CIS Football Has Momentum
Among the players who are set to take the field this week, keep an eye on:
Mount Allison’s Scott Brady picked up his first win as a CIS head coach last Saturday, two weeks after Saint Mary’s James Colzie III accomplished the feat against his Mounties; Queen’s bench boss Pat Sheahan (130-84-1) captured the 130th regular-season victory of his CIS career last weekend versus Waterloo; Sheahan (148-103-1) and Laval’s Glen Constantin (148-29) are both two wins shy of the 150 mark overall (regular season & playoffs).
Playoff Race Update
With conference-leading Western (5-1) heading into its bye week, no less than four teams could join the Mustangs atop the OUA standings over the next few days, including nationally sixth-ranked Carleton (4-2), No. 7 Laurier (4-1), No. 8 McMaster (4-1) and No. 9 Ottawa (4-1). Following a well-deserved rest, Western will wrap up its regular schedule with a pair of tough matchups, at Ottawa and at home versus McMaster. All other remaining games for the Ravens, Golden Hawks, Marauders and Gee-Gees are against sub-.500 opponents.
In the AUS, reigning champion St. Francis Xavier (3-1) has built a two-game cushion over Saint Mary’s (1-3), Mount Allison (1-3) and Acadia (1-3) at the midway point of the season. In the RSEQ, first place will be on the line on Oct. 15 when the top two teams in the national rankings, Montreal (5-0) and Laval (4-1), square off in their return from the Thanksgiving break. In Canada West, UBC (3-2), Manitoba (2-3) and Saskatchewan (2-3) are battling for positioning behind division leaders Regina (4-1) and Calgary (4-1).
Laurier (4-1) at Toronto (1-5) (Thursday)
After starting the campaign with four straight wins, the seventh-ranked Golden Hawks were humbled last Saturday in London, where they suffered a 45-26 setback against OUA-leading Western. On paper, it looks like Laurier has a golden opportunity to bounce back on Thursday night as the Hawks have outscored their opponents by an average of 44.4 to 17.8 so far this season, while Toronto has been outscored by a 37.8 to 19.0 margin. While Laurier prevailed 53-17 in the last meeting between the two teams, in 2014, the Varsity Blues had won the previous three head-to-head contests in 2013 (27-20), 2012 (19-0) and 2010 (forfeit).
Windsor (2-3) at Carleton (4-2) (Friday)
With wins over Windsor and Waterloo (0-5) in their final two games of the regular season, the No. 6-ranked Ravens would not only post their best record since their return to CIS football in 2013, it would also mark their best finish since they went 6-1 to top the OQIFC conference back in 1986. Coming off a superb performance against previously undefeated Ottawa in the Panda Game (12 receptions, 138 yards, 2 touchdowns), Nate Behar, who was ranked No. 8 on the CFL Scouting Bureau’s top prospect list released a month ago, will look to exploit a Windsor defence that ranks last in CIS against the pass (397.6 yards per game) and 25th overall (577.4). Carleton is 2-1 against the Lancers since 2013, including a resounding 62-16 road win last season.
Queen’s (2-3) at McMaster (4-1) (Friday)
While the No. 8-ranked Marauders are well aware of their league finale against Western on Oct. 22, they aren’t looking past their next two opponents as they know they need wins over Queen’s on Friday and York (2-3) the following weekend to have any chance of finishing atop the OUA standings. Queen’s is arguably the best sub-.500 team in the country, having given Laurier, Guelph and Western a run for their money before finally breaking the ice over the past two weeks with wins against Toronto and Waterloo. Case in point: the Gaels are currently ranked higher than McMaster in both overall offence (416.8 yards per game vs. 393.6) and defence (349.8 vs. 382.8).
York (2-3) at Ottawa (4-1) (Friday)
Coming off their first loss of the campaign in the Panda Game, the No. 9 Gee-Gees will look to get back on track Friday against the visiting Lions. Led by star quarterback Derek Wendel (371.4 yards per game, 15 TD passes), Ottawa’s nationally second-ranked offence (545.6 yards per game) squares off against York’s last-ranked defence (610.8). Lions pivot Brett Hunchak has been brilliant in wins over Waterloo and Windsor, averaging 435.5 yards per contest with eight TD passes, but has struggled in losses to Laurier, Toronto and Carleton, averaging 194.3 yards with a single passing major.
Acadia (1-3) at StFX (3-1) (Friday)
The AUS-leading X-Men have already defeated each of their three conference opponents this season, with their lone loss coming at Concordia in interlock action. The Axemen are currently heading in the opposite direction, with three straight losses following a convincing 30-1 win over Saint Mary’s in their league opener. StFX quarterback Tivon Cook leads the AUS in most passing categories and had one of his best outings of the campaign on Sept. 17 in a 37-8 defeat of Acadia, when he completed 27 of 33 passes for 300 yards and a touchdown.
Mount Allison (1-3) at Saint Mary’s (1-3) (Friday)
The Mounties would rather forget their first meeting of the season with the Huskies on Sept. 16, when they let a 27-2 lead slip away en route to a 32-27 loss on home turf. The result marked the first win as a CIS head coach for James Colzie III, but more importantly it put an end to Saint Mary’s 18-game overall losing streak after back-to-back 0-8 campaigns. Players to watch on Friday evening in Halifax include fifth-year Mount Allison linebacker Kyle Horsman, who currently leads the AUS and ranks second in the nation with 9.5 tackles per game, as well as Saint Mary’s sophomore D’Shawn Miller, who averages 87.5 receiving yards per contest.