the East standings with a workman like 8-9-1, a record that would have been fifth best if they played in the much stronger West division. Speaking of the West, Calgary put together a season for the ages, posting a 15-2-1 record seven points ahead of second place BC.
On paper this game doesn’t promise much suspense or intrigue. Calgary has had their way with just about every team this year and has done it on both sides of the ball. The Stamps led the league with a total of 586 points for and surrendered a league low 369, while Ottawa was average in both categories much like their win loss record. Despite the disparity between these two teams in results and on the score sheet, they met twice this year and Ottawa was able to come away with a point, registering a loss and a tie in those matchups.
Traditionally sports teams perform better at home and have a statistical advantage when playing in their own barn. That said neither of these teams will have home field but Ottawa might be a beneficiary of that fact. This season the Red Blacks were a disappointing 2-6-1 at home but a rather impressive 6-3 record on the road. Conversely the Stampeders had a more traditional split, finishing 9-0 at home and 6-2-1 while away from Calgary, meaning when out of the comforts of the McMahon Stadium the Stampeders are very much mortal.
Calgary’s been led all year by their Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell who finished second in passing yards with an incredible 5,385 in 17 contests, throwing for a whooping 32 touchdowns and surrendering just 8 interceptions over that span. However you don’t posses the leagues number one offense with just one player having a terrific season. One of the best plays Mitchell would make with the ball was to hand it of to his running back Jerome Messam. The Calgary ball carrier led the CFL in rushing yards amassing a healthy 1,198 yards on the ground and added 11 scores which was also tops in the CFL.
On the flip side The Red Blacks laid claim to 3 of the leagues top seven wide-outs in terms of receiving yards. Ellingson (1,260), Williams (1,246) and Jackson (1,225) finished five, six, and seven in terms of receiving yards and combined for a rather impressive 24 TDs. The balance of this speedy trio poses a unique threat as defences can’t afford to double team any one player. The threesome will be catching passing from the veteran Henry Burris, who at 41 is likely on his last legs and is looking to ride off a champion.
In closing the two clubs combined for an exciting 123 points in their two regular season meetings which would leave you to believe that Sunday should be full of fireworks and given that neither team has a defender who leads any of the major categories on the other side of the ball, I would tend to agree. With the weather scheduled to be rather decent for this time of year, the 104th Grey Cup should be a show worth watching. Even if Calgary pulls away early as is very likely, the half time show should be well worth staying tuned for as One Republic is set to rock BMO field when the two combatants head to the locker rooms for a much needed break.