It's November! Almost playoff time in the Canadian Football League. The 100th Grey Cup Championship will be contested for in Toronto on November 25, 2012.
While the BC Lions are a clear favorite to defend their title later this month, we should point out, only one team has been able to win back to back championships over the last 14 years. That was the Montreal Alouettes in 2009 and 2010. The only reason that happened was the Riders had too many men on the field in 2009 at McMahon stadium. So if you want to play the odds, there is a good chance we will have a new champion in 2012. I think you see where I am going with this article.
We all remember the famous quote at the start of the season from Stampeder head coach and general manager John Hufnagel. "We will not be the sexiest team in the league," said the coach. "But we will fight, claw and scratch or way to victory."
The Calgary Stampeders have been the second best team in the league this season. Which truly is amazing considering this team lost their starting quarterback in week 2 and has had to dress over 70 players on the season.
John Hufnagel should win the coach of the year honors. This is the 5th straight year under Hufnagel that this team has racked up 10 plus wins. It's the 8th straight year, the Stamps have qualified for the post season. Running back Jon Cornish will win the outstanding Canadian award and has a shot at the most outstanding player award. Charleston Hughes will be in the running for defensive player of the year honors while kicker Rene Parades has an outside shot at being the western nominee for special teams player. Not bad for a team that is not very sexy and we haven't even mentioned the outstanding play by receiver Nik Lewis.
All season long the Stampeders have had to deal with injury after injury. It started in training camp and has been the story of the season. While some teams used it as an excuse, the Stamps turned it into an opportunity for veteran players who were cast off by other organizations. Obby Khan, Tad Kornegay, Jason Armstead, Stevie Baggs Jr. and Anwar Stewart have all brought leadership and experience to a young group of players who are now starting to believe in themselves.
Three times this season, the Stampeders should have lost a game on a last second field goal. For some strange reason, call it luck or call it karma, the Stamps ended up winning those games. Could this be a sign that greater things are in store for this football team? Is this a team of destiny?
Starting quarterback Drew Tate is finally healthy. Could he be the missing piece to take this team past the BC Lions in the west final? The Lions are good but certainly not invincible. In most positions, the Stamps match up very well against the Leos. The biggest difference is at quarterback. Travis Lulay has the ability to extend a play with his running ability. Kevin Glenn does not have that in his arsenal. If Drew Tate can regain his form, that advantage is no longer in play.
"This is Kevin's team right now," Tate told us on QR 77's Sportstalk. "Kevin has done an amazing job, and he deserves to be the starter. But I agree, to beat the Lions, the quarterback will have to test their secondary and linebackers with the run." Let's hope the Stamps get a chance at the Lions in the West Final and don't disappoint in the semi final at home.
The worst case scenario for the CFL this November. An all west matchup in the 100th Grey Cup Championship. It's a very real possibility.
At the start of the season, we all predicted the balance of power switching to the east ! How wrong we all were. Even with Ricky Ray, the Toronto Argonauts are an average team at best. The once proud Alouettes are still the class of the east but they are a team in decline. With a western conference cross over in play, how would the league feel about a Battle of Alberta in Toronto? A cross over team has never made to the championship game, but stranger things have happened in the wild world of sports!