This is a love-hate week for the CIS Pick’Em Crew – OUA playoffs kick off and the rest of the nation are putting together their final week. It gives the CIS sports world a mixture of meaningless contests or win-and-go-home games. It also can provide for some interesting top-10 movement should a ranked OUA team get knocked out in its first playoff game and an unranked Canada West, AUS or RSEQ team pull out a big win to make the top-10.
Regardless – we’re just about to enter the nitty gritty of the football season so here’s this week's skinny:
Mount Allison @ Saint Mary's (-31) – Oct. 29; 2pm (ADT)
The Huskies have beat Mount A twice this season: 54–14, and 60–6. When you face off against a conference team several times a season, you would think that those margins would be a little thinner… With that said, the Mounties showed some life, almost winning a 42–41 shootout. Regardless if the opponent is a Husky or a walk-on with the Little Giants, this Mounties team can be effective down the field if they can give QB Jake Hotchkiss a second or more to adjust to the pressure and pass. Unfortunately, as they have proven all season, they can be shut down offensively and trail in a game fairly quickly. If the Mounties want a chance, they’ll need to play the game of their lives.
We don’t think the 31-point favourites should cover, even though Saint Mary’s has the gift of a home game. It is the playoffs after all, and the pressure on Saint Mary’s is sky high as always. But, they should have a comfortable lead come halftime—possibly leading to the genius move on sitting starters for the following game against the X-Men.
King’s Pick: Saint Mary’s 42–16
Windsor @ Ottawa (-6.5) – Oct. 29; 1pm (EDT)
Who learned more from the thriller they played two weeks ago? Ottawa escaped with a 32-30 victory on a final-play field goal to earn home field for the quarter-final. The Lancers are exuding upset potential, since they have a more explosive passing game and the better (if younger) quarterback, in Austin Kennedy.
The rub is Windsor played a very good road game on Oct. 15; they won the turnover battle (3-1), moved the ball through the air and had some big strikes on offence with Evan Pszczonak's 40- and 77-yard touchdown catches. It still wasn’t enough. Their first two touchdowns came on fortuitous breaks and the Gee-Gees gift-wrapped a 14-0 lead for Windsor with a poor decision to run a deep kickoff out of the end zone only to get tackled at the one-yard line. This doesn’t mention a wild shotgun snap that was recovered in the end zone for a TD and an unnecessary roughness penalty that turned a second-down sack into first-and-goal to set up the second Lancers score.
The weather could be a lot worse this time and Brendan Gillanders' rushing and receiving (230 yards last time) can help the Gee-Gees establish a tone and a tempo. Ottawa does need a receiver beyond Simon Le Marquand to step up, since he had nearly half their aerial yards last week. Windsor likely will stay in the game for three quarters, but Ottawa might wear them down by the late stages.
Sager's Pick: Gee-Gees 24-17.
Sherbrooke @ Montreal (-5.5)– Oct. 29; 1pm (EDT)
Montreal was dealt a blow this week because it looks like leading sacker Jonathan Pierre-Etienne will be suspended for this game for a cut block on Concordia QB Reid Quest after an interception. That will give more time for Jeremi Doyon-Roch in the pocket and with Sherbrooke's receiving corps, which could spell trouble. Sherbrooke's defence and special teams dominated last time these two teams met and with 2nd place on the line, expect both teams to come out firing. This game will be close, low scoring and really fun to watch. These teams will faceoff next week as well, and this game decides home field advantage. Last time these two teams faced off, it was a 2 minute span in the third quarter that decided things. This time, it may be even less.
Book’s Pick: Sherbrooke 15-14
Laurier @ Queen’s (-12.5) Oct. 29, 1pm (EDT)
I’ve held a cone of silence around the Gaels since I departed Queen’s in September, but since I’ve left they have gone 6-1 with an impressive six-game winning streak. Maybe you can blame a Sports Information Director as the reason your season went down the tubes in 2010...
Laurier’s season has been like a yo-yo and Queen’s has been rock-solid since they thumped the Golden Hawks at Richardson on Sept. 17 (58-35 – and the Hawks were lucky to get 35). The real question isn’t on the Gaels' side. They have everything going for them. They’re on a roll with the offence clicking and the defence coming off a shutout (first time that a Mustang squad has been shut down in almost 40 years – impressive regardless of the circumstances). The field is also “bleh” as one Queen’s employee put it – so this should favour the nation’s leading rusher in Ryan Granberg who has proven he can run in the muck.
No... the real question sits with Laurier and what team will show up? Will it be the team that put up three lopsided victories this season? Or will it be the team that just couldn’t muster any type of offence against McMaster in Week 7 and narrowly eliminated Guelph from the playoffs in Week 8? Remember this team does have a Top-5 nationally ranked offence so the ability is there… but what team shows up?
My bet is that Laurier WR Mark Surya (and SID Jamie Howieson) chose the wrong golden school and will end up watching former teammates and colleagues compete next week against McMaster.
Grobe’s Pick: Queen’s 42-12
Saskatchewan @ Alberta (+19) – Oct. 29; 1pm (MDT)
One game to go and the Alberta Golden Bears are looking to break free from their stay among CIS football's winless squads this season. The Bears go up against a Saskatchewan team with an opportunity to finish second and secure a home playoff date with a win and UBC loss, so the Huskies still have something to play for in this one. Alberta got whooped in their only other game against Saskatchewan this season 38-7 in both teams' opening game. This one won't be quite as lopsided, but the outcome will be the same.
Daum’s Pick: Saskatchewan 31-17
Calgary @ UBC (+13) – Oct. 29; 2pm (PDT)
This is a huge game that will be handled very differently by both squads. Sure, if Calgary wins they go undefeated on the season, but either way they've locked up first place. If UBC wins they are guaranteed to host a semi-final game, a huge end to this turnaround season. And since they would likely host the Huskies, who beat them narrowly in Saskatoon earlier in the season, it's something they definitely want to achieve.
The Dinos have said they will follow Western's lead and rest players (they are nowhere near the injury concerns of the Mustangs but they don't want to risk it either). If the Dinos do rest starters - even just in the second half - that would give the T-Birds more than enough time to get within two scores. Can UBC win though...? It's a strong Calgary D, but then again Billy Greene is one of the greatest threats across the CIS right now. And the last time they played it was only a five-point win for the Dinos. It will be a close game but against Calgary's B team, at home, with the second seed up for grabs, the T-Birds pull it off.
Radoslav's Pick: UBC 31-27