It’s come down to the nitty gritty of CIS’ gridiron season — the OUA sits at the crossroads of its semifinal series between the top three (plus one unpredictable Ottawa Gee-Gees) teams, the AUS has their championship final for the Loney Bowl and CanWest has no idea what’s going to happen after Manitoba defeated Saskatchewan Friday — of course before print — in a very high-scoring game.

For that, we look at what should, will and just simply cannot happen this week in Canadian university football.


What should happen?:

Laval loses to Concordia
I may be a bit bias when I say this, but I really just want to see someone knock Laval off their high horse. Yes — they are a perennial powerhouse of the CIS and it’ll take more than one regular season loss to Montréal for the club to come down from No. 1 in the country. Do I think Concordia’s the team to knock Laval off that pedestal? No. But it’d be nice to see.

Western will regain their “dominance”
Some people may read this and say, “Why would you want Western to win again? Why can’t Guelph win?” Simply, I do not think Guelph is that good, and to have them go to the Yates Cup on a win against a battered Western squad is just luck. If Western can defeat Guelph with almost no secondary, an inexperienced backup quarterback and every offensive weapon “questionable” or previously injured, then they’ll head into the Yates Cup with a load of confidence.

Mount Allison will win the Loney Bowl for the second-straight year
The Mount Allison Mounties deserve to win the Loney Bowl out of the AUS for many reasons. 1) They are the only team in the entire country to finish with a perfect 8-0 season. 2) They had arguably their best season offensively. 3) They ended up rising as high as 6th in the country on the CIS Top 10. 4) They would have the opportunity to play the OUA champion instead of being beat up by Laval. Mount Allison impressed me from game one to game eight, and while yes, they are an AUS team, we need to acknowledge the impressive run they are having.

Calgary gets a wakeup call
Wakey, wakey, Calgary Dinos. Considering the way the Dinos’ year has gone, they deserve a wakeup call that kicks them out of contention for the Vanier Cup. An illegible player ruling disciplined the defending CWUAA champions to give them their first loss of the season and their second loss came in a 50-31 defeat to the Manitoba Bisons to finish off the season — a game where Andrew Buckley, Mercer Timmis and Jake Harty all played from start to finish. The other close call? A narrow 42-41 victory over those same Bisons on a missed field goal.

McMaster loses to Ottawa
In his column this week, Neate Sager asks whether the first game really matters. Both Guelph/Western and Ottawa/McMaster are rematches of games where the unexpected happened. The Gee-Gees in the final game of the regular season thwarted the Marauders, 38-18, en route to securing them a playoff position. What happened next? Ottawa went on to upset the Windsor Lancers in their first home playoff game in ages. Regardless of whether or not Mac was resting its starters, the fact of the matter is that Ottawa can say they’re the only team in the OUA to defeat the Marauders, and will use that as confidence in a game that could have them pull off the ultimate defeat. Why can’t it happen? Because the football world is already on its head and it can’t handle another Cinderella story. But damn, it would be nice to see.


What will happen?:

Western will not two-peat, lose to Guelph
I hate admitting this because I truly do not believe the Gryphons are that good of a team, but when Western finished their quarterfinal game with a backup quarterback, a concussed Brian Marshall, an injured Garrett Sanvido, a questionable George Johnson — you get the idea, as Morris Dalla Costa pointed out for the London Free Press — there were few question marks around whether Western will be able to compete. Their secondary is destroyed, and unless the weather plays against the Gryphons and helps Western out, I think we’re going to see the Guelph back in the Yates Cup final.

Laval will waltz into the RSEQ final
As much as I would love an upset, Laval is just too good. Even on a bad day, Laval still plays better than most teams in the country. Concordia’s not strong enough, and the only team that can beat Laval competitively is Montréal — a potential matchup in the RSEQ final. But right now, we’ll have to sit back and sulk as Laval walks over another club en route to another potential Vanier appearance.

St. FX will be scrutinized if they can’t beat Mount Allison
“Unsustainable” is the word of the month for the St. FX X-Men. Regardless of the steep hill they have in the AUS final against a very strong Mount Allison team, if they can’t pull out the win, the club will be reevaluated to see whether or not it is worth sustaining — why put resources into something that can’t win or bring in revenue? St. FX hasn’t won a provincial championship since 1996 and before then won 11. If money isn’t flowing into the program, it can’t grow. Talk of the future of the St. FX football team will be heavily influenced by their performance Saturday.



Editor’s note: At the time of print, Saskatchewan had already lost to the Manitoba Bisons to move on to the CWUAA final. Which on its own was a surprising turn of events. What will Manitoba do next?!
What we learned this week is a weekly column on the latest developments in the men's and women's CIS basketball scene. This will focus largely on team's in the top ten, using metrics, game tape and (hopefully) interviews to provide a unique perspective on Canadian university hoops. 

Men's CanWest is wide open

One weekend teaches you very little, and the results are not likely to be accurate predictors. But still, the opening weekend of men's CIS basketball showed us one thing: CanWest will be the most entertaining conference this season.

I watched film from both Alberta-Saskatchewan men's games. The Golden Bears are nursing injuries already, while playing deep bench guys heavy minutes. The Huskies are still acclimatizing to a new rotation, with Mike Scott taking the main offensive role and other players being asked to carry more of the scoring burden.

Seeing the teams split the games wasn't necessarily surprising. Alberta's offence came together as the first game went on but I really liked the minutes that Brett Roughead gave them defensively. Roughead is listed as 7 feet tall, but according to the broadcast, Alberta's measuring tape stops at 7 feet and the coaching staff thinks he's probably got another inch on him. The third-year big man started the second game and got three blocks in 19 minutes of play. His agility in the paint is a work in progress, but Roughead uses his length to compensate for that.

Scott, the latest in a series of dynamic American gunners coming north and lighting up the CIS, had a weird weekend. He played 27 minutes off the bench in the first game and only six the next night. There was no traumatic injury, he just got pulled off in the second quarter after traveling before a three. Perhaps a nagging injury forced Sask to shut him down for the night. Otherwise, weird to see the drop off. For now, it's a balanced offence with Matthew Forbes bruising in the paint.

The short rotations for either team put an asterik on the performances, but if this is representative of how two CanWest contenders are going to look this season, it might not be the prettiest season.

That being said, Calgary and Winnipeg played a heck of a second game. The pace in the first quarter was really quick yet in control. What stuck out to be was the smoothness of the Dinos offence at times. They have a handful of versatile players, and Calgary's Dallas Karch put together a sweet 14 point (6-7 shooting), seven rebound, four assist game. His only miss came near the end of a possession where he was pinned under the basket. Small sample size, but he is a nice piece for them and will be a match-up nag for opponents.

 Neither the Wesmen or Dinos had any interest in defence the second game, but if you were watching for entertainment (guilty as charged) it was worth the time. Side-note: Winnipeg's court-design is bizarre. The black and red make for an awesome colour scheme, but splitting the area inside the arc with those? Weird.
The colour is a nice change from the snow-white Winnipeggers usually see, I guess
The final relevant game was the UVic taking on Regina. The Cougars deserve a top ten vote for the jerseys they wore. They looked damn good, very Washington Wizards-esque.

swoon
UVic played well enough. It is hard to put too much stock in their performance, given the opponent. Chris McLaughlin is a beast, and Regina did not have anyone to physically match up with him. (I don't know how many teams in the country will have someone to guard him, though). Marcus Tibbs, who broke out at the CIS Final 8 tournament, looks real good off the dribble and the chemistry between him and McLaughlin is already apparent. These guys will grow as the year goes on and will test for the CanWest championship.

Sask, Alberta open season in clash of CanWest titans
The Pandas (I hate when schools different names for men's and women's program) were ranked No. 3 to start the season, and they solidified their position with a couple of wins over then-No. 6 Saskatchewan. Sask dropped to No. 7, despite no other conference playing games. I think that's a bit unfair after watching the game.

Alberta made a ton of bad passes in the first half of game No. 1, forcing balls into cutting post players. They have some good perimeter defenders, annoying Sask ball handlers the entire game. That being said, the Huskies shot 5-20 from three in the first game, and a handful of those shots were wide-open looks.

Dalyce Emmerson -- an All-Canadian last year -- struggled, and that really was the difference. Emmerson shot 60.1% last year, second-best in the country. This weekend, she shot a collective 8-19. It's early, but Emmerson only shot under 50 per cent in four of her 19 regular season games.

It was close until the very end, so I don't really think we learned anything from this series. The coaches saw something I didn't, considering they dropped Sask a bit.

UVic and Winnipeg put up convincing wins, but it was surprising to see Regina lose by 20 while giving up 89 to the Vikes. Regina was leading after a quarter, 20-13, but two 31-point quarters from Vic turned this into a rout. The box score from the first game is worth a look. Two teams to keep an eye on as the season gets going.

What to watch this week: 

Victoria at UBC - Men's and Women's

Both of these games can teach us something. The men's squad at UBC had a down year in 2013-14, but expectations are high for them. At No. 7 in the top ten and the highest-ranked CanWest team, this team should make a run to the Final 8, provided they stay healthy.

UBC's women's team is ranked second, and we could see how tight the CanWest race will be if Victoria can hang tough (or possibly steal a game).

Acadia at UNB - Men's

How good is UNB? This game, against a new-look Axemen squad (new head coach, no Owen Klassen) will provide a glimpse into what the Varsity Reds will look like going forward. Also, Javon Masters is playing so you should try to watch him whenever you can.

St. FX at Saint Mary's - Women's

Without Justine Colley, how will Saint Mary's score? I know they still can score, but it is never easy to replace one of the best scorers in recent CIS history. Worth a view just to see how the Huskies acclimatize to their new situation.

McMaster at Ottawa/Carleton - Men's

This should be at the top of everyone's viewing list this weekend. The No. 4-ranked team against the No. 2 and No. 1? And they've played each other twice, in the regular season and playoffs? And there are high school buddies going against each other? And Mac's last trip to Carleton saw them hang 88 on the Ravens? Yeah, I'm in. I'll actually be in-house for both games, calling the games for the McMaster radio station. I'm hoping for an improved experience, as Ottawa had fans dropping homophobic slurs towards players when I visited two years ago.

Everyone else - it's opening weekend

Watch your team, and let's see what happens. We lost some major names last year and there are more teams than I listed who have to find themselves. Should be a fun one.

That's all I've got this week. Let me know what I missed in the comments and enjoy the games.
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