The Grey Cup game between the Calgary Stampeders and Ottawa RedBlacks appears to be a mismatch on paper.
Calgary had 15 victories in the regular season while Ottawa had just eight. The Stampeders led all CFL teams with 586 points while the RedBlacks allowed more points than they scored.
Odds makers initially installed Calgary as a nine-point favourite. That has already hit double digits at some sports books and could rise more before kickoff.
Few football observers are giving Ottawa much of a chance on Sunday evening at BMO Field. That’s just how RedBlacks defensive back Abdul Kanneh likes it.
“We’re not worried about the doubters,” Kanneh said Thursday. “There have been doubters all year. That’s what we like. We like doubters, we like being the underdogs. We like being in that position. That way when we do beat people, we just have more people on the bandwagon.”
The powerhouse West Division had four teams finish the regular season with better records than Ottawa’s middling 8-9-1 mark. The RedBlacks still earned first seed in the East and beat Edmonton 35-23 in the division final.
Calgary, meanwhile, showed no rust in the West final. The Stampeders, who entered with a 15-2-1 mark, crushed the B.C. Lions 42-15.
Redblacks offensive line coach Bryan Chiu knows first-hand that the slate is wiped clean for the championship game. He played for the Montreal team that entered the 2000 Grey Cup as a heavy favourite but lost to a B.C. squad that won just eight games in the regular season.
“The one thing I can tell you about Grey Cup is it’s not a best-of-seven, it’s one game,” Chiu said. “The ball is not round. You’ve got funny bounces. It’s the ultimate equalizer in championship games. The team that has the most discipline and protects the football is usually the team that comes out on top.
“We’re both here for a reason. I think both teams deserve to be here. But at the end of the day, the team that plays complete and with discipline is going to win it.”
Kanneh feels regular-season marks don’t mean a thing at this point. Only two teams remain in the post-season picture and both have an equal shot at the big prize. “It’s playoffs, it’s win or go home. So you could be 13-and-0, you could be 21-and-0, you could be 100-and-0 or you could be 2-and-11. If you make it here, you make it here. There’s a reason why you made it here.
“So it’s all about that next game. Whatever you did in the past don’t matter no more.”