It’s do-or-die time and this is what the CIS Blog crew lives for. We’ve got a breakdown of games for you just before kickoff. Apologies about the lateness of this week’s post – I was without internet due to my move. (All picks were submitted well before game time.)
Without any more chit-chat... here’s the skinny:
St. FX at Saint Mary’s (-30) Nov. 5, 1pm ADT
Okay, so the Huskies were able to cover their 31 point spread last week against Mount Allison. In the last four games, the Huskies are 1–3 against the spread, including that playoff game. We were sure about the Huskies chances here, but a home game can prove to lift the spirits, make players run and hit a little better. But, last week’s margin of victory was out of place.
In the sportswriting world, it raises the question: how good are these Huskies? They really have had a lame duck schedule, yet their loss to Montreal has been cast under odd circumstances. The next two weeks will stand as a litmus test of where this team is precisely.
On the face of it, they’re basically solid on every side of the football. The Huskies have the nation’s third-best rush attack, have only allowed 13 points in their wins, and are fourth in the nation in sacks (25). If they can’t beat the X-Men by more than 30, then that’s okay. This is the week the Huskies gear up for the road ahead.
The Huskies will need to make a statement this week, and save something for Acadia Nov. 12.
King’s Pick: Saint Mary’s 42-16
Concordia @ No. 1 Laval (-25.5) Nov. 5, 1pm EDT
Laval had a minor blip on their radar against Montreal, but are one of the best teams in the country. Concordia has struggled in weeks. Sometimes the offence is good, other times the defence. They haven't been able to play a perfect game against top competition except for perhaps that close loss to Sherbrooke which came down to the final minute.
Concordia has lost big to Laval the last few times they played them in Quebec City. I don't expect this trend to change Saturday. Sebastien Levesque has been one of the best running backs in the country and Laval can throw the ball as well with Bruno Prudhomme.
On defence, Laval is so good and absolutely dominated Concordia the last time the two teams played in windy conditions. This is more of a tune up for Laval who will face an excited opponent next week in the Dunsmore Cup.
Book’s Pick: Laval 49-8
Windsor at No. 3 Western (-1.5) Nov. 5. 1pm EDT
This has to be one of the more interesting playoff showdowns in years. The visiting team is hot after scoring 50 points on the road to move on to the semi-finals. The home team may have finished on top of the table but they are hoping to regain some heat after a number of lukewarm to downright cold performances to end the regular season. But the fact that both teams offences exploit the weakness of the opposing defence is what makes this one amazing.
Western has not done well against the pass this season, you could say, finishing 8th of 10 in the conference. And they are now facing the OUA's new quarterback sensation Austin Kennedy who threw for 429 yards, 5 touchdowns and zero interceptions last week. He leads the second ranked pass attack in the OUA into London. Windsor however lacks a strong run defence and will meet Western's extremely run oriented offence. Windsor finished 6th of 10 against the run during the regular season without facing the Mustangs, who, with 291 rush yards per game, averaged 91 more per game than the second-place team. After Windsor gave up 320 yards to Queen's, one should expect a similar if not even higher statistic coming against the Tyler Varga-Nathan Riva tandem. If Donnie Marshall is able to return and more importantly, able to scramble, Western should surpass the 400 yard rush mark on the weekend.
Windsor will key on stopping the run and try to get Western to beat them through the air. If that slows but does not stop the Mustangs run game then Western will eat up so much of the clock that Kennedy will have to be perfect with nearly every pass to find the endzone to make up the difference. However if Western's run game is too strong and they net a lot of long runs, or conversely if they just get stopped and are therefore not able to eat up the clock, their secondary will definitely be exposed by Windsor's very potent aerial attack.
This game could go either way and will probably be somewhat high-scoring as Windsor will be able to find the endzone through the air, and Western will have to match them. But I'm giving the edge to the coaching experience variable Greg Marshall brings. On more than one occasion he has proven to exceed expectations in the postseason. Even if this Western team has looked vulnerable due to injuries this IS the playoffs, and the playoffs are a different beast.
Radoslav's pick: Western 38-35
No. 8 Queen's at No. 4 McMaster (-7) Nov. 5, 1pm EDT
The Marauders should be able to ask questions of the Queen's Golden Gaels that they haven't been asked during their seven-game win streak. The Marauders' offence, built around QB extraordinaire Kyle Quinlan, is actually two-dimensional, able to blend in the pass and run. It's arguable that none of Queen's recent opponents had that quality on gameday. Quinlan is not a MOAPP (mother of all pick parties) like Laurier's passer with just two interceptions in 153 attempts in his suspension-shortened regular season. The Golden Hawks did pass for 300-plus yards in the muck and mire of Richardson Stadium last weekend and one would believe the Marauders could do the same on the field turf on if the weather is decent.
In terms of precedent, this is reminiscent of two seasons ago. In 2009, the Marauders had played Queen's tough early in the year and held them to one offensive TD. To some, that showing and their season-long improvement was enough basis to pick them for a road upset in the OUA semifinal. Queen's rolled 32-6. This season, Queen's held Mac to one offensive TD early in the season and has got much better across the board in the ensuing weeks. Triple-threat touchdown maker Giovanni Aprile did not play in the first game, true, but his addition will be cancelled out if frosh Ryan Mitchell starts instead of injured Billy McPhee, who as of 2:30 p.m. Thursday was not cleared for contact, according to coach Pat Sheahan during a conference call. My simplification is that it just might be the Marauders' year.
Does Queen's have a shot? With their coaching and the way they get down on defence and special teams, they can draw the Marauders into their kind of fight. The formula might be similar to another Mac-Queen's playoffs, the 2006 quarter-final when Steely Dan Brannagan was a sophomore finding his way like Big Arm Billy McPhee is today. The Big Yellow Guys used a combination of turnovers, special teams plays and just enough offence to eke out a 25-19 win. That could happen again, but ultimately Quinlan and that Mac offence are not going to make enough errors to let Queen's take what's theirs.
Sager's pick: Marauders 27-17.