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. Calgary (Last week: 1) The Dinos play the Huskies for the second consecutive time. The rubber match for Calgary is on the road on Friday night. Even though more has been about their breathtaking offence, Calgary’s defence is what makes them such a good road team. They’ve given up more than 20 points just once this year and the nation’s best linebacking core is getting better week-by-week.
2. Western (LW: 2) Western remains the lone unbeaten team in the OUA as they dispatched the Varsity Blues 58–2. Depth is their greatest asset as their top performer is probably Alex Taylor, who has rushed for over 100 yards in five of his six games, including 203 on Friday. Taylor, who doesn’t even generally start for the Mustangs, leads the country in rushing yards (815) and rushing TDs (10).
3. Laval (LW: 3) Developing elite QBs is a newfound point of emphasis for Glen Constantin after he routinely had game managers at the position. This year all four passers that have played for Constantin have completed over 63 percent of their passes with only three interceptions between them.
4. Sherbrooke (LW: 4) Sherbrooke has always been as good as—if not better than—Montreal and Laval offensively. However, they’ve closed the gap between themselves and the two Quebec giants with their play on defence, especially stopping the run. Sherbrooke has relinquished just 85.6 yards rushing per game.
5. Montreal (LW: 5) The Carabins host Laval in a contest that could determine whether they finish first or third in the RSEQ standings. In their first match with the Rouge et Or, Montreal ran more plays for more yards than Laval but 10 penalties and three sacks allowed snuffed out promising drives and left points on the field. The talent level of Montreal is still high—their issue has been execution in pressure moments.
6. Guelph (LW: 6) Like the majority of CIS schools, Guelph was on a bye for Thanksgiving weekend. Their bye came after their first loss of the season to Stu Lang’s alma mater, the Queen’s Gaels. The Gryphons’ 14 days in between contests before they travel to Windsor might be their last extended break as their next game against surging Carleton will now have playoff implications that seemed far-fetched just a few weeks ago.
7. McMaster (LW: 7) Asher Hastings played only a half of football in Mac’s 55–7 blowout victory of Waterloo, but four of his 13 completions were TDs. Hastings’s total of 25 TD passes gives him the OUA single-season record and put him place to eclipse the CIS mark of 30 with two games remaining. The way their aerial attack is performing a first-round bye is not out of the question for the Marauders.
8. Manitoba (LW: 8) Last year Manitoba lost all four of their regular-season road games, which meant they were forced to start their playoff run on the road. This year they’ve reversed that trend and are undefeated on the road. Their next challenge away from home is this week in Regina, one of the most hostile environments in Can West.
9. UBC (LW: 9) It is too soon to say Blake Nill has changed the culture at UBC, but he has improved upon the offensive success they had under Shawn Olson. They’ve struggled on defence, however, as no top-10 team gives up more points per game than UBC’s 36.6. That’s not a recipe for sustainable success.
10. Saskatchewan (LW: 10) The Huskies’ murders’ row schedule continues this week when they host Calgary before hosting UBC. Even a split of the next two before ending the season at Regina won’t guarantee Saskatchewan a playoff spot. Such is life in the uber competitive Can West.
Honourable mentions: Alberta (LW: honourable mention), Carleton (LW: honourable mention)