Note: if the following doesn't whet your appetite sufficiently, tonight on AM980, The Hook with Norman James will feature Andrew (at 9:05 ET) and Neate Sager (8:35), along with former Western QB-turned-York offensive coordinator Michael Faulds and the hardest-working man in
Western Mustangs at Ottawa Gee-Gees
Rob: You had to make horse puns, didn't you? I was surprised that these teams were first and second in RPI (Laval's third due to a weaker schedule, but not by much), but that goes to your point about there being no room for error in this game.
Andrew: Indeed. There isn't a lot between these teams in my mind, so I think it may come down to who makes the fewest mistakes. What interests me here is that the Mustangs have substantially more experience at coach (Greg Marshall vs. J.P. Asselin), but substantially less at quarterback (Donnie Marshall vs. Brad Sinopoli). We'll see which of those matchups affects the game more.
BURNING QUESTIONS ... ANSWERED?
Rob: For Western, whether they'll have an efficient offence is probably answered by now. Yes, they scored about 40 per game, but they just don't throw the ball...ever. But maybe that doesn't matter: only two teams had fewer pass attempts this year, and they're also still alive this weekend. On the other hand, nobody would argue with now calling Brad Sinopoli "one of the OUA's premier pivots."
Andrew: For me, by far the biggest question around Western heading into this year was at quarterback. Going from Michael Faulds to Donnie Marshall had the potential to be quite a step back. However, I think the Marshall father-and-son team has found a way to mitigate that; Greg's put together a very successful game plan that doesn't put a huge amount of pressure on Donnie, and Western's so strong in the running game that they don't need him to stand out. There's plenty of room for him to improve, as his stats really aren't good in any category (183.8 yards per game, 10/8 TD/INT, 54.5 per cent completion percentage), but his team's good enough to give him plenty of support.
For Ottawa, their numbers of experienced players have proved a great asset, and Sinopoli has had an amazing season (344 yards per game, 22/13 TD/INT, 61.1 per cent completion percentage) that could even enhance his chances at a CFL shot. Asselin has also put up a pretty successful debut season as a CIS head coach. However, I'm not entirely sold on his game management yet, especially considering that he found a way to lose to Toronto. I ascribe a lot of that result to Asselin being outschemed by Greg DeLaval (whose game plan he praised afterwards), and I've got a feeling he might have a tough time against another renowned Greg this week.
Rob: And even if they pass less often than any other team, they're actually not horrible at it (despite our "Donnie Marshall, Tailback" jokes). Western's defence might have their hands full with Sinopoli, though.
Brian: Yeah, if someone is going to pick apart the Mustang defence, it's going to be the newly crowned OUA MVP. Sinopoli has not had his success this season just because of his plethora of receiving weapons or ability to keep defences guessing with his ground game. Rather, the Gee-Gee pivot is head and shoulders above his colleagues for his ability to take what a defence gives him and making the right play, whether it's by airing it out or sneaking up the gut.
Andrew: I agree with Brian that Sinopoli and the Ottawa offence have a better chance of figuring out Western's defence than most OUA teams have this year. However, I think the Gee-Gees' defence might be vulnerable to the Mustangs' ground game, and even if they focus on that, that might open up passing holes for Marshall. Ottawa clearly has the better passing offence here, but we'll see if that proves enough against the Mustangs.
Ottawa won the only game played between these teams this season.
Sep. 6: UWO 19-20 OTT.
Rob: You can point to any one play in a one-point game and say "that made the difference" but that last-minute touchdown pass to Steven Hughes was a perfect example of Sinopoli's ability to focus downfield and the open man while facing a seven-man rush.
Andrew: What stands out to me about this game is how Western just hung around and hung around. They didn't do anything particularly well, but made enough big plays to keep pace with the Gee-Gees right until the end. Although Sinopoli threw for 439 yards and two touchdowns, they also picked him off twice at crucial moments, and they contained Ottawa's ground attack quite well. Marshall only completed nine passes and threw an interception, but he made some key throws and picked up 210 yards and a touchdown; he also ran for 69 yards on 10 carries. Western were significant underdogs heading into this one, and with a team that was still coming together, they lost a tough road game against a highly-ranked team by one point. They've improved significantly since then, so they might be able to do even better this weekend.
Brian: There will be sacks and fumbles forced by Western, and long marches down the field by Ottawa. That's how these teams got here in the first place, and they'll need to continue it to win the Yates. But if one team is capable of picking apart Greg Marshall's vaunted defence, it's the Ottawa Gee-Gees and their championship-ready quarterback. Ottawa 28, Western 21.
Rob: Let's go with another one-point win, but for the other side: Western 28, Ottawa 27.
Andrew: I've got a feeling that Ottawa might fall victim to one of the classic blunders here, the most famous of which is "Never get involved in a ground war in the OUA," but only slightly less well-known is "Never go against Greg Marshall when death is on the line." Western 31, Ottawa 28.
The Score's Justin Dunk: It should be a closely-contested football game with Ottawa claiming the Yates Cup on home turf. Ottawa 34, Western 28.
Always OUA: Ottawa 34, Western 29.