For anyone who saw the spreads for the games this week, and thought about placing a bet, I have to ask: why would you want to risk your hard-earned cash? One last week of university football regular season is never easily predictable if you are a casual observer but loose with the wallet. What we had in this weekend’s games in Ontario were a sly mix of playoff teams resting their best guys (though some didn't have a choice), and pack teams attempting to make a statement before the playoffs.
With York, Toronto, and Waterloo already eliminated from playoff contention, the games this weekend were mere chances to gain a home playoff game. Regardless of that, whether it is some sample of the season now past, this weekend’s games were generally boring and/or gruesome. Four of the five games were sheer blowouts.
#1 Western 0
If you had the nation’s top rushing attack, and a number one ranking, what would you do on a week like this? The Mustangs opted for rest, of epic proportions.
With first-team starters—including injured freshman RB Tyler Varga and QB Donnie Marshall—seeing no snaps this week, the Mustangs’ backups still rushed for 153 yards, and 378 net yards. It didn’t translate to points, and the Gaels were up by 18 at halftime.
Credit where credit is due, the Gaels end the regular season with six wins. QB Billy McPhee only threw for 192 yards, but was mistake-free. The Gaels did their best impression of the Mustangs rush attack, with Ryan Granberg posting 197 yards. The team possessed the ball for 35 minutes, and sacked Mustangs QB Ian Noble four times.
If there is any team that is more dangerous right now, it has to be Queen’s. All their wins on their streak have had a margin of at least a touchdown. They lead the nation in third down conversions (with the OUA's best conversion rate), and are top ten in multiple offensive categories. They will host a playoff game this Saturday, and possibly have a chance to upset a bye team a week after that.
Windsor, unlike Western, played their best guys. But, by halftime, and a 40–7 lead, the Lancers pulled the plug. No worries, though. They kept York at bay, winning by 25.
With a season that peaked with a Top 10 ranking, the Lancers went into this game needing to avoid a .500 season. QB Austin Kennedy got that message loud and clear, passing for 338 yards and scoring all five touchdowns in the first half—four by the pass, one with his legs.
How dominant were the Lancers? They posted over 450 net yards, intercepted the ball twice (thank you, DB Udoka Nwaesel), and allowed only 121 pass yards—a sore spot that the team has been trying to keep in check after allowing 323 against Ottawa and 294 against Queen’s.
I have a soft spot for this team. They should have a home playoff game, but imagine if they had exorcised their demons and beat the Mustangs and Gaels this month…
As for the Lions, there is not much to say at this point. They did break their losing streak this season, but between where they want to be and where they are is a wide margin. Coach Warren Craney and his staff will have many issues to address in the winter.
The Golden Hawks may have had their backs against the wall—with a road game against a familiar foe—but they squeaked out a victory, and grabbed the playoff spot in the process.
Statistically, the Hawks had no business winning this game. With a “bend but don’t break” approach, the Hawks allowed over 400 net yards, including 343 passing yards, from the Gryphons. The Hawks only possessed the ball for 25 minutes. But, somehow they denied Guelph touchdown chances, and were able to keep the Gryphons under 100 yards rushing for the game. It may say something to the character of this Hawks squad, or perhaps it exposes offensive woes for Laurier. Regardless, the squad will be playing next Saturday.
As for Guelph, they shall have much to mull this winter. They ended the season in mediocre fashion, with middle of the pack offensive and defensive stats. They were also one of the least disciplined teams in the nation, ranking close to the bottom in penalties and penalty yards. Let’s hope they can pick it up next year. Those pretty uniforms need good football to back them up.
With Western in possession of the regular season crown because of their tie-break win over McMaster, the Marauders were playing for two pivotal things: respect, and a home playoff game next Saturday. They certainly earned a berth, with a sprint over the Gee-Gees, who have not played their best football in the last few weeks.
QB Kyle Quinlan had a solid day, passing for 367 and scoring four touchdowns. They ran for over 200 yards on the ground, and kept Ottawa at 10 points at halftime. Even though the Marauders were sacked four times, they still took risks with their play-calling—there were obvious benefits.
With a home playoff game now secured for the Marauders, the standing question is whether the team is considered in the conversation for a national championship. The drama has been rubber for their locker room, and they executed despise Quinlan’s brief absense. They are scary good, and certainly have a chance for a Yates win.
Meanwhile, even though Ottawa RB Brendan Gillanders had 123 rushing yards, the GeeGees were intercepted three times, and sacked a small handful. They are in the midst of mediocrity in the OUA, and need to work on their numerous issues if they want to compete this coming weekend.
Toronto had high expectations this season, but a lack of offensive production was an issue all season. Was beating Waterloo a statement for the Blues themselves? It had to be. The win broke a four-game losing streak, where they scored an average of 7 points.
This game provided a different narrative. The Blues scored 38 points in the first three quarters, rushing for over 400 yards for the game. RB Aaron Milton had his best game in his collegiate career, running for 140 yards on 18 carries. He also caught a pass for 34 yards. RB Emiljano Daci ran for 156 yards. If there was anything to watch out for next season, it’s Toronto’s best impression of the Mustangs' rush attack. That should be at least consistent with how the Blues have been recruiting and developing their football identity—as they continue to try recruiting big linemen.