CIS Football: 13 reasons to watch this weekend

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TORONTO (CIS) – This week marks the first full slate of CIS football games in 2016 as the regular season gets under way in the AUS conference. Here are some things to keep an eye on this weekend.

No. 8 Manitoba (0-1) at Regina (0-1) (Thursday)
After going 0-8 in 2015, Regina came oh-so-close to snapping its losing streak last Friday but dropped a 41-39 heartbreaker in overtime to archrival Saskatchewan. Thursday night’s game features two of the most exciting quarterbacks in the country in Manitoba’s Theo Deezar and Regina’s Noah Picton, the reigning CIS offensive player of the week thanks to his 589 yards of total offence against Saskatchewan. The last time the Bisons and Rams met, last October in Regina, Deezar threw for 339 yards and four touchdowns while Picton had 381 yards and three passing majors in a wild 49-46 Manitoba win.

Bishop’s (0-1) at No. 1 Montreal (1-0) (Friday)
Montreal climbed to the top of the national rankings this week – up from No. 2 – thanks to a 24-21 come-from-behind win at Laval in its season opener last Saturday. Led by new starting quarterbackSamuel Caron (320 yards, 1 TD vs. Laval), the 2014 national champions and 2015 Vanier Cup finalists are riding a nine-game overall win streak against Bishop’s since a 39-21 road loss on Oct. 3, 2010.

No. 2 UBC (1-0) at No. 3 Calgary (1-0) (Friday)
The only Top-10 matchup on this week’s schedule is also the most-anticipated duel of the weekend. In their last visit to McMahon Stadium last November, the Thunderbirds and former Calgary head coach Blake Nill upset the previously undefeated Dinos 34-26 in the Canada West final en route to their unexpected Vanier Cup triumph. The Dinos are currently riding a 13-game win streak over UBC in conference play dating back to 2006 – including a 2011 forfeit over eligibility.

Saskatchewan (1-0) at Alberta (0-1) (Friday)
Fireworks can be expected in Edmonton as Friday night’s game pits two teams that allowed 39 points apiece in their season openers, a 41-39 overtime win over Regina for Saskatchewan and a 39-24 loss to UBC for Alberta. Two of CIS’ best receivers go head-to-head in this one. Saskatchewan’s Mitch Hillis, who exploded last season with 66 catches and 1,052 receiving yards, kicked off the new campaign last week with eight receptions for 78 yards and one touchdown. Alberta’s Tylor Henry was held to a single 14-yard catch last week against UBC but is the CIS active leader with 132 career receptions.
No. 4 Laval (0-1) at Concordia (1-0) (Saturday)
Perennial powerhouse Laval dropped its season opener last Saturday for the first time since 2001. The only time the Rouge et Or has started 0-2 was in their inaugural CIS campaign in 1996, when they scored the only win of the season in Week 3 en route to a 1-7 mark. Laval faces another tough challenge on Saturday against the Stingers and reigning RSEQ conference MVP Trenton Miller, who threw for 375 yards and three touchdowns last week in a 30-16 season-opening win over McGill.
No. 5 McMaster (2-0) at Ottawa (1-0) (Saturday)
The OUA season is only two weeks old and, thanks to some surprising results early on, only three Ontario teams are still undefeated, including the Marauders and Gee-Gees. Fans of the passing game have circled this one on the calendar since the OUA schedule came out. After setting a single-season CIS record with 31 touchdown passes in his first campaign as the team’s starter in 2015, McMaster’s Asher Hastings has thrown for five TDs in his first two outings this fall and averages 321.5 yards per game. Ottawa’s Derek Wendel had a dream season of his own in 2015 with 3,136 yards (OUA record), 216 completions (CIS record) and 346 attempts (CIS record) and was sensational last week in the Gee-Gees’ opener with 389 yards and five TD tosses.
No. 6 Carleton (1-1) at Toronto (0-2) (Saturday)
Carleton was facing a tough task early on with games against powerhouses McMaster and Western. After a disappointing 40-10 loss against the Marauders, the Ravens showed character last Sunday and rebounded with a thrilling 38-31 home win over the Mustangs. Since they returned to CIS football in 2013, the Ravens are 2-1 against Toronto, including a 19-15 win last season, a 53-32 victory two years ago and a 50-10 loss in their first campaign.
Waterloo (0-2) at No. 7 Western (1-1) (Saturday)
Perennial powerhouse Western looked as good as ever two weeks ago in a resounding 78-6 season-opening win over Windsor but was brought back to earth by Carleton last weekend. Facing a frustrated Mustangs team looking for a rebound performance is not exactly good news for Waterloo, which was outscored 122-14 overall in its first two games of the season and has lost 10 straight overall since winning its league finale in 2014.
Queen’s (0-1) at No. 10 Guelph (1-1) (Saturday)   Which Guelph team will show up on Saturday? After opening the campaign with a convincing 41-22 home win over Toronto, the reigning OUA champions were upset 33-29 last Monday by Windsor, a team that was coming off a 72-point loss to Western. On their way to a 7-1 record a year ago, the Gryphons lost their only league game to Queen’s, a 23-15 setback at Kingston in Week 6.
StFX (0-0) at Mount Allison (0-0) (Saturday)
This AUS opener is a rematch of last year’s conference final which saw StFX upset two-time defending champion Mount Allison 14-12 in Sackville, N.B., to claim its first league title since 1996. The two teams met again last Friday in preseason action, this time in Antigonish, N.S., with the X-Men prevailing again, 18-17. The game will mark the official head coaching debut of Scott Brady, after Kelly Jeffrey’s successful eight-year stint at the helm of the Mounties.
Saint Mary’s (0-0) at Acadia (0-0) (Saturday)  Another head coach will be making his official CIS debut on Saturday. James Colzie III faces the tough task of rebuilding a Saint Mary’s program that is coming off back-to-back 0-8 seasons. Acadia is also looking to climb up the standings this year after three straight third-place finishes in the four-team AUS conference. In head-to-head preseason action last Saturday, the Huskies prevailed 31-8 on home turf.
McGill (0-1) at Sherbrooke (1-0) (Saturday)
Sherbrooke has won nine straight against McGill – including a 45-10 decision last season – since a 29-11 head-to-head loss on Sept. 11, 2009. All eyes last Saturday were on new Vert & Or starting quarterback Alex Jacob-Michaud, who is taking over this season from graduating senior Jérémi Roch, the CIS career leader in passing yards (11,477), attempts (1,470) and completions (866). Jacob-Michaud was solid in a 38-7 season-opening win over Bishop’s, completing 15 of 23 passes for 238 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Windsor (1-1) at York (1-1) (Saturday)
Coming off a surprising win over defending OUA champion Guelph, Windsor looks to make it two in a row on Saturday against York. Like the Lancers, the Lions have looked very good and… not so good so far in 2016, getting crushed 74-3 by Laurier in Week 2 after opening the regular schedule with a 57-13 win against Waterloo. Windsor and York haven’t faced off since Week 4 of the 2014 campaign, when the Lancers prevailed 35-3 on the road.

WEEK 3 SCHEDULE (all times local)

NOTE: Click HERE for the complete 2016 regular season schedule & results
September 8
19:00   No. 8 Manitoba (0-1) at Regina (0-1) (Shaw TV/Access & CanadaWest.TV)
September 9
17:30   No. 2 UBC (1-0) at No. 3 Calgary (1-0) (Shaw TV/Access & CanadaWest.TV)
19:00   Bishop’s (0-1) at No. 1 Montreal (1-0)
19:00   Saskatchewan (1-0) at Alberta (0-1) (CanadaWest.TV)
September 10
13:00   No. 6 Carleton (1-1) at Toronto (0-2) (OUA.TV)
13:00   Queen’s (0-1) at No. 10 Guelph (1-1) (OUA.TV)
13:00   No. 5 McMaster (2-0) at Ottawa (1-0) (OUA.TV)
13:00   Waterloo (0-2) at No. 7 Western (1-1) (OUA.TV)
13:00   Windsor (1-1) at York (1-1) (OUA.TV)
14:00   Saint Mary’s (0-0) at Acadia (0-0) (Bell Aliant Fibe TV1 & AUStv.ca)
14:00   StFX (0-0) at Mount Allison (0-0) (Bell Aliant Fibe TV1 & AUStv.ca)
15:00   No. 4 Laval (0-1) at Concordia (1-0) (TVA Sports & StretchTV)
16:00   McGill (0-1) at Sherbrooke (1-0)

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