TORONTO (CIS) – Coming off their first national championship in nearly two decades, the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds top the inaugural weekly media poll of the 2016 CIS football season.
The T-Birds, who last November captured their first Vanier Cup title since 1997 and the fourth in program history, received 20 of 31 first-place votes and 266 points from the Football Reporters of Canada panel to edge the second-ranked Montreal Carabins (261 points), the team they beat 26-23 in last year's national final in Quebec City.
Rounding out the first Top 10 of the new campaign are the No. 3 Laval Rouge et Or (218 points), No. 4 Western Mustangs (188), No. 5 Manitoba Bisons (182), No. 6 Guelph Gryphons (177), No. 7 Calgary Dinos (147), No. 8 McMaster Marauders (146), No. 9 Carleton Ravens (37) and No. 10 Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks (37).
In addition to UBC, Montreal (5), Western (2), Manitoba (1), Calgary (2) and McMaster (1) also merited first-place consideration.
Before this week, the Thunderbirds had last dominated the national rankings back in 1999, when they topped the 10th and final poll of the season (Nov. 8). UBC's best ranking last fall on its way to the Vanier Cup title was two weeks at No. 6 (Sept. 22 and Nov. 3 polls).
When casting their first ballots of 2016, FRC voters obviously gave more weight to the T-Birds' magical run from 2015 than to their preseason result from last Friday night, a lopsided 50-7 loss to Manitoba in the first-ever CIS football game played on Vancouver Island, in Langford, B.C. In preseason action a year ago, UBC had set the tone for its Cinderella campaign with a shocking 41-16 road win over perennial powerhouse Laval.