Up first: the Loney Bowl, with commentary from Andrew Bucholtz and Rob Pettapiece.
Some explanation of the categories used: "Surplus Passing" refers to the team totals for surplus passing yards per 31 attempts (surplus is as defined here, and 31 is the average number of attempts per game). "Surplus Rushing" is defined similarly for rushing yards (per 27 attempts, again the number in the average game). "Ground-vs-Air" refers to the percentage of plays in the air--that is, passing attempts divided by pass plus rush attempts, shown here as the rank out of 25 CIS teams ("1" means the most pass-happy team).
Acadia Axemen at Saint Mary's Huskies
1:00pm AT / 12:00pm ET
Andrew: Yeah, I think this has the potential to be quite one-sided. I'd still rather watch it than Laval's certain annihilation of Sherbrooke in the Dunsmore Cup, though, as Acadia does have the chance at an upset here. Saint Mary's remains the best team in the AUS, but their early struggles this year proved they aren't as dominant as they have been historically. They're good, but they're not invulnerable, as the Axemen proved in Week One.
BURNING QUESTIONS ... ANSWERED?
Rob: Most of SMU's questions can't be answered yet, but that Laval game sure came at a strange time, with Micah Brown making his CIS debut against a semipro squad.
Andrew: Yeah, that 45-7 pummeling by Laval in Week Two hurt. However, I think it might have been a boon in some unexpected ways; the Huskies still lost their next game (basically a road game in Moncton against Mount Allison), but they played much better than they did in their first two games, and they've continued to improve since. They won their final five games, beating Acadia by 35, X by 27, X by 35, Mount A by 36 and shutting out the Axemen 21-0 in the regular-season finale. They're peaking at the right time, and they look like favourites to get out of the conference and perhaps even make some noise against the eventual Canada West champion. The AUS empire may yet be able to strike back against traitorous rebels Blake Nill and Erik Glavic.
For Acadia, we can answer more of the questions. They were able to pick up wins against more than just Mount Allison this year, beating Saint Mary's in the season-opener and X twice. They only notched one regular-season win against the Mounties this year, but beat them in a thrilling overtime game last week when it mattered. Kyle Graves proved a capable dual-threat quarterback and a decent replacement for Keith Lockwood; he led the team in rushing with 458 yards while also throwing for 1120 yards. His completion percentage needs improvement (54.2 per cent), and his 6 to 10 TD/INT ratio is anything but ideal, but he certainly has plenty of potential. He's listed as a third-year, so if he continues to grow as a quarterback, he could help Acadia football return to their old form.
Andrew: Yeah. If Acadia's to have any chance of the upset, they're going to need a strong performance from the running game. They've got some talented ball-carriers, though; Brett Haenni, Andrew Healy and Zack Clarke are all averaging over five yards per carry. As mentioned before, Graves can make plays with his feet too, and that might open up some throwing holes. The Axemen also have a pretty good passing defence; they've only given up 170.4 yards and five touchdowns through the air all season, and they've notched 15 interceptions. If they can create some turnovers on defence, that will go a long way towards beating SMU.
SMU won the season series 2-1, outscoring the Axemen 69-17.
Sep. 11: SMU 7-17 ACA.
Rob: Perhaps the best argument in favour of weighting more recent games more heavily...the departed Jack Creighton threw three INTs and completed just 17 of 36.
Andrew: Very true, but I think that game does demonstrate the blueprint of what Acadia could do to pull off a win; make some interceptions, contain the Saint Mary's passing attack (151 yards) and make some offensive plays of their own (Graves only threw for 154 yards, but he notched two touchdowns against one interception). What's also significant is that Acadia won that game despite their ground attack going MIA (68 rushing yards, lousy per carry numbers). It's been much better for most of the rest of the season.
Oct. 30: ACA 10-41 SMU.
Rob: In what was SMU's first win of the season, they held Acadia to just 3.2 yards per play (130 total). That's brutal. Even Laval's opponents can get four or five.
Andrew: I think the Axemen got overconfident here and the Huskies were out for revenge. There are still some promising signs for them from even this massacre, though; Brown only threw for 95 yards. Part of that's because this was a blowout for most of the game, but they also picked him off twice. To me, this one represents more of an offensive failure than a defensive one
Oct. 30: SMU 21-0 ACA.
Andrew: Again, this is an offensive failure. Graves and Healy combined to throw three interceptions, and two of them were returned for touchdowns. Saint Mary's only scored one offensive touchdown, so this does show that Acadia's defence has been better against the Huskies than you might think. However, it also demonstrates that Saint Mary's had the Axemen attack pretty well figured out; they conceded 144 rushing yards, but only 4.2 per rush attempt, and they made plays in the passing game when Acadia was forced to throw.
Andrew: I think both of these teams are better than they get credit for. Over the second half of the season, Saint Mary's has been incredibly dominant. Some can see that as a commentary on a weak AUS, but the Huskies look like a team that's legitimately figuring things out to me. Meanwhile, Acadia is inconsistent and has some serious issues, particularly in the passing game, but they've shown that they can play at a high level, especially on defence. The Huskies should take this one, but Acadia might make it more interesting than many would expect. I'll go SMU 21, Acadia 14.
Rob: What he said. But I'm even lower on the Axemen's chances here, so let's make it SMU 30, Acadia 10.