A crowd of more than 40,000 is expected for the CFL's West Division final at B.C. Place Stadium Sunday, and hometown fans believe this to be the beginning of a week-long party.
The B.C. Lions are favoured to beat the Edmonton Eskimos and advance to the 99th Grey Cup game in their own city. No team has won the CFL championship on home turf since the 1994 Lions. The 2011 edition began the season with five straight losses before righting the ship and earning first place in the division.
Vancouver is hosting its first Grey Cup since 2005, and capping a 21-month period in which it hosted the Olympic Games, the Stanley Cup final, as well as welcoming Major League Soccer. B.C. Place has undergone a $563 million renovation since the Games, and will stage its biggest event since being reopened in September.
The Eskimos stunned the Lions in the 2005 west final in Vancouver, but lost three of four games to B.C. this season and will need some equalizers against a team that has won 10 of its last 11 games. Here are three areas to watch:
Experience at quarterback
Edmonton's Ricky Ray has won two Grey Cups, and played in 11 postseason games. He is the definition of the cool, calm quarterback. Travis Lulay is appearing in just his fourth playoff game, and plays the game in a manic state. If Ray uses that experience to play error-free, or if Lulay is overwhelmed by the stage/pressure, than the Eskimos are in good stead.
The Eskimos don't excel in pass protection, having allowed 46 sacks this season. The Lions defence recorded 54 sacks, and the defensive line is a force behind end Keron Williams and tackles Aaron Hunt and Khalif Mitchell. The team that wins the line of scrimmage usually wins the game, and Edmonton's young offensive line will be hard-pressed to win the line of scrimmage.
If Edmonton has one advantage under the B.C. Place roof, it's that the controlled conditions play to its defensive strengths. The Eskimos use four linebackers and three linemen, which means they have more speed than your typical defence. The group created 45 turnovers this year, and they'll need a few more to beat B.C.