2016 Grey Cup - Calgary Stampeders (-9.5) vs. Ottawa Redblacks, Sunday, 6 p.m. ET
There is some real history when it comes to Canada's professional football championship - it was first awarded in 1909. The 105th edition will take place this weekend in Toronto with the Western Champion Calgary Stampeders playing the Eastern champs from Ottawa. I will admit to some bias up front here - I live about five minutes from the home of the Stampeders and have been to more games than I can count over the years, including the game they won last weekend to get to this game. With that aside, let's be clear up front about this game - Calgary is going to win it, and it isn't going to be close. I could spend the next 800 words trying to pretend that there is some drama here, but the only way that that happens is if Calgary doesn't show up with their 'A' game. If the teams play their best it's not close.
Calgary comes into this game off of a historic season. They wound up 15-2-1. They lost their first game and tied their third as they were adjusting to a new coach - former offensive coordinator Dave Dickenson, a former star QB for the Stampeders who spent two years as a third-stringer for four different teams in the NFL and took over from John Hufnagel, who was offensive coordinator for the New York Giants before coming to Calgary. Then they really found their stride, winning 14 straight and only rarely being tested. Their second loss came in the final game of the season, but with nothing to play for they rested everyone with a pulse. They are the best team in the league by such a large margin it's ridiculous. This is nothing new, either - the Stampeders have, for the last decade, been the Patriots of the CFL. Their long-term excellence hasn't turned into enough titles, but they are always the cream of the league.
Ottawa won the Eastern Conference, but the East is really bad - they finished 8-9-1, which would have only been good enough for fifth in the Western Conference. They were really strong to start the season but limped towards the end of the season and had real struggles keeping quarterbacks happy and healthy. They lost five of their last eight, and they lost by 25 in Calgary in September. You can't look past any team that makes it this far, but the Redblacks just aren't good enough to win this game unless Calgary lets them.
Instead of doing a standard preview - you should bet Calgary to win because there is nothing else to do, and the price is more than fair - here is an American-centric look at a few tidbits from the game:
Quarterbacks: Calgary is helmed by Bo Levi Mitchell, who is a lock to win the Most Outstanding Player award in the league this year, and has been dominant since becoming starter late in 2013. Mitchell went to SMU in 2008 and was the starter as a freshman and sophomore in the first two years of the June Jones era. He lost the job to injury and headed to Eastern Washington for his junior year. He won the national title there in his first season and won the Walter Payton Award as top player in the league his second year. He went undrafted in the NFL, and instead of trying to force something, he headed to Calgary.
He'll be up against Henry Burris, the 41-year-old QB who was the league's Most Outstanding Player for the second time last year - Mitchell was the runner-up. Burris played at Temple, where he was part of some dark and very unsuccessful years in the Big East. He set several passing records, though. He was undrafted in the NFL and went to Calgary, backing up Dickenson and Jeff Garcia, who had several stints in the NFL with the Niners, Lions, and Browns, among others. He headed to Saskatchewan for a year and then went to the NFL. He was a third stringer in Green Bay for a year, but that was a rough thing to be with Brett Favre in town. Then he went to the Bears, where he actually started the last two games of yet another lost season for that squad. Then it was back to the CFL for good. First he was in Saskatchewan, then a long stretch in Calgary before going to Hamilton and then joining Ottawa when they entered the league three years ago. This is his second straight Grey Cup appearance with Ottawa. He lost the starting job early to an injury this year and needed another injury to get it back. It hasn't been his best year, but he doesn't look his age.
Top rookie: DaVaris Daniels is the West nominee for Rookie of the Year. You might remember him for two things in his time at Notre Dame. First, he was one of the few bright spots for the Irish when they were massacred by Alabama in the 2013 title game - he had six catches for 115 yards. Second, Daniels is one of the guys who was caught in the academic cheating scandal that the team was just penalized for. He played only 11 games this year but has quickly emerged as Mitchell's most trusted target.
Ottawa's finest: The likely runner-up to Mitchell for Most Outstanding player this year is Ottawa receiver Ernest Jackson. Jackson played his college ball at Buffalo. He graduated in 2009, which means he played his whole career for Turner Gill - in the pre-Kansas days when everyone thought that Gill was a coaching genius. Of note, the star of that Buffalo squad was Green Bay running back James Starks.
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