Raise your hand if months ago you predicted three West Division teams – B.C., Calgary, Edmonton – would all be in contention for first place heading into the last weekend of the CFL season.
If you saw this coming you would have unloaded your mortgage fund investments before the stock market dropped and wound up lounging in Palm Springs. Instead, what’s about to happen in Week 19 has never been seen before: five teams at 10-7, top spot open in both divisions with the very last game on the schedule set to unlock the ambiguity of a season beyond reason.
No wonder the league is calling it Super Saturday (with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at the Calgary Stampeders afternoon game setting up the Montreal Alouettes at B.C. Lions closer). Not only can you make a case for any one of the five teams finishing first, you could make a case for any one of them getting to the Grey Cup and winning it.
That’s how off the kicking tee this season has been. We’ve seen as many side judges fired (Rick Berezowski) as head coaches (Greg Marshall). We’ve seen records set (Chad Owens), career marks established (Anthony Calvillo, Byron Parker), a player suspended for a dirty hit (Johnny Sears) and players fined for bad Tweets.
We’ve also witnessed a strange year at quarterback. Try these nuggets on for size: In the Winnipeg-Calgary clash, the battle of the pivots will be between Alex Brink and Drew Tate. Brink will start ahead of Buck Pierce, who is injured. Tate will start his third game ahead of Henry Burris, who is benched. The 27-year-old Tate has taken control of the Calgary offence, working smartly with receiver Johnny Forzani and running back Jon Cornish. This is Tate’s team now, with Burris left to contemplate where he’ll be in 2012. For a guy who was voted the CFL’s most outstanding player last November, it’s been a hard fall, and yet maybe he’s asked to come in off the sidelines and save his team in the playoffs. Given the way this season has played, you dare say no way?
The Montreal-B.C. matchup is the grand finale. Calvillo will guide the Alouettes, who have been in position to win games late and clinch the East Division only to come up short, repeatedly. That’s scrubbed a layer of invincibility off the back-to-back Grey Cup champions. Injuries have hurt, too. Against the Lions, Montreal will be without two veterans, receiver Kerry Watkins and, more important, left offensive tackle Josh Bourke. His spot will be taken by rookie import Jeraill McCuller. Previous CFL starts: one.
As for the Lions, they have quarterback Travis Lulay and that’s been plenty good enough. While he began the year slowly, Lulay has fulfilled his promise during the team’s 8-1 stretch, passing for 2,771 yards, 23 touchdowns and just four interceptions. As his coach, Wally Buono, said Wednesday when Lulay was chosen as B.C.’s nominee for outstanding player, “In last week’s game against Edmonton, our biggest game of the season to that point, he was our best player. He’s the guy.”
The guy who should take the Lions to first place in the West and perhaps even a home-field Grey Cup appearance at B.C. Place Stadium.
Of course, given how peculiar a season this has been, we’re likely talking about a B.C.-Hamilton Tiger-Cats title tilt. The quarterback matchup would be Lulay against Hamilton’s sideshow duo of Kevin Glenn and Quinton Porter. (“Step right up folks and see the two-headed, four-armed hybrid.”)
Hamilton, by the way, could damage the Edmonton Eskimos’ first-place hopes with a win Thursday. It shouldn’t happen. Then again, who predicted Paul McCallum, at age 41, would kick 29 field goals in a row without a miss?
No you didn’t.
If all West Division teams win or all lose, B.C. would finish first, Edmonton second and Calgary third.
If Edmonton wins and B.C. loses, Edmonton clinches first place.
If Edmonton and B.C. lose, and Calgary wins, Calgary clinches first place.
If Edmonton and Calgary win, and B.C. loses, Edmonton clinches first place and Calgary holds West semi-final against B.C.
If Edmonton wins and B.C. and Calgary lose, Edmonton clinches first place and B.C. holds West semi-final against Calgary.
If B.C. wins, and Edmonton and Calgary lose, Edmonton holds West semi-final against Calgary.
If B.C. and Calgary win, and Edmonton loses, Calgary holds West semi-final against Edmonton.
If Winnipeg wins or Montreal loses, Winnipeg clinches first place and Montreal is host to Hamilton in the East semi-final.
If Montreal wins and Winnipeg loses, Montreal clinches first place and Winnipeg is host to Hamilton in the East semi-final.