Grey Cup: Stampeders heavy favourites to beat Ticats

The Calgary Stampeders head into the 102nd Grey Cup game on Sunday as the overwhelming favourites, but the surging Hamilton Tiger-Cats won’t be intimidated by the West’s No. 1 team.

Underdog Hamilton won't be intimidated by West's top seed

Both Calgary Stampeders running back Jon Cornish, right, and Hamilton Tiger-Cats punt and kick returner Brandon Banks have the ability to take over a game at any time. (Canadian Press/Getty Images )

The Calgary Stampeders (16-3) will defeat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (10-9) in the 102nd Grey Cup on Sunday night at B.C. Place in Vancouver.

Welcome to the Onomatopoeia Championship Game, where the key words sound like what they mean.

The Stamps have to go “bam, bam, bam” to win. Those Cats have to go “zzziiiipppp.”

Before we explore Introduction to English Grammar 101, let’s check the lay of this land of ours where, almost without exception, everyone is picking the White Stallions to ride to victory for the seventh time in team history.

Hamilton, apparently, has little chance on the Left Coast, where the populace has seen so many Coupe Grey’s in recent years (nine times since 1983 and twice in the last four seasons) they can’t sell the joint out.

One Toronto sportscaster used the word “destroyed” this week in describing how the Kitties will be clobbered.

Destroyed? I beg to differ, sir.

Stallions and Kitties met twice this season with Calgary winning both, a Week 4 slobber knocker that ended 10-7 and a Week 8 matchup 30-20. And, sayeth the Calgary cloud, both of those victories were without All Everything running back Jon Cornish.

But, sayeth I right back atcha,’ the Cats were without starting QB Zach Collaros, and they had not begun to emerge from their early season cocoon of gross incompetence.

Similar home records

These clubs had similar 7-2 records coming home, both were impressive in respective finals (Hamilton 40-24 over Montreal, Calgary 43-18 over Edmonton), both deserve to be in Vancouver.

Some comparisons:

  • Calgary was first in offence, first in the running game, and the best at preventing sacks to the QB.
  • Hamilton was second in the pass (Stamps were seventh), second in yards after catch (Calgary was sixth) and kicker Justin Medlock was way better (88 to 73 per cent) in field goal percentage.
  • Calgary’s defence was second best in points allowed, second best in the all-important red zone defending (inside the 20) and first in team maturity, taking only 163 flags.
  • Hamilton was best in the league against the run (77 yards per game), had the same number of sacks as Calgary (50).

Each has a definite goal coming into the championship game, and that’s where we head back to English class.

1. Bam, bam, bam.

Jon Cornish, Jon Cornish, Jon Cornish … all anyone wants to talk about is Jon Cornish. Well, yeah.

There’s nothing more important to the Stamps chances than getting Cornish the ball so he can Bam … down goes a lineman. And Bam … down goes a linebacker. And Bam … down goes a DB.

Edmonton’s front seven, and sometimes eight, did a nice job of holding Cornish to 14 carries for 54 yards. Not a problem, quoth Dave Dickenson, the offensive coordinator, who had Bo Levi Mitchell toss four little passes to the big fella for 120 yards.

Included was that gorgeous 78-yard catch and run to the promised land featuring five broken tackles.

Too much bam, bam, bam and the Cats are sunk.

2. Zip.

Punt and kick returner Brandon Banks, who gives a whole new meaning to “diminutive football player”, is absolutely on fire right now, running two back for TDs against Montreal.

Should have been three, but for a bad flag.

He’s not 5-foot-7, nor is he 153 pounds, but he is going to be a handful in a well-coached special teams unit for the Cats. And, even without a TD, Banks can put his club into solid field position.

Now, it would be better if the Tigers had better than a 40 per cent conversion rate inside the red zone.

Hamilton is a fast team, starting from QB Collaros, who has Flutie-like reflexes when he’s under pressure and will take off at the drop of a cowboy hat.

Stamps excel against run backs

Pundits counter by saying Calgary was excellent against run backs and did not give up a return TD all year.

Neither had Montreal.

Too much Zip, and the Stamps will be in difficulty.

So far, you could make an argument for either team, especially with the game being played indoors (better for Zip) and in front of a crowd that will be pretty much neutral (travelling Stamps fans evened out by some Vancouver residents who can’t bring themselves to cheer for anything from Alberta).

This is where the scales begin to tip towards Calgary.

  • Both clubs feature pivots making their first starts in a Grey Cup game. Mitchell, however, has actually seen real action in one, going 6-for-9, 80 yards, and a touchdown in late relief during the 2012 game. This one-ups Collaros, who watched Ricky Ray play that one.
  • Hamilton is in the same defensive spot as the Eskimos. If they concentrate on stopping Cornish (and they can), it opens up the back end passing opportunities Mitchell knows how to take advantage of and has solid weapons to do it with.
  • Remember those 50 sacks by the Stamps? Hamilton’s offensive line allowed 65 of them this year, leaving Collaros running for his life and the receivers breaking their routes and raising the chance of disaster.
  • The Cats attract penalty flags (211 of them) like fleas. They were good little kitties last week, taking only seven, but can that last?
  • Calgary had 10 knockdowns last game, something they are superb at. Collaros has to reach his receivers for any chance at completing a pass to them.

One other thing that truly tipped the balance, and it’s S.J. Green. Yes, the Alouettes receiver isn’t actually in this game, but he caught three TDs versus Hamilton last week, each time either slipping behind downfield coverage or creating key space.

Can’t get that out of my mind.

When it comes down to it, Mitchell is going to take advantage of the Cats defensive backfield and find the victory.

If Hamilton does pull the upset, many will call it huge. We’d be mildly surprised.

But it’s Calgary. 


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