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The 104th Annual Grey Cup Preview

By Kory Walker in Sports
| November 27, 2016 12:00 am PDT
Official Logo Of The Canadian Football League

It’s finally here! After two hard fought division battles the stage is set in downtown Toronto for the culmination of the CFL season.

The Calgary Stampeders aim for their second Grey Cup in three years when they take on the Ottawa RedBlacks this Sunday. The Stampeders have been the class of the league this season, “stampeding” their way to a 15-2-1 record, then running over the BC Lions 42-15 in the semifinals.

The RedBlacks, on the other hand, barely made it. They finished the season with a losing record at 8-9-1, which embarrassingly enough for the Eastern teams was good enough to win the division.

They did, however, surprise many with a 35-23 win over the Edmonton Eskimos, hanging on for dear life as the game got close late.

Now the two sides hit the gridiron in a showdown for Canadian supremacy. Throw your preconceived notions out the window. It’s time for the Grey Cup.

The Matchup

Offense: Advantage Calgary

Have we seen a more dominant offense in the CFL this season? Or ever for that matter? Calgary finished first in both total points and time of possession turning the ball over the least and allowing the fewest sacks. Ignore their big game players for a moment and re-read that sentence as a whole. How on earth do you exploit a weakness in a team that has none?

Bo Levi Mitchell leads the charge, and will undoubtedly win the league’s most outstanding player award this year. He led the entire CFL in touchdown passes, finished second in total passing yards, and has thrown for at least two scores in 13 of 18 games this season. If you’re worried about interceptions with all that passing, don’t be. He’s thrown more than one pick just once this season.

If there’s one knock on Mitchell, it’s his age, but even that argument is growing weaker with each passing season. Mitchell is just 26 yes, but has already won a Grey Cup, a Grey Cup MVP, and is on the verge of the outstanding player award. He has already conquered the big stage, and has a career winning percentage of .860!

Opposite him is the ageless wonder Henry Burris. Burris, 41, sits third all-time in passing yards. He’s thrown for 379 touchdowns and 63,2227 yards in an incredible 229 starts. Despite playing some of the best football he’s ever played, this may be Burris’ last shot at a Grey Cup, especially considering how his team snuck into this position. The skill favors Mitchell, but there may be a few more touchdowns left up Burris’ sleeve.

Moving away from the quarterbacks, the run game favors Calgary as well. The Stamps employ arguably the best in the business in Jerome Messam, and he’ll look to get cooking early again. He carried the rock 206 times this year and produced 1,198 yards on the ground while plunging into the end zone 11 different times. If Mitchell has any problems through the air, Messam is there to clean them up.

For the RedBlacks, if Mossis Madu Jr. is forced to miss time, they found a gem in Kienan Lafrance. The 6th round draft pick crushed the Eskimos in the semi-finals with 157 yards on 27 carries including a touchdown. In two years prior to the game, Lafrance had carried the ball a TOTAL of 43 times for 180 yards. The 25 year old just played the biggest game of his life, and yet may have to do it again.

Defense: Even

This may seem a tad unfair to Calgary, who allowed just 15 points in their one game this postseason, but Ottawa has an incredibly strong D-Line that is capable of taking over football games. The RedBlacks allowed just 66 yards a game on the ground in these playoffs, meaning Jerome Messam is going to have his work cut out for him if he’s going to find any room to run on Saturday.

In cold-weather games, (As Saturday is likely to be!), offensive coordinators often choose to employ the run more. If Calgary continues to try to run the football, Ottawa will be there to stop them.

With that in mind….Calgary is no joke on defense either. They recorded two interceptions and two picks in their semi-final game while holding the opponent to a pathetic 15 points. They’re the best team in the CFL because once their potent offense scores, their defence gets the ball back.

The RedBlacks have two of the best tacklers in Damaso Munoz and Taylor Reed, but Calgary’s Charleston Hughes led the league in sacks with 16. Both teams employ true playmakers on the defensive end of the ball, who can take over a game at any moment.

Conclusion: Advantage Calgary

This game ultimately boils down to one player: Bo Levi Mitchell. The Stamp’s quarterback was incredible in the two games these teams had this season. He threw for 729 yards with four touchdowns and just one interception while completing 67 percent of his passes. He’s coming off his best season yet, and even at a young age has the experience to carry his team to another Grey Cup.

For Ottawa, it’s going to be an uphill battle the entire game. Can you imagine heading into the Grey Cup without even owning a winning record? That’s the mental state this RedBlacks team will be in Saturday, and frankly, I’d rather go with the team that finished the season with 15 wins.

Still, there’s money to be made on Ottawa’s side. Calgary opened the week as 9.5 points favorites, and frankly, that’s too many points for me in what could amount to the last game of Henry Burris’ career.

Moneyline: Calgary

Spread: Ottawa to cover

Happy Grey Cup!

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