CFL East semifinal: Alouettes have answers to Tiger-Cats | Football | CBC Sports

CFLCFL East semifinal: Alouettes have answers to Tiger-Cats

Posted: Thursday, November 7, 2013 | 11:15 AM

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Troy Smith (3) of the Alouettes is pursued by Jamall Johnson (28) in a 27-24 loss to the Tiger-Cats in Guelph, Ont., on Oct. 26. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press) Troy Smith (3) of the Alouettes is pursued by Jamall Johnson (28) in a 27-24 loss to the Tiger-Cats in Guelph, Ont., on Oct. 26. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

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CBC Sports football contributor Malcolm Kelly explains why he thinks the Montreal Alouettes will beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Sunday's CFL East Division semifinal at Guelph, Ont.

I had this dream last week. It featured a tri-colour horse on a merry-go-round eating a black and gold one, both then consumed by a wooden steed in double blue that finally coughs up the black and gold one as inedible.

A quick visit to my shrink reveals my mind believes Hamilton can't beat Montreal, Montreal can't beat Toronto and Toronto can't beat Hamilton. 

So, entirely because of the playoff seedings...

The Montreal Alouettes (8-10) will defeat the host Hamilton Tiger-Cats (10-8) in Sunday's East Division semifinal at Alumni Stadium on University of Guelph campus.

Tiger-Cats head coach Kent Austin knew coming into the last of three games between these two teams in Week 18 that he had to find a running attack somehow. In came Jeremiah Masoli, the third-string quarterback, and he used his legs out of the Wildcat to amass 61 yards on the Alouettes, opening the offence up enough for starting quarterback Henry Burris to score some points.

OK, the problem there is the Als know that, have film on that and can work out a scheme for that. And Montreal has a strong defence, one that's not quite as good as reputation would tell you - the Larks actually gave up the most points of the six playoff teams - but hey, it has linebacker Chip Cox.

So, for Hamilton, it's back to running back C.J. Gable, one of the CFL's top rookies but a guy who, in three games versus the Larks, has piled up 28 yards on 12 carries.

That means it might be up to Burris to produce a ton in the air. In three games, that's turned up just 443 yards, a touchdown and two picks.

Perhaps some yards out of special teams? Late addition Brandon Banks ripped up the Toronto Argonauts in two games, but was only okay vs. Montreal. Still, better watch him because Banks will tear up predictions in about 10 seconds if you let him.

Over to the Hamilton defence, one that gave up 86 points in the three games with Montreal. Not huge, but by average, that's 29 points the Cats offence would have to find if the defenders can't cut that number down.

Dropping out the first game in Week 13, when the Als hadn't settled on a quarterback, the back-to-backs produced 262 rushing yards for Montreal and 587 in the air by rookie Troy Smith. That's a lot of yards, folks.

Montreal could easily have won both the games and perhaps been hosting this encounter but for a bit of bad luck here and there.

Then, there's the weather. A nice day favours neither team. A bad day in the Land of the All-Day Sunset (Seriously, when you go to the stadium at the University of Guelph, there's nothing to block the sun setting to the west. You can see the curve of the Earth) gives the team that can run and make a big play or two the edge.

Leading us to the final nail in Hamilton's solid 2013 season: Duron Carter. The Als wide receiver is the most dangerous man on the field, compiling 17 catches for 285 yards in the three head-to-head games.

At any moment, he can emerge and bring the trucks in to pack up the Erector Set on the Guelph campus. The Smiling Assassin (registered trademark pending).

Where this could go wrong:

1. Smith is a rookie quarterback and he makes rookie mistakes at times. Any of those could ruin a good day. On the other hand, if you've played for Ohio State against Michigan, you might be able to handle Guelph.

2. Two key Montreal regulars, linebacker/safety Kyries Hebert and defensive back Geoff Tisdale were hurt against Toronto and may not be available. That would open up some holes for Burris to take advantage of. Both have indicated they're playing.

3. Montreal kicker Sean Whyte has been terrible lately (10 for 15 over his last six games). What happens if the Als continually march into field-goal range only to have him miss? They go home, that's what.

Says here, though, it's Montreal.

Our playoff record last year: 3-2

Follow Malcolm Kelly on Twitter @sportsnag

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