A nice thing about being a columnist in any sport is there is never a shortage of people willing to tell you "you're nuts."
When that happens enough, it actually takes away the fear of being considered outside the normative, and frees your mind to make leaps not considered by the merely sane.
So in that spirit:The Saskatchewan Roughriders (8-10) will defeat the host Calgary Stampeders (12-6) in the CFL West semifinal at McMahon Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
John Hufnagel, the Stampeders' coach, says he's playing a hunch with his choice of quarterback
, so I'm playing a hunch with my choice of winner.
Anointing Drew Tate
as his man behind centre may have come from one of those sleepless 3 a.m. moments early this week when counting sheep no longer seemed to be working, and tossing around only aggravated the old throwing shoulder.
But instead of waking up in the morning, shaking his head and muttering softly, "Wow, what a weird dream I had," old Huff decided to go with it.
Tate, who spent most of the year rehabbing from surgery on a separated shoulder, has accumulated enough minutes to fill out around 2 1/2 games. Since coming back on Oct. 26, he's tossed exactly 22 passes. For the year, he's thrown only 63.
Then there's this other guy.
Kevin Glenn led Calgary to two wins in three tough games against Saskatchewan, throwing 66 completions in 104 attempts for 766 yards, eight touchdowns and just one interception. He was steady, professional and led the team with aplomb.
Glenn was statistically the fourth-best QB in the league, behind Henry Burris, Anthony Calvillo and Travis Lulay, and had the second-highest completion percentage (66.7), trailing only Ricky Ray. Yes, he threw 16 picks, but only one of those was against the Riders.
Tate has not played a single down against Regina in 2012, by the way, but apparently experience against the opponent isn't important in playoff games.
Let's break the clubs down a bit here.
Both can run. Jon ("Wow, can you believe he's Canadian? I mean, really, Canadian. Like, bacon and maple syrup and stuff") Cornish led the CFL with 1,457 yards on a 5.6-yard average for Calgary, while Kory Sheets had 1,277 yards on a 5.6 average for the Riders.
Both have receivers. Nick Lewis caught 100 balls for 1,241 yards and a 12.4 average. Weston Dressler, in green, snagged 94 for 1,206 and a 12.8 average.
Both can play defence when it counts. Saskatchewan was second and Calgary third in first downs allowed, and each was in the top four in all categories against the run. That accounts for why Sheets and Cornish both struggled on the ground in the three head-to-head contests.
The exception to that was Cornish's 24-carry, 159-yard effort on Aug. 25 in Regina, a game Calgary still only scored 17 points in (while holding the Riders to 10).
And each club has a pretty good pass defence.
Up and down the offensive stats, these teams are pretty much equal, with Calgary coming out on top in the wash.
There are some strong reasons why Calgary is favoured by just about everyone to win this thing, however, chiefly that the Stamps won their last four in a row and the Riders lost their last four in a row. That tends to get your attention.
Those White Stallions also have a couple of defenders who can send chills up your spine in Juwan Simpson (82 tackles) and Charleston Hughes (11 sacks, second in the league).
Plus, they're at home, where they are 7-2 against a club that is 3-6 on the road.
So, what possible reason, other than a bad headache, would there be to pick the Riders?
This is why:
1. Calgary has lost three straight playoff games, and in the last four times these teams have met in the post-season, the Green and White have won all of them.
2. This is hardly a home game -- as much as half of the seats at McMahon are expected to be filled with Saskatchewan fans who will gather from near and far.
3. It's going to be cold (around -2 to -5) with clear skies and some wind. That means ball control, and the Riders lead the league in time of possession at 32:06, while the Stamps are second last at 28:37. Yes, that's because Calgary tends to strike quickly, but those kinds of attacks happen less often in the freeze.
4. Cold wind means cold hands. The Riders do not fumble the ball (only seven lost all year to lead the CFL), while the Stamps dropped the faux pigskin twice as much (14 lost).
5. Riders QB Darian Durant may not be the most spectacular pivot ever, but he had a 64.4 per cent completion mark this year and had pretty much the same pick percentage as Anthony Calvillo and Ricky Ray.
6. John Hufnagel is starting the wrong quarterback.
That thing again.
As mentioned, Huff is playing a hunch. In the playoffs. With the season on the line.
I've a hunch the Stamps are going to regret that.
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