Football: Vanier Cup features David and Goliath, or McMaster and Laval

Somewhat paradoxically, it may be easier to sell casual or new CIS fans on Friday's Vanier Cup (9 p.m. Eastern, TSN) than those who have been following the Canadian university game for a long while. For new fans, there's plenty of ways to set this one up: Ontario versus Quebec, McMaster's passing attack against Laval's dominant defence, the Rouge et Or's strong ground game against the Marauders' line, et cetera, but for long-time fans, this may look like another potential Laval blowout along the lines of last year's 29-2 snoozer over Calgary. The Marauders themselves are confident, but not everyone's thrilled about their chances.

The Rouge et Or have been incredibly good for the last decade and a bit, winning all six Vanier Cups they've been to (and the first one only came in 1999) and generally dominating their conference, the playoffs and the polls. Meanwhile, the Marauders are the new blood on the scene, thanks to knocking off previous power Western in the Yates Cup and then beating Acadia in the Uteck Bowl. They've only even made the Vanier Cup once before, and that was way back in 1967. History certainly isn't on their side.

You never know what will happen in Canadian football, though, and the Marauders do have several things going for them. For one thing, Kyle Quinlan remains one of Canadian university football's top quarterbacks despite his legal problems and suspension earlier this year, and when he's on his game, he can lead a very dangerous passing attack. If he can connect on a few long bombs at the right moments, the Marauders could make things very difficult for Laval. The Rouge et Or aren't perfect, either; they have an amazing ground game with Sebastien Levesque and an impressive defence, but quarterback Bruno Prud'homme has been more decent than spectacular so far this year. If the Marauders can get off to a quick start, Laval may not have an easy time coming back. It's certainly a David and Goliath matchup, but the little guy did come out on top in the original, so don't write this one off yet.

Tune in to The CIS Blog and 55-Yard Line for a joint live blog of the Vanier Cup Friday at 9 p.m. Eastern!
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  1. Laval has been dominant in the Quebec league since 1999 no doubt. However, their Vanier wins in the first four('99,'03, '04 and '06) were by margins of 4,7,6 and 5 points-hardly scary. In the 2003 Mitchell Bowl at Ivor Wynne in Hamilton, after a gifted Pic 6 at the end of the first half by Laval from about the McMaster 25 yard line, Laval had some good fortune. With the referee acting like a screen shot, the QB draw by Laval went for 30 or so yards for the go ahead TD with 3 minutes left in the game. Mac comes back and marches the field and from about the 25 or 30 yard line on the second last play- a Laval defender tipped pass hits the Mac receiver right in the numbers, with a dropped pass and voila- game done! McMaster truly should have won that game although no guarantee they would have beaten SMU who handled Mac in a previous Bowl game

    So- for the first 4 Vanier Cup wins, Laval beat SMU twice and SSK twice for a combined total of 22 points.

    However, since 2008, Laval has truly been a dominant team. Beating Western by 23 in 2008, and Calgary last year 2010 by 27 points is very impressive and for us OUA supporters/gearheads- a scary issue. In 2009 in the Mitchell Bowl at Richardson, Laval uncharacteristically committed several preventable mistakes. Trying a 47 yard FG against a gentle wind with top returner Jimmy Allin awaiting the miss was something virtually no OUA head coach including gambler Greg Marshall of Western would have likely done. The resulting 100 plus yard return was somewhat devastating to Laval- they were stunned for a quarter plus after that. A missed 2 point conversion by Laval(to the chant of "you somethinged up" by Richardson student side) when pass hit receiver in the numbers was not something we see currently with Laval this year. Finally , in that 2009 Mitchell Bowl game, Laval was stuffed by a very good defensive line of Queen's on several third and ones inside the Queen's 10 yard line. Laval only loses by 3 in that game- 33-30- Gaels win!

    Net of rambling missive- despite Laval having quite the now legend of winning 6 Vanier's in 13 past years, only in the last 3 years have they been truly dominant against other conference teams. If one exempts their performance(and Western excellent defensive display) in 2010 Uteck Bowl at PEPS- Laval has won the last 2 Vanier Cups they played in by a total of 50 points.

    While I have not touched on McMaster(who I adore as a great OUA story the last few years), the game tonight should be hopefully close for at least 2 quarters. While McMaster does not have the dominant defensive line that Queen's did 2 years ago, they have an excellent defensive secondary and linebacker corps. McMaster is quite offensively balanced with a decent QB, excellent receivers, a dominant offensive line and some fine running.

    If the total point score is under 60 points this Vanier Cup game is a 50/50 tossup between McMaster and Laval. For a total score of over 60 points, I give an 80/20 chance for Laval to win this game.

    Prediction- Laval 45-20 over McMaster with a near even game until just before halftime. Despite my OUA affiliation and wish for Laval to get their butts kicked, this Laval team to date this year has been extremely good at execution. Best of luck to both teams and their supporters!

  2. One hour after Vanier game. I eat my words and especially prediction that Laval would win 45-20. Both Mac and Laval played exceptionally well with neither folding under adversity. Congrats to the CIS for a most excellent Vanier Cup in Vancouver.

    The huge gap between the Rouge et'Or and the rest of the CIS has narrowed- at least this year. It now is back to the early to mid 2000 years when Laval was only winning the Vanier Cup by 5 plus points per game.

    Coaches Constantin and Ptaszek and their respective coaching staffs and AD's, should likewise be congratulated.

    Finally, for all of those parents of players in the Vanier(and those parents of players from teams that did not qualify) you all should take a collective bow for your time and commitment to your offspring.