On paper, it’s the mismatch of this CFL season.
The Calgary Stampeders, holder of the league’s best record at 10-3, host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers with the worst at 2-11 on Saturday.
The Stampeders were already playoff-bound, so it’s tempting for them to look past the hapless Bombers.
“I really hope so, but I doubt it,” Winnipeg head coach Tim Burke said. “I don’t think they will overlook us at all.”
Calgary’s record against East Division opponents is 6-1. Winnipeg is their final Eastern foe this regular season.
The Stampeders then meet the B.C. Lions twice and the Edmonton Eskimos and Saskatchewan Roughriders once in games which will determine the West Division playoff seedings.
Winnipeg joins Calgary in the West next season with the arrival of the Ottawa Redblacks. The Bombers haven’t won at McMahon Stadium since 2002, ant the Stampaders are 19-9 against Winnipeg since 2000.
The Bombers are not mathematically eliminated from this year’s playoffs, but Winnipeg is running low on both games to win and for division rivals to lose to qualify for the post-season.
“Sometimes when you play teams with that kind of record, if you don’t focus on the team and you focus on their record, sometimes you’ll get a rude awakening,” Stampeder quarterback Kevin Glenn said.
“It happens when a team lets its guard down and starts to believe all that stuff about ‘this team is 2-11, they probably don’t really want to play this game, they’re probably ready to go home.’ That’s not the case. You watch them play, the film we’ve been watching the past three games, they’ve come out to play.”
Among the CFL statistical categories in which Calgary ranked first and Winnipeg last heading into Friday’s games are field goals, average points scored per game, time of possession, net rushing yards and average rushing yards.
While the Bombers were still casting for a legitimate starting quarterback, the Stampeders have an embarrassment of riches with three.
Glenn, 1-1 since returning from injury and 6-2 this season, will start Saturday. Expect backup Drew Tate to get his first throws in a game since July 7 if the score becomes lopsided. Bo Levi Mitchell led Calgary to a 37-24 victory in Winnipeg on July 30.
Tate has been sidelined with a troublesome throwing arm injury this season.
“At some point in time in the not-too-distance future I would like to get Drew in the game, but the game will decide that, not me,” Stampeder head coach John Hufnagel said.
“He hasn’t played a whole lot of football lately. It’s good for himself to get some snaps and get used to playing football again.”
Quarterback Max Hall gets his third consecutive start and fifth this season for Winnipeg. He was replaced at halftime by Jason Boltus in last week’s 53-17 loss to the Lions, whose defence scored three touchdowns.
“I think we’re getting better even though sometimes it doesn’t show,” Hall said. “I think we’re getting better with the details. I like the game plan this week. I’m excited to play.
“I know a lot of people aren’t giving us a chance, but I think we believe in each other. I said the other day if I can eliminate a few of the mistakes I’m making and lead this football team, we’ll be all right.”
A subplot to Saturday’s game is the race for the CFL’s sack title. Winnipeg defensive end Alex Hall leads with 15, followed by Calgary’s Charleston Hughes with 13 and Cordarro Law with 10.
While Winnipeg has given up 46 sacks this season, Calgary has allowed a league-low 28.
The defensive front four is a bright light in Winnipeg’s dismal season. In addition to Hall, defensive linemen Kenny Mainor, Zach Anderson and Bryant Turner have a combined 20 sacks between them.
“It gets you a little excited knowing we’re considered the two best defensive lines in the league,” Hughes said. “Obviously we are the best defensive line in the league.
“They pretty much rush every down. We don’t have many opportunities to get sacks because we do have coverage responsibilities. We cover backs, we cover receivers and line up all over the field. That cuts our pass rushes in half as defensive ends.”
Never afraid to throw a little gas on the fire, Hughes called Hall “an adequate pass rusher, but I think it has more to do with the entire defensive line that they have.”
Hall wasn’t taking the bait.
“They have good players, him being one of them, but I think we have the best line,” he said. “We’ve just to go out and show it.
“Or course I want to win (the sack title) and it’s kind of funny I’m going up against a guy who is right behind me and they have another dude Law’s that pretty good too. I’m battling those guys, but it’s important. I want to show I’m the best.”
Wide receiver Joe West returns to Calgary’s active roster after suffering a separated shoulder July 20 against Montreal. He was averaging a touchdown a game before his injury.
Notes: West and wide receiver Maurice Price, Calgary’s leader in touchdown receptions with six, will be on the field together for the first time this season Saturday . . . Former Blue Bomber quarterback Glenn is 16-7 in two seasons with Calgary . . . The Stampeders’ home winning streak halted at 10 with a 33-27 loss to Toronto on Sept. 22 . . . Winnipeg has lost 10 of their last 11 and five in a row on the road.Report Typo/Error