What's going to happen in the Grey Cup?
And then there were two ...
It doesn't matter how I got here, the fact is my original picks for the Grey Cup final are intact with just The Big Game (The Final Conflict, The Big Enchilada, The Last Roundup, etc.) to go.
As always, please feel free to post nasty, repetitive and derivative comments below.
The Montreal Alouettes will defeat the Calgary Stampeders and win the 96th Grey Cup (Le Coupe Grey) on Sunday night at Olympic Stadium.
After an hour parsing the Canadian Football League's final numbers, only a few things came clear in this already aching head:
Both clubs feature fabulous offensive attacks and they pretty much shared the top of those categories over the regular season's 18 games.
Not only do they toss the 'skin, they also can run it, with Joffrey Reynolds leading the league in rushing for Calgary and Montreal's Avon Cobourne No. 3.
On the other side of the ball, neither team gives up much on the ground and they each have bendable passing defences that toughen up tremendously when their backs are against the wall.
It's probably best we ignore the conference finals because both teams started slow, showing the rust of an extra week off, before pulling it together with Montreal beating Edmonton and Calgary downing the B.C. Lions.
(Personal note to Lions' coach Wally Buono: Hey big fella, how about spending a goodly part of this off-season figuring out a creative way to get into the end zone from the one yard line, because the plays you have obviously don't freakin' work.)
There has been some talk this week that the more experienced Montreal players have an edge over their Calgary counterparts because more of the Als are facing the ends of their careers and therefore this will be their last kick at the can.
Totalling the CFL experience of both sides (it's true, I have no life), you find the Stampeders with 164 years and the Als at 187. Those 23 seasons are less than a year per man, so that doesn't seem to add up, now does it?
How about head-to-head?
OK, so the Stampeders won both games this year, 41-30 out in Calgary on Sept. 12 and 23-19 in Montreal back in the early summer.
And I read somewhere this week (might have been on this website) that Calgary quarterback Henry Burris racked up almost 900 yards in total offence in those two games. Yah, but he out-passed Anthony Calvillo just 710-650.
Rookies John Hufnagel, in Calgary, and Marc Trestman, in Montreal, had excellent years, though they are kilometres apart in style. Hufnagel is more of a steamy, stompy guy, while Trestman is the quiet, crush-you-with-a-disappointed-shake-of-the-head type.
It's worked beautifully for both. And they have outstanding assistant coaches, as well.
So how do we separate the poutine from the cow pucks? This is how:
The Alouettes were the least-penalized team in the CFL this season with 124 little hankies thrown. Only Toronto was worse than the Stampeders — Calgary had 165 flags against.
Last week against Edmonton, Montreal took, let's see … one … two … divided by the square root of … None. Against B.C., the Stamps took eight for 73 yards. That adds up to a scoring drive, folks.
2. Larry Taylor.
Neither one of these teams was very good this season running back kicks of any kind, finishing just above the Hamilton Tiger-Cats who were awful.
So when Taylor emerged in the "East" final by running two punts back a half-kilometre or so for touchdowns, giving the Alouettes the edge they needed, people took notice.
3. Anthony Calvillo.
Yes, we've discussed this and yes, you're growing weary of it, but it's a reality nonetheless.
When Calvillo left the Als last season with three games to go to be with his ill wife (cancer — she's in remission now), he showed himself to be a man with his priorities in place.
Since returning this year, Calvillo has been an inspiration to his teammates while leading Montreal to the most points scored, most touchdowns scored, most passing touchdowns, highest points scored per game, etc. etc. His priority is winning a Grey Cup.
Burris has been almost as good. Almost. This is one game, when "almost" can mean three points.
4. That Awful Moment.
And finally, most Grey Cups seem filled with great plays and wonderful feats and terrific highlights. But they also tend to feature that Awful Moment — one bad thing that turns the tide.
Like Leon McQuay's fumble in the rain back in 1971 (not his fault, damn it). Or Keyvan Jenkins' fumble on the late kickoff in 1991. Or Danny McManus's interception that was run back for a touchdown by Adrion Smith in the snow of Hamilton in 1996.
You get the point.
Now which quarterback this Sunday do you see coming up with the Awful Moment? The always calm, naturally cool Calvillo? Or the recently dependable, but still with big turnover skeletons in his closet, Burris?
Let's see … who was that tossing an interception to Korey Banks in the third quarter of the West final that the Lions' defender ran back to the one-yard line?
If the Stamps defence (hello, Mike Labinjo) hadn't held and the Lions had come away with the major, that may well be B.C. on the field this Sunday, not Calgary.
On the strength of penalties, run backs, Anthony Calvillo and one awful moment, this game goes to the Montreal Alouettes.