CIS Football: 13 reasons to watch this weekend

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A Top 10 battle in Regina, the annual RSEQ-AUS interlock weekend and the second CIS Football Game of the Week on City highlight Week 5 of the CIS football schedule. Here are some things to keep an eye on this weekend.
No. 2 Calgary (3-0) at No. 9 Regina (2-1) (Friday)
Before the start of the season, few people would have predicted this Friday night game would be a duel for first place in Canada West. And to think that, if not for a last-second Saskatchewan field goal that led to an overtime loss in its season opener, Regina would enter the contest tied with Calgary atop the conference standings. Following impressive wins over Manitoba and reigning Vanier Cup champion UBC, the upstart Rams and star quarterback Noah Picton (415.3 yards per game) face their greatest challenge yet against the Dinos, who have already defeated three nationally-ranked opponents this fall in Manitoba (then No. 5), UBC (then No. 2) and Saskatchewan (then No. 10). Not including a 37-13 pre-season victory over the Rams last month, Calgary has defeated Regina in six straight overall dating back to a 12-9 loss at Mosaic Stadium on Oct. 19, 2012.
No. 1 Montreal (3-0) at Acadia (1-1) (Saturday)
After opening the campaign with a 24-21 win at Laval, top-ranked Montreal has dominated Bishop’s and Concordia by a combined score of 120-3 over the past two weeks. This doesn’t bode well for an Acadia team that is coming off a lopsided 37-8 loss to StFX. To make matters worse for Saturday’s hosts, the Carabins have a 14-1 record versus AUS opponents – including wins over the Axemen in 2009 and 2005 – since the start of interlock play in 2002, their lone loss coming that year against Mount Allison in their first season back on the CIS circuit. Montreal boasts the top-ranked defence in the country (8.0 points per game) and ranks second on offence (48.0 ppg).
No. 3 Laval (2-1) at Mount Allison (0-2) (Saturday)
Like Montreal, Laval has gone 14-0 versus AUS rivals in regular season action since dropping its interlock opener in 2002, against Saint Mary’s. Overall, the Rouge et Or have faced Mount Allison twice in the past, including a 73-7 regular season win in Quebec City in 2009 and a 48-21 Uteck Bowl victory in Sackville, N.B., in 2013. Mount Allison’s Scott Brady is still looking for his first win as a CIS head coach while Laval’s Glen Constantin, in his 16th season at the helm, sits second among active CIS sideline bosses with 146 career triumphs for only 29 losses (regular season & playoffs).

No. 4 Western (3-1) at Guelph (2-2) (Saturday)

For the second straight week, fourth-ranked Western is part of the CIS Football Game of the Week on City, Saturday at 1 p.m., live from Alumni Stadium in Guelph. The game is a rematch of last year’s Yates Cup final that saw the Gryphons beat the Mustangs 23-17 in London to capture their first OUA title since 1996. Guelph is off to a see-saw start under new head coach Kevin MacNeill and things won’t get any easier over the next few weeks with road games against No. 7 McMaster and No. 5 Laurier following Saturday’s tilt with Western and its nationally top-ranked offence (52.8 points per game).

Waterloo (0-4) at No. 5 Wilfrid Laurier (3-0) (Saturday)

If there were still any doubts about Laurier after it opened the OUA schedule with wins over Queen’s and York, the Golden Hawks proved they belonged among the conference elite last weekend when they beat nationally-ranked Carleton 17-16 in the nation’s capital. The Hawks have a golden opportunity to move to 4-0 on Saturday when they host cross-town rival Waterloo, which has allowed a CIS-worst 58.0 points per game this season and ranks second-last on offence with 7.0 points per contest. Laurier has won 12 straight head-to-head confrontations since an 18-16 loss in 2002, including shutout victories in three of the past four years (42-0 in 2015, 44-0 in 2014, 12-0 in 2012).

No. 6 Ottawa (3-0) at Windsor (1-2) (Saturday)

On paper, it sure looks like it could be a long afternoon for Windsor’s defence on Saturday. Led by record-setting quarterback Derek Wendel and top receiver Mitchell Baines (25 catches, 369 yards, 3 touchdowns), the undefeated Gee-Gees travel to Alumni Field boasting the country’s second-ranked offence in total yards (560.3) and passing yards (410.7) per game, and also sit fourth with 42.0 points per outing. On the other side of the ball, the Lancers, who are coming off a bye week, rank last in overall defence (614.7 yards per game) and against the past (424.0), and 26th out of 27 in points allowed (54.3). In a 52-24 head-to-head win last season in Ottawa, Wendel completed 20 of 28 passes for 381 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions.

No. 8 Saskatchewan (2-1) at Manitoba (1-2) (Saturday)

Manitoba finally got on the board last week with a convincing 42-12 win over Alberta but the Bisons know they are not out of the woods yet as they are set to face eighth-ranked Saskatchewan, reigning Vanier Cup champion UBC and No. 2 Calgary in their next three games. Don’t expect a defensive battle on Saturday in Winnipeg. In their last five head-to-head meetings dating back to the 2013 playoffs, including four wins by Manitoba, the Bisons and Huskies have combined to score an average of 67.6 points per contest. Manitoba quarterback Theo Deezar was named the CIS player of the week on offence after a 345-yard, four-touchdown performance against Alberta, while Saskatchewan’s Tyler Chow ranks second in the nation with 139.7 rushing yards per game.

No. 10 Carleton (2-2) at York (2-2) (Saturday)

The Ravens must feel like they let one slip away last weekend against Laurier, when they lost 17-16 on home turf despite dominating 402-264 in total yards and 23-12 in first downs, while also holding the Golden Hawks’ offence to 46 yards through the air. The same goes for the Lions, who had a golden opportunity to move to 3-1 with a victory over previously-winless Toronto but dropped a 45-18 decision against their cross-town rivals. Against a York defence which ranks 25th in the country in yards allowed per game (592.0), keep an eye on explosive Carleton receiver Nate Behar, the leader among active CIS players with 148 career catches and the CIS leader this season in receptions (27 – tied) and TD catches (5).
UBC (1-2) at Alberta (0-3) (Saturday)
UBC and Alberta meet for the second time in the first half of the Canada West campaign, this time in Vancouver. While the Thunderbirds prevailed 39-24 in Edmonton on Sept. 3 in the season opener for both teams, the Golden Bears racked up 509 yards of total offence in a losing cause, including 310 on the ground. Reigning Vanier Cup MVP Michael O’Connor has been relatively quiet so far in his sophomore season with UBC averaging 265.7 passing yards per game with four touchdowns and three interceptions. One issue for the defending national champions has been their running game, currently ranked 25th in the country (113.0 yards per game).
StFX (2-0) at Concordia (1-2) (Saturday)
After capturing their first AUS championship since 1996 last fall, the X-Men have proven they’re the real deal so far this season with convincing wins over Mount Allison, 29-14, and Acadia, 37-8. StFX would rather forget its last two interlock contests, shutout losses to Laval last season (64-0) and to Montreal two years ago (47-0), but its last win over an RSEQ opponent – a 35-18 decision – came at Concordia in 2013. An interesting quarterback battle is expected between the X-Men’sTivon Cook, who currently ranks fourth in the nation with 326.0 passing yards per game, and the Stingers’ Trenton Miller (297.7 ypg), the reigning Quebec conference MVP.
Saint Mary’s (1-1) at Bishop’s (0-3) (Saturday)

The Huskies finally put an end to an 18-game overall losing streak last Friday against Mount Allison and they did it in style, erasing a 25-point deficit to give new bench boss James Colzie IIIhis first win as a CIS head coach. Saint Mary’s now has a chance to make it two in a row against a Bishop’s team that has really struggled so far this season, scoring a CIS-worst 5.3 points per game and ranking 25th on defence (47.3). The Gaiters won last year’s head-to-head matchup in Halifax, 23-17.

Sherbrooke (1-2) at McGill (2-1) (Saturday)

Two weeks ago, McGill came back from 16-0 down to beat the Vert & Or 19-18 and claim its first victory at Sherbrooke since 2004. On Saturday, the Redmen hope to win a third straight game for the first time since 2006. They have swept a two-game regular season series against Sherbrooke only once since the Vert & Or returned to CIS football in 2003, thanks to 17-0 and 42-11 decisions in 2004.

Toronto (1-3) at Queen’s (0-3) (Saturday)

Queen’s is arguably the best 0-3 team in the country. The Gaels held second-half leads in their first two losses of the season, at Laurier and at Guelph, and last weekend gave No. 4 Western all they could handle before falling 27-13 to the Mustangs in the grand opening of the new Richardson Stadium in Kingston. On Saturday, as the Gaels and Varsity Blues look to keep their playoff hopes alive, all eyes will be on the quarterback duel between brothers Nate Hobbs of Queen’s andMarcus Hobbs of Toronto, with the latter coming off a five-touchdown performance against York (2 passing, 3 rushing).

WEEK 5 SCHEDULE (all times local)

NOTE: Click HERE for the complete 2016 regular season schedule & results
September 23
19:00   No. 2 Calgary (3-0) at No. 9 Regina (2-1) (Shaw TV/Access & CanadaWest.TV)
September 24
13:00   No. 4 Western (3-1) at Guelph (2-2) (City & OUA.TV)
13:00   Toronto (1-3) at Queen’s (0-3) (TVCogeco & OUA.TV)
13:00   No. 6 Ottawa (3-0) at Windsor (1-2) (TVCogeco & OUA.TV)
13:00   No. 10 Carleton (2-2) at York (2-2) (OUA.TV)
13:00   Waterloo (0-4) at No. 5 Laurier (3-0) (Rogers TV Waterloo & OUA.TV)
13:00   No. 3 Laval (2-1) at Mount Allison (0-2) (Bell Aliant Fibe TV1 & AUStv.ca)
13:00   No. 8 Saskatchewan (2-1) at Manitoba (1-2) (CanadaWest.TV)
14:00   No. 1 Montreal (3-0) at Acadia (1-1) (Bell Aliant Fibe TV1 & AUStv.ca)
14:00   Saint Mary’s (1-1) at Bishop’s (0-3) (GaitersTV)
14:00   StFX (2-0) at Concordia (1-2) (StretchTV)
14:00   Sherbrooke (1-2) at McGill (2-1) (TVA Sports & StretchTV)
17:00   UBC (1-2) at Alberta (0-3) (CanadaWest.TV)

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