Football: Week 7 preview

Commitments to both families -- one consisting of parents and siblings and the other consisting of men who wear yellow and call themselves Gaels -- might mean light or belated blogging on Saturday. Here's an early lowdown on Week 7:
  • No. 6 Saint Mary's at No. 1 Laval: Rouge et Or coach Glen Constantin told the Halifax Daily News that "12 of 24 starters" from Week 1 will probably be unable to play due to injuries. Laval is as vulnerable as they ever going to be at PEPS Stadium. The big variable in calling an upset, at least for a detached observer, is not knowing how big the gap is between the calibre of play in the Atlantic and Quebec conferences (it's narrowed a bit since last year).

    Saint Mary's probably needs to play close to penalty-free (not easy) and come out plus-2 or better in turnovers, while QB Erik Glavic will have to make something from nothing on some broken plays. Whichever Laval QB plays, Benoit Groulx, Cesar Sanchez-Hernandez or Bruno Prud'homme, is well-schooled in being safe with the ball and avoiding interceptions and negative plays. Don't be surprised if the Huskies pull out something like a 27-24 upset, but Laval probably wins this game seven times out 10, even in the state their roster is in.

    Glavic is getting Hec Crighton hype from the hometown Halifax Herald. Beat Laval and he might become the No. 2 contender behind Bishop's tailback Jamall Lee.
  • No. 2 Ottawa at No. 4 Laurier: The Gee-Gees, who won at University Stadium last season, got a bad game out of their system last week vs. Queen's and should bounce back. Outside linebacker Cheelor Lindor is expected back from an injury, although the man in the middle, Joe Barnes, is apparently so doubtful. If the Gee-Gees put Laurier in a lot of second-and-nines and make Laurier QB Ian Noble have to throw 30-plus times, they'll win going away.

    The Golden Hawks, who kind of won out of habit as much as anything else last week in Guelph, are also coming off a so-so game. Negative impressions have been coloured, admittedly, by the Golden Hawks playing in the University Rush game the past two weeks, where their flaws got a public airing. Laurier has been outgained two straight weeks, Ryan Lynch (38 rushes for 106 yards) has struggled and some of the decisions Noble made with the ball last week also raised red flags. Their coaching and character should help them recover. A tight, defensive game with occasional offensive outbursts seems most likely and the Gee-Gees have the more veteran passer in Josh Sacobie and better kicker in Ara Tchobanian. A 20-17 Gee-Gees win seems like a safe call.
  • U of T goes for No. 48: Sometime around 1:45 p.m. tomorrow in Kingston, the P.A. announcer will intone, "Elsewhere in the OUA this afternoon..." and deliver the news that the Western Mustangs are beating the Toronto Varsity Blues by something like 21-0 after one quarter and it will be official. The Blues will have the longest losing streak in CIS football history.

    There's little to add other than to point out it's hardly anomalous to having a losing team in Canada's largest city. Collegiate football has always been a game where big small towns -- Ann Arbor, South Bend, Tuscaloosa, Tallahassee -- could make a name for themselves and where smaller, less well known universities could raise their public standing.

    There hasn't been a big-time U.S. college football team based in New York since shortly after World War II, when Columbia and Fordham deemphasized football. The University of Chicago does not have a team. Northwestern, located in suburban Evanston, Illinois, is a Big Ten also-ran most seasons. The University of San Francisco doesn't have a team. Even in Texas, football country, there is no prominent program based in Dallas, the state's largest city. So really, the U of T's woes are not some occasionally for typical Canadian self-flagellating.

    It's a story of a university that's stuck with some 1960s egalitarian notion of something-for-everyone. Other schools are deciding it's not such a bad thing to focus more on the sports programs that have had success competitively and in drawing fans.
  • All quiet on the Can West front: The three best teams -- Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Regina -- respectively play the three fighting it out for the last playoff spot, UBC, Calgary and Alberta.
  • A modest proposal: The CIS would do well to adopt, to a certain extent, the NCAA's practice of creating more individual awards. The Americans take it to an absurd extent -- 21 awards, including four different ones for the best quarterback, but are on mostly on the right track.

    The practice of naming an award after a past great, like the Butkus Award for best linebacker or Randy Moss Award for best kick returner, helps inform current players and fans about some of the game's history.

    How does having the √Čric Lapointe Award for the best running back or the Chris Flynn for best quarterback sound? Any other nominations (best offensive lineman -- Mike Schad?), pass it along.
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