In 50 words or less: Will quarterback Jean-Philippe Shoiry, in his fifth year, make up for the offence's loss of Pascal Fils and lead Sherbrooke to a better-than-last-place finish in the toughest CIS football conference?
WILL Sherbrooke, who received only one vote out of 103 in our who-will-win-the-Q poll, overcome at least two other Q teams to make the playoffs?
HOW high will Shoiry place in our end-of-year quarterback rankings, having made the top 10 in three of the last four years?
CAN Sherbrooke replace the rushing production of Pascal Fils, who led CIS with 1331 yards on the ground in eight games but has now adopted a different green-and-gold uniform with Edmonton?
2009 recap: 3-5 record, sixth place in the QUFL. "Last place" is a misleading phrase for Sherby: they weren't that bad, and would have been higher than sixth in any other conference (especially the AUS!). The Vert et Or were third or fourth in a lot of offensive and defensive categories--number one in turnover margin, actually--and they were able to win any game...that wasn't on the road...and wasn't against Laval.
Departures:: FB Benoît Boulanger, OL Francis Daneau, DB Ludovic Kashindi, and the Son of Gold, RB Pascal Fils.
Arrivals:: WR Francis Lapointe, RB Jean-Christophe Beaulieu, DB Dave Boucher, DB Alexandre Branco, DL Mathieu St-Pierre Castonguay.
Keep an eye on: Third-year linebackers Kevin Régimbald-Gagné and Filipe Fonseca: both had strong seasons last year and are expected to be a crucial part of the defence this season. And of course, Shoiry. Experience is often crucial in CIS, particularly at the quarterback position, and there aren't too many teams starting fifth-year players there this season. If he can have a good season, things could fall into place for the Vert et Or.
Coach & coordinators: Head coach André Bolduc (4th year, 12-13), offensive coordinator David Lessard, defensive coordinator Marc Loranger.
Off-the-field factors: The scheduling quirks might benefit the Vert et Or this year: their last four games are all in town, and even if they make the playoffs, they still won't have to travel out of province. Bolduc has also mentioned how losing Fils may hurt, but they'll gain in the long term from having a former player turn pro.
From last season's preview: "Sherbrooke is coming off of their best season yet, and the stock for the program is on the rise. However, they are still behind Laval and Concordia and will be in tough against Montreal this year. The Quebec conference is tight, but at least they are heading in the right direction." -Jared Book.
That sounds about right: they beat Montreal the first time, at home, but lost at CEPSUM in the season finale, and didn't make the playoffs as a result.
Stock up or stock down: Up. They might have relied on Fils too much in the past: he accounted for nearly half of their yards from scrimmage in 2009-10. So losing him may not be as damaging to their offence as it seems, especially with an excellent (fifth-year) quarterback. Ultimately, it might be their D that keeps them at fifth or sixth, rather than third or fourth. This is a very difficult conference.
Schedule: (all times Eastern)
Wed Aug 25 6:30pm vs. Ottawa (EXHIBITION)
Thu Sep 2 7:00pm at Montreal
Sat Sep 11 7:00pm vs. Laval
Fri Sep 18 7:00pm vs. Mount A
Sun Sep 26 1:00pm at Laval
Sat Oct 2 1:00pm at McGill
Fri Oct 8 7:00pm vs. Bishop's
Sat Oct 16 1:00pm vs. Concordia
Sat Oct 23 1:00pm at Bishop's
Sat Oct 30 1:00pm vs. McGill
Several hat-tips to the official preview are in order.