As a voter on the CIS top 10 football poll I’m tasked with ranking Canada’s elite university programs on a weekly basis. My personal criteria is deciding who would win a neutral-site game based on the teams’ current body of work alone. Here’s the ballot I submitted this week.
1. Western Western’s offence is once again a juggernaut. The bulk of the offensive starters have been together for three years and that familiarity has equaled 150 points in their first two games. How far they will go will be dictated by their defence, which will get a good test against the CIS’s best running back, Dillon Campbell, when they face Laurier this week.
2. Calgary It’s an emotional start to the season for the Dinos. After facing former coach Blake Nill in the season opener, Calgary now travels to Manitoba to face the team that upset them in the 2014 Hardy Cup. If they get through this week unscathed they will have navigated their toughest two contests on the year and remained undefeated.
3. Laval Reports of their death have been greatly exaggerated. After losing back to back games in the 2014 Dunsmore Cup versus Montreal and the 2015 pre-season opener versus UBC, the Rouge et Or dynasty seemed on shaky ground. But a strong performance in all three phases against Montreal, the defending Vanier Cup champions, is a sign Laval is still a force to be reckoned with.
4. Montreal The honeymoon at the top was short for the Carabins. After coming into 2015 as pre-season favourites they dropped their first game to rival Laval. Don’t write them off yet, though, as Montreal lost their first game to Laval last year and then ran the table, beating Laval twice on the way to winning the Vanier Cup at home.
5. Manitoba The Bisons stay afloat year after year because Brian Dobie continues to produce offensive playmakers. Anthony Coombs, Nic Demski and Kienan Lafrance have all moved on to the CFL, but running back Jamel Lyles stepped right in to average 14 yards per carry in a big win over Saskatchewan.
6. Saskatchewan The 2015 season began the same way the 2014 season ended for Saskatchewan, losing at home in a tight contest with the Manitoba Bisons. This time three-second half turnovers were the difference. A road game with Alberta this week should help us figure out if the Huskies are among the Canada West elite or in the middle of the pack.
7. Guelph Two weeks, two victories over opponents from Waterloo. Sophomore James Roberts has won the QB competition over Laval transfer and former Vanier cup champion Alex Skinner. Both men should see time this week on the road against the struggling York Lions.
8. UBC Who is the real UBC team? The team that went to Laval and won 41–16 in the pre-season? Or the team that went to Calgary last week and lost 49–16? Hard to make sense of just how far the Thunderbirds have come in Blake Nill’s first year at the helm. Their home opener versus Regina should add further clarity.
9. McMaster A well-timed bye didn’t have the Marauders going head to head with the CFL Labour Day classic in Hamilton this week. The bye is also at an opportune time because it allows their young defensive secondary an extra week to prepare for Jamie Barresi’s comprehensive Ottawa Gee-Gees passing attack.
10. Laurier A banged-up, young Laurier squad competed with Guelph for four quarters but bad red-zone execution and some costly turnovers were the difference. The margin ofor error is even slimmer and the schedule gets even tougher as the Western Mustangs come to town for a night game after a short week.