By making Montreal 9.5 point favourites in tonight’s Grey Cup, odds makers have made the issue not ‘how’ but ‘by how many’.
Hence, it must be impossible to then possibly convince people beyond a reasonable doubt that the Alouettes will not only not cover but lose altogether. But I’ll give it my best shot.
If you’ve been watching or reading anything in the media this week, you know that this is Montreal’s seventh Grey Cup appearance this decade, and their record is a less-than-stellar 1-5. The Als get to punish the three weak teams in the East en route to hosting the East final practically every year.
Don’t get me wrong, their team is solid from front to back and from left to right, but I’d like to see them play in the West next year. True, their out-of-division record this year was 6-2 (furthermore, they didn’t lose the West finalists, Saskatchewan and Calgary), but to play a quality team every week would no doubt weaken that record at least a bit.
Allow me to digress momentarily. Remember following the 2006 NCAA season when there were cries for Ohio State and Michigan to play for the title, even though they’re in the same conference? Florida head coach Urban Meyer cried foul, and basically said that his team, though less hyped, deserved a shot at mighty OSU. They ended up trouncing the Buckeyes 41-14, and the SEC is now seen as the dominant collegiate conference.
At the end of the day, it’s all about results. There must be something in the Prairie water, but Western teams are just better. Calgary, Edmonton and BC have each beaten Montreal in the big game, o why couldn’t Saskatchewan?
The near ten point spread is the highest for a championship football game since Super Bowl XLII, where the New Enland Patriots were expected to go through the motions, and stampede the New York Giants. A funny thing on their way to the title: they lost.
How did the 14 point underdogs do it? They put relentless pressure on the Pats’ MVP quarterback, Tom Brady, sacking him five times and being in his kitchen all night. Defensive ends Stevie Baggs and John Chick have the track record (12 and 11 sacks, respectively) to disrupt CFL Most Outstanding Player Anthony Calvillo in a similar.
Calvillo must still be having nightmares about Calgary’s Mike Labinjo consistently getting to the Montreal backfield during last year’s Grey Cup. Linebacker Ray Williams added three sacks of his own in last week’s West final, so he’s hardly someone for Montreal pass protection to overlook.
Last year’s Grey Cup was were Calgary quarterback Henry Burris shed his reputation of not being able to win the big one. With just one and a half seasons as a starter under his belt, the Riders’ Darian Durant is playing with house money in this year’s game. Win and it could vault him to stardom, yet lose and it will be seen as a positive learning experience.
The knock on him this season was the fact that he threw 21 interceptions to 24 touchdowns. I’m more interested with what he did last week. He found the endzone three times, and didn’t turn it over.
Montreal’s rush defence was the best in the league this season, surrendering just 4.5 yards per carry. The onus will be on Durant to keep that defence honest, which could then set up Wes Cates late in the game.
With so many people doubting them last week(yours truly included), Saskatchewan played almost as close to a perfect game against Calgary as the CFL has seen this year. After so many years of futility, Rider Nation has a team that is set for years to come. Two championships in three years will also conjure up some dynasty talk, but that’s another conversation for another day.
Saskatchewan 36, Montreal 32