U Sports Football: 12 reasons to watch this weekend

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The start of the OUA playoffs, the end of league play in the three other conferences, star players wrapping up record-setting regular seasons. Here are some things to keep an eye on this weekend in U Sports football.
ROAD TO THE ARCELORMITTAL DOFASCO VANIER CUP
Twenty teams are still in contention for the U Sports banner. Five more will be eliminated this weekend, including two in Ontario, and one apiece in the Canada West, RSEQ and AUS conferences.
This year’s ArcelorMittal Dofasco Mitchell Bowl (AUS at Canada West) and Uteck Bowl (OUA at RSEQ) are set for Nov. 19. The ArcelorMittal Dofasco Vanier Cup follows on Saturday, Nov. 26 at 1 p.m. ET at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton.
All the information on the 52nd Vanier Cup is available at vaniercup.com.
U SPORTS RECORD UPDATE
A number of players across the country are enjoying exceptional seasons. Among the standouts wrapping up league play this weekend, Regina quarterback Noah Picton is set to etch his name in the U Sports record book in a number of categories.
Passing yards: Picton needs 436 Saturday against Manitoba to break the single-season U Sports record of 3,162 set last fall by two-time Hec Crighton Trophy winner Andrew Buckley of Calgary. Picton has already surpassed the 436-yard mark three times this season, including a career-best 499 against Manitoba on Sept. 8.
Completions: The Regina native needs 36 to surpass the new single-season U Sports standard of 232 set last Saturday by Ottawa’s Derek Wendel. His 197 completions in his first seven games are already a Canada West record.
Touchdown passes: With a U Sports-leading 22 after seven games, Picton needs five to shatter the Canada West mark of 26 set in 2006 by former Rams great Teale Orban.
Completion percentage: Picton also goes into Regina’s conference finale as the U Sports leader in completion percentage this fall with a 69.4% success rate, just ahead of Laval’s Hugo Richard (69.3) and Montreal’s Samuel Caron (69.0). Only nine quarterbacks in U Sports history have finished the season with a rate of 70% or better (minimum 75 passing attempts).
WEEK 10 MATCHUPS

Alberta (1-5) at Saskatchewan (4-3) (Friday)

Saskatchewan has already clinched a playoff berth and can finish as high as second and no lower than fourth in Canada West. Alberta will miss the post-season for the sixth straight year. The Huskies, who won the first head-to-head contest of the season 29-17 back on Sept. 9, are looking for their first three-game winning streak in league play since 2012. Friday night’s contest features two of the top receivers in the country in Saskatchewan’s Mitch Hillis (32 receptions, 364 yards in only 5 games) and Alberta’s Tylor Henry (39 catches, 584 yards in 7 GP).

Guelph (3-5) at McMaster (6-2) (Saturday)

The nationally fourth-ranked Marauders enter the OUA playoffs as the third seed for the second straight season and hope for a different first-round result this time around as they were upset 29-15 by Laurier in the 2015 conference quarter-finals. For their part, the reigning Yates Cup champion Gryphons know they have their work cut out for them as they look to repeat as OUA titlists for the first time in program history. The two teams have already met once this season at Ron Joyce Stadium in Hamilton, on Oct. 1, with McMaster prevailing 27-15. With regular season games left in the three other conferences, the Marauders currently rank second in the country in point allowed (10.9 per game), just behind Montreal (10.3).

Ottawa (6-2) at Carleton (6-2) (Saturday)

The only Top 10 battle of Week 10 and a rematch of the annual Panda Game won 43-23 by the Ravens on Oct. 1st in front of 23,329 fans at TD Place Stadium. The rematch will take place at Carleton’s MNP Park, marking the Ravens’ first home playoff game since they returned to U Sports football in 2013. The rivals from the nation’s capital have only met twice in post-season action in the past, both times in an OQIFC semifinal, including a 28-0 win by Ottawa in 1996 (Frank Clair Stadium) and a 31-15 victory by Carleton in 1986 (Keith Harris Stadium). Saturday’s confrontation pits the Ravens’ top-ranked passing defence (184.8 yards per game) against the Gee-Gees’ second-ranked passing offence (385.8).

Laval (6-1) at Sherbrooke (3-4) (Saturday)

Despite being ranked No. 1 in the country, Laval is still chasing second-ranked Montreal in the race for first place in the RSEQ. Should the archrivals end up with identical records, the first tie-breaker would be points allowed (Montreal currently holds a 72 vs. 77 edge) and, if necessary, the next tie-breaker would be points scored (283-275 advantage for Montreal). The Rouge et Or closed the gap last week with a 44-0 shutout win over Bishop’s and will look for a similar performance on Saturday against an opponent they have defeated 23 times in as many meetings since Sherbrooke returned to U Sports football in 2003, including a 41-3 decision in Quebec City on Sept. 18. On the other side of the ball, the Vert & Or will be playing for their playoff lives, needing a win or a Concordia loss against Bishop’s to extend their season.

Montreal (6-1) at McGill (4-3) (Saturday)

Like Laval, the Carabins did their part last week in the race for first place in Quebec with a 30-5 win over Sherbrooke. Saturday against McGill, they will face a much-improved Redmen team that will finish the regular season with a .500 record for the first time since 2006, and is aiming for its first winning campaign since going 7-1 in 2002. Heading into their league finale, Montreal (268.9) and McGill (297.6) rank 1-2 in the nation in yards allowed per game. The cross-town rivals meet for the first time since a 42-2 Carabins win in Week 2 of last season.

Calgary (5-2) at UBC (3-4) (Saturday)

The No. 5-ranked Dinos need a win over UBC and a loss by Regina against Manitoba to finish first in Canada West. The reigning Vanier Cup Thunderbirds need a win or a Manitoba loss to Regina simply to make the playoffs. Should the T-Birds fail to extend their campaign, they would become the first defending Canada West champs to miss the post-season since Manitoba in 2008. Calgary has already defeated UBC once this fall, 35-8 at home on Sept. 9, and the Dinos would love nothing more than to eliminate the team that ended their bid for a perfect season a year ago with a 34-26 upset in the Hardy Cup final.

Regina (5-2) at Manitoba (3-4) (Saturday)

Regina has already clinched a home playoff berth and would secure first place in Canada West for the first time in program history with a win on Saturday. Manitoba can still finish anywhere between third and fifth in the six-team conference. The Rams won the first head-to-head matchup of the season 41-38 back on Sept. 8 and more fireworks are expected Saturday between the No. 1 and No. 3-ranked passing offences in the country (Regina 389.6 yards per game / Manitoba 355.3). In the Sept. 8 contest, the two teams combined for 1,219 yards of offence, including 956 through the air (Regina’s Noah Picton 499 yards / Manitoba’s Theo Deezar 457).

Mount Allison (3-4) at StFX (6-1) (Saturday)

While StFX has already clinched first place in the Maritimes for the first time since 1997, Mount Allison needs a win or a Saint Mary’s loss against Acadia to finish second as the Mounties have a 1-2 record against the Huskies. Should they pull off the upset on Saturday, the Mounties would end up among the top two in the league for the fourth consecutive campaign. For their part, the reigning conference champion X-Men are looking to remain perfect this season against AUS opponents, a successful run that includes a 29-14 season-opening victory at Mount Allison on Sept. 10.

Concordia (3-4) at Bishop’s (1-6) (Saturday)

Concordia can still finish as high as third in the RSEQ with a win against Bishop’s combined with some help from powerhouses Laval and Montreal on Saturday. The Stingers’ last top-three finish in Quebec dates back to 2008, when they took second place with a 5-3 mark. Concordia has already downed Bishop’s once this season, winning 50-34 on Oct. 1 thanks in part to 451 passing yards by reigning conference MVP Trenton Miller. The Gaiters will miss the post-season for the third straight campaign.

Acadia (1-6) at Saint Mary’s (2-5) (Saturday)

It is win or go home for both teams as the Axemen would be 2-0 against the Huskies this season should they win on Saturday. Saint Mary’s is hoping to return to the playoffs after back-to-back 0-8 campaigns, while Acadia hasn’t missed the post-season since going 1-7 in 2008. In the first meeting of 2016 between the two teams, a 30-1 Axemen win on Sept. 10, Brandon Jennings opened the campaign with a pair of interceptions for Acadia and the standout defensive back currently leads U Sports with six picks. For Saint Mary’s, receiver/returner Kaion Grant leads the nation in all-purpose yards per game (203.3).

WEEK 10 SCHEDULE (all times local)

NOTE 1: Click HERE for the complete 2016 regular season schedule & results
NOTE 2: Click HERE for the complete 2016 playoff schedule & results
October 28 (regular season)
19:00   Alberta (1-6) at No. 10 Saskatchewan (4-3) (Shaw TV/Access & CanadaWest.TV)
October 29 (regular season)
13:00   Concordia (3-4) at Bishop’s (1-6) (GaitersTV)
14:00   Acadia (1-6) at Saint Mary’s (2-5) (Bell Aliant Fibe TV1 & AUStv.ca)
14:00   No. 1 Laval (6-1) at Sherbrooke (3-4) (TVA Sports)
14:00   No. 2 Montreal (6-1) at McGill (4-4) (StretchTV)
15:00   Mount Allison (3-4) at StFX (6-1) (Bell Aliant Fibe TV1 & AUStv.ca)
17:00   No. 5 Calgary (5-2) at UBC (3-4) (CanadaWest.TV)
20:00   No. 7 Regina (5-2) at Manitoba (3-4) (CanadaWest.TV)
October 29 (OUA quarter-finals)
13:00   No. 9 Ottawa (6-2) at No. 8 Carleton (6-2) (OUA.TV)
16:00   Guelph (3-5) at No. 4 McMaster (6-2) (Cable 14 & OUA.TV)

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