Football Top 10: Where non-conference games can count!

One week in and the "include exhibition games in the Top 10" rule is already causing one to overthink the Top 10.

As you likely know, the ballot has been slightly overhauled, with the guidelines as follows.
  • No more former coaches on the panel. Only media and CFL scouts are voting, with the panel pared from 34 to 22;
  • Preseason non-conference games "should be and are now encouraged to be factored into Top 10 voting" although it's not a requirement;
  • Full ballots and names of voters and affiliations will now be transparent and shared with the public when the Top 10 is announced;
  • No more preseason poll (sanity prevailed) and the last one will be taken on the first Tuesday in November, before Conference Championship Weekend.
Calgary and Regina only played their starters for one quarter of an exhibition game which the Rams won 39-3 after their backups ran roughshod over the Dinos' backups. How much stock does one put in that outcome?

Farther down the ballot, there's the matter who slots in as "OUA 3" after Western and Laurier. Three teams went on the road and won over the weekend, while McMaster posted a 12-point non-conference win at home against Saskatchewan.

League play should get preference. Carleton and Ottawa, both with new starting quarterbacks, earned narrow wins over fellow mid-packers Queen's and Guelph. And then there is Waterloo hanging 54 points on Windsor. There's a temptation to give a 10th-place vote to Waterloo, which in 2016, didn't score 54 points until after the calendar hit October.

Here's my working ballot as OUA games get underway.
  1. Laval (1-0 RSEQ, at McGill) — Reason No. 73 why Quebec's les petit quatre should go Full Pulaski Academy when they play Laval.  Sherbrooke kicked a field goal on third-and-7 from the 11-yard line with 2½ minutes left in the first half. Laval's Hugo Richard passed for two touchdowns in the remaining time, and suddenly it was a 29-4 game at recess.
  2. MontrĂ©al (1-0 RSEQ, bye week) — Samuel Caron is French for Trevor Harris. The Carabins quarterback averaged 8.9 yards per pass against Concordia, but his longest gain was 22 yards.
  3. Regina (0-0 CW, vs. UBC on Friday) — As noted, most of the gap on the scoreboard between Regina and Calgary came when  talented recruiting class got reps in the third quarter. But these are supposed to be factored in, so for the time being MontrĂ©al gets a bump into the 2-hole and Regina/Calgary are 3A and 3B.
  4. Calgary (0-0 CW, at Alberta on Friday) — Comeback story: all-star safety Michael Schmidt returns after missing a year with a knee injury.
  5. Western (1-0 OUA, vs. Guelph on Monday) — Whoever tweets at me with the best "Rout 66" pun about Western's gets the world's saddest curated prize pack, which will probably include a gently used copy of Wendel Clark's autobiography and the Season 1 DVDs of Happy Endings.
  6. UBC (0-0 CW, at Regina on Friday) — Quarterback Michael O'Connor was 23-of-25 for 280 yards in two quarters' work against Alberta.
  7. Laurier (1-0 OUA, bye week) — Handled U of T with a 39-0 shutout. Kurleigh Gittens Jr. had more yardage than the Varsity Blues' offense. Wait, so did Levondre Gordon.
  8. Ottawa (1-0 OUA, vs. Queen's on Monday) — For the second year in a row, the Gee-Gees had a walk-off victory against Guelph, winning by three points after two mini-games. Lewis Ward and Gabriel Ferraro once again played a clutch field-goal chicken, and this time Ferraro blinked first, missing a 36-yarder to end the game.
  9. Mount Allison (1-0 AUS, at St. FX on Friday) — A repercussion of Bishop changing leagues is that the benefit-of-the-doubt vote that used to go to the RSEQ's third-best team will probably shift to the most deserving AUS team. The Mounties put up 64 points and 595 total yards against Acadia, including 402 aerially from Jacob Loucks
  10. Waterloo (1-0 OUA, vs. York on Monday) — The Warriors might be a seat-filler until someone emerges from among McMaster, Carleton, Ottawa and Guelph. But hey, might as well jump on a potential turnaround story.

    Tyrell Ford had 263 punt return yards, including 98- and 100-yard touchdowns. I believe he broke a mark of 259 that Queen's Jimmy Allin set in 2009, also in a season opener.
Also considered: Carleton (22-17 win at Queen's) and McMaster (22-10 non-conference win against Saskatchewan).
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