In 50 words or less: Laval is the favourite to repeat for another Vanier Cup and bring back most players. However, the 7 players they lose were big contributors. Even if they get through Quebec, the biggest question may be whether they can win a national semi-final on the road.
1) HOW will Laval respond to a third offensive coordinator in three years?
2) CAN Laval's defence repeat their stunning 6.4 points per game allowed?
3) IS THIS the year Laval wins a national semi final away from home?
2010 recap: 9-0, 1st regular season, W 56-1 vs Bishop's in RSEQ Semifinal, W 22-17 vs Sherbrooke in Dunsmore Cup, W 13-11 vs Western in Uteck Bowl, W 29-2 vs Calgary in Vanier Cup.
Laval knew that the Quebec champion had home field all the way through the playoffs, and they took advantage. After dominating the Quebec conference, they squeaked through playoff wins against Sherbrooke and Western before dominating Calgary in one of the most stunning defensive displays in Vanier Cup history.
Departures: WR Mathieu Picard, OT Keven Fiset, OG Hugues Breton, K/P Christopher Milo, DL Marc-Antoine Beaudoin-Cloutier, DB Maxime Berube, CB Olivier Turcotte-Letourneau, LB Jean-Philippe Dumas
Arrivals: RB Maxime Boutin, OL Karl Lavoie, OL Danny Girouz, WR Matthew Norzil, CB Thomas Girard, DL Samuel Hebert, LB Mathieu Masseau
Keep an eye on: The sophomores. Last year, Laval had one of their best recruiting classes ever. This year, a lot will be expected from them, especially on the offensive line where two starters graduated. How good they are will correlate with how dominant Laval is.
Coach & coordinators: Glen Constantin. 11 years, 5 Vanier Cups. Enough said.
Laval, for a team so consistent and dominant has had a lot of turnover at offensive coordinator. Former receiver Duane John will take over after Marco Iadeluca left to join old friend Danny Maciocia and the Carabins.
Marc Fortier is one of the best defensive coordinators in the country. Since taking over in 2007, his teams have twice broken the Quebec records for points allowed in a season (60 in 2008 and bested with 58 last year). This has a lot to do with the great recruits brought in but Fortier is quickly making a name for himself.
Off-the-field factors: This is a big year for the Rouge et Or. With Sherbrooke emerging and Danny Maciocia and the Carabins having a lot of momentum, the gap between Laval and the rest of the Quebec conference may be closing. This may be a lot of hogwash because Laval will probably keep rolling, but you have to wonder how long it can go.
From last season's preview: "Honestly? It's Laval. The only question is how many playoff games they'll win." and "If Laval makes it that far, the home-field advantage could be critical, but they'll have to stay focused week-to-week rather than looking ahead to the end of November. As Neate wrote last month, though, the Quebec champion gets to host a national semifinal this year. If Laval can make it out of the conference, it's PEPS all the way in."- Rob Pettapiece
Right on the money. That's what Rob edits this blog for. They went undefeated and home field advantage was huge for them.
2011 outlook: Laval is looking like a lock to get out of the Quebec conference again, as evidenced by their six spot lead over any other RSEQ team in the (meaningless) first Top 10 of the season. The biggest question is how they will deal with the road bowls in Western Canada this year if they make it to those games. I might be jumping the gun, but that will be the question with Laval until they answer it.
Swing games: Really? Do you mean swing games as in against the spread? Anyway, the big games will be the ones on the road against Montreal and Sherbrooke. Those are the two games set up for an upset.
Stock up or stock down: Neutral. Hard to go up after a 13-0 season, and I'm not putting Laval's stock down until they lose a game.