Stampeders not a lock to gallop away with Grey Cup victory

Here’s what everybody is predicting around now for the 104th Grey Cup, this Sunday at BMO Field, where all the seats will likely be filled but not all of them sold.

The Calgary Stampeders (15-2-1) are a wonderful team, amongst the best seen through the years of watching Canadian football, therefore they will roll over a hard-working, but overmatched Ottawa Redblacks (8-9-1).

Stamps’ QB Bo Levi Mitchell piles up points and wins, Jerome Messam, the league’s best running back, is behind him, the receiving corps is talented and all are protected by the best offensive line.

Calgary has the toughest defence, led by sacks leader Charleston Hughes (16), a great secondary and game-changing special teams, including fleet returner Roy Finch, and his 2,301 combined yards.

Yep, the White Stallions will gallop away with this one.

Not so fast there buckaroo.

Ottawa QB Henry Burris has spent so much of his career crying wolf about being undervalued, written off, counted out that no-one has noticed something rather important — the Redblacks are being undervalued, written off and counted out. Never disrespected — not when this is your second straight trip to the dance in just three years of existence.

Season series offers hope

Week 3 found these two in the Nation’s Capital Region, where the RBs led most of the game and with the score tied had it in the bag before Nic Grigsby was crushed on the Stamps’ two yard line and fumbled.

Overtime solved nothing — tie.

Ottawa QB Trevor Harris had 511 yards in offence, including 396 passing, missing a two point convert and seeing a field goal clank off the post.

Week 13 in Calgary was close until 4:26 to go in the fourth when the Stamps scored a couple of late ones to put it away. Harris had a tougher night, going 17-for-29, 289 yards and a key pick-6.

Notice something? Ottawa has played the superb Stampeders tight for seven and a half quarters.

Notice something else? I sure did.

Veteran presence was absent

No Henry Burris. First game he was hurt, second game he was benched, third game he’ll be on the field having played some excellent football with a big chip on his shoulder that always seems to move him up a level.

He also hinted this week the Grey Cup might be his final game, chatting about how happy his family is in the Ottawa area, and how they’re going to stay here permanently. More motivation.

Now, a good outing from Burris is not enough to beat a great Calgary side, so more is needed.  

Ottawa’s offensive line has struggled, giving up 50 sacks to Calgary’s 20, but they’ve improved lately. Ottawa takes too many penalties, though they’ve cut that down lately too. And Ottawa has 43 turnovers to Calgary’s 23, however they’ve been more responsible with the ball as of late.

And all of these are totals over 18 games, not indicative of head-to-head play.

As a group, Ottawa’s receivers are slightly better than Calgary’s, featuring three 1,000 yarders (the fourth, Chris Williams, is out with injury), Greg Ellingson, Ernest Jackson (who has not dropped a ball all season, potential jinx alert), and Brad Sinopoli.

Calgary is led by Marquay McDaniel (1,074) and DaVaris Daniels, who would have been over that mark if he had played more than 11 games. Mitchell is the better QB than the 41-year-old Burris now, so he can make up any difference.

However, much of the Stamps’ offence is actually keyed off Messam, who had 1,198 yards on the ground, and 485 in the air. The threat opens up options elsewhere. But Ottawa allowed just 128 total yards to Messam in two games this year.

They can stop this guy.

Cannot compute

Still doesn’t add up, does it? Ottawa has to get better offensive line play, stop taking penalties, keep Messam under control, limit an outstanding quarterback, score points against a defence that doesn’t allow them and make up for a deficit on special teams.

Picking the Redblacks would be nuts.

I offer this:

  • Calgary wrapped up first in the West back on Oct. 10, and has played one significant game in seven weeks. I don’t care who you are, that’s a tough situation for any group of athletes.
  • The Grey Cup is not a regular season game in August worth two points in the standings, it’s a one-game brawl for the ring that has turned up more than its share of upsets. Books have been written about the wacky happenings in these things.

Recall 2001 when, as just one example, an 8-10 team that had amassed a mere three victories by Labour Day beat a 14-4 Winnipeg side when nobody gave them much of a chance.

That team was the Calgary Stampeders.

 Pick — Ottawa.

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