There’s more on the marquee than the race for first place when the Calgary Stampeders play host to the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Saturday.
“There’s a few different storylines going on for this game,” agrees Stampeder running back Jon Cornish, who is heavily involved in one of them.
The main narrative is Calgary (13-3) can clinch the CFL’s West Division, and the rewards that go with it, with a win or a tie.
The Roughriders (11-5) can extend the race for first into the final week of the regular season with a win.
Both teams have secured home playoff games, so it’s a matter of who holds the division semi-final Nov. 10 and who gets the bye and the West final Nov. 17.
Saturday’s victor takes the season series 2-1 and would be seeded ahead of the other in the event the two teams tied for points at season’s end.
Calgary finishes on the road against the B.C. Lions, while the Roughriders are at home to Edmonton in their finale.
In addition to boasting the CFL’s most dynamic offences, the two teams are the only ones to give up fewer than 400 points so far this season.
“Stakes are high pretty much like every time we play this team,” Roughrider quarterback Darian Durant said. “In my opinion, it’s the two best teams in the league. Not taking anything away from Toronto or anyone else.
“Both teams are filled with great players. Whenever you have that, you have these other battles than the game being talked about.”
Among Saturday’s subplots is the matchup of the top two running backs in the CFL. Cornish and Saskatchewan’s Kory Sheets are chasing their respective franchise’s season rushing records.
Cornish (1,690 yards) needs 206 to match Willie Burden’s 1,896. Sheets (1,556) is 212 away from George Reed’s 1,768.
Cornish is already smashing his league record for single-season rushing yards by a Canadian running back with two games to go.
“History is upon me,” Cornish said. “Who knows what the future holds? I don’t know how I’m going to do in this next game. I don’t know how I’m going to do in the B.C. game. I might not play too much in the B.C. game.
“For me to worry about it, I don’t think would be beneficial. I want to contribute to the team win as much as I have been.”
Calgary defensive end Charleston Hughes and Roughrider counterpart Alex Hall are tied for the CFL lead in sacks with 15.
The Stampeders offensive line held Hall to zero sacks Oct. 5 when he was a member of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, but Hughes didn’t get a sack in that game either.
Hall was traded the next day to Saskatchewan and makes a return trip to McMahon clad in green and white.
“They have a really good defence and adding a guy like Alex Hall made it that much better,” Stampeder quarterback Kevin Glenn said.
Hughes and Sheets threw gasoline on the fire trading social-media salvos on Twitter this week. The banter continued Friday.
“It was fun, but I am annoyed by pretty much their whole offence,” Hughes said. “I’m tired of all this talking and ranting about how good he is and how much he compares to Cornish when they’re too different style running backs. When you line up numbers, you can figure out the rest.”
Said Sheets: “I stand behind everything I say and I will no matter what happens. I’ll still stand by I’m the best back in the league.”
Calgary’s 42-27 win Aug. 9 over Saskatchewan ended the Roughriders unbeaten streak this season. It also drew a season-high 35,637 to McMahon. The forecast for Saturday’s game time is sunny with a high of 15.
The Roughriders beat Calgary 36-21 in Regina on July 5. Saskatchewan is 3-9-1 in the regular season at McMahon since 2005 and have lost six in a row there.
For once, the quarterbacks aren’t front and centre in a CFL game although veterans Kevin Glenn and Durant are working on impressive numbers.
Glenn is 9-2 in starts for Calgary and Durant is 10-5 for Saskatchewan this season. Glenn is 10th all time in league passing at 39,253 yards. Durant is 25th at 22,509.
With receiver Brad Sinopoli (concussion symptoms) and defensive end Stanley Bryant (knee) out of Calgary’s lineup, Spencer Wilson moves in at left tackle, Dan Federkeil returns at right tackle after missing six straight games with a groin injury.
Non-import receiver Spencer Armstrong will make his CFL debut with the Stampeders. Born in Toronto, Armstrong grew up in the United States and attended Air Force Academy.
After securing his early release from the U.S. military, the 27-year-old signed with Calgary on Aug. 5 and watched his team in action against the Roughriders four days later.
“It left an impression on me,” Armstrong said. “A lot of people here and a lot of people made the trip up from Saskatchewan too and there was a lot of energy in the building.
“The biggest game of the year is actually my first game of the year. I’ll take it for what it is. I’m excited.”
Editor's Note: An earlier online version of this story gave incorrect information concerning Calgary's opponent in Saturday's game. This online version has been corrected.