Sunday, November 23, 2008

Grey Cup preview

The Grey Cup game between the Montreal Alouettes and Calgary Stampeders is all set to kick off in less than an hour at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, and it should be a great one. The statistical comparison of the two teams is after the jump. As always, all stats are from the regular season unless specified otherwise (thanks to the larger sample size).

The records:

Montreal: 11-7 (first in East)

Calgary: 13-5 (first in West)

Passing leaders:

Montreal: Anthony Calvillo, 472 completions on 682 attempts (69.2 per cent) for 5633 yards (8.26 yards per attempt, 11.93 yards per completion), 43 touchdowns versus 13 interceptions, 107.2 QB rating in 17 games, 12 300-yard games

Calgary: Henry Burris, 381 completions on 591 attempts (64.5 per cent) for 5094 yards (8.61 yards per attempt, 13.37 yards per completion), 39 touchdowns versus 14 interceptions, 103.8 QB rating in 18 games, ten 300-yard games

Advantage: Montreal. Calvillo was a deserving winner of the league's Most Outstanding Player this year. He's made amazing decisions all season long, as shown by his fantastic completion rate and touchdown/interception ratio, and he had a terrific East final against Edmonton. Burris is a good quarterback as well, but questions about his ability to win the big game weren't entirely dispelled in last week's Calgary win over B.C.; Burris was decent in that game, but not overly impressive. He's a better scrambler than Calvillo, but I'd rather have AC under centre if I'm a CFL coach.

Receiving leaders:

Montreal: Wide receiver Jamal Richardson, 98 receptions for 1287 yards (13.1 yards per catch average) in 18 games (71.5 yards per game average), 16 touchdowns, four 100-yard games

Calgary: Wide receiver Ken-Yon Rambo, 100 receptions for 1473 yards (14.7 yards per catch average) in 18 games (81.8 yards per game average), eight touchdowns, five 100-yard games

Advantage: Calgary. Rambo's had a great year and led the league in yards. Both he and Richardson are the leading lights of their offences, but Rambo has the better numbers and Calgary also has the better depth.

Rushing leaders:

Montreal: Running back Avon Cobourne, 950 yards on 145 carries (6.6 yards per carry) in 12 games (79.2 yards per game), six touchdowns, seven 100-yard games.

Calgary: Running back Joffrey Reynolds, 1310 yards on 227 carries (5.8 yards per carry) in 18 games (72.8 yards per game), 10 touchdowns, five 100-yard games

Advantage: Calgary. Cobourne is a skilled back, but Reynolds is a bit better for my money and he's more durable. This isn't a huge advantage, though, as the two are pretty close.

Sack leaders:

Montreal: Defensive lineman Keron Williams leads the team with 10 sacks. Linebacker John Bowman has eight.

Calgary: Lineman Miguel Robede (a Laval product) and linebackers Mike Labingo and Charleston Hughes are tied for the team lead with five sacks.

Advantage: Montreal. Again, this isn't a massive advantage as Calgary has the more nimble quarterback, but Burris has been known to throw picks when he gets hurried.

Interception leaders:

Montreal: Defensive backs Reggie Miles and Davis Sanchez both have three picks.

Calgary: Safety Wes Lysack, who has four picks in 15 games and 101 resulting yards with one return for a touchdown.

Advantage: Calgary. Calgary has one of the best pass defenses in the league, and Lysack is a part of that. They're big, quick and physical, as Dan Ralph of The Canadian Press pointed out this morning.

Overall notes:

This should be a great showdown between the two most consistent teams in the league (as shown by their regular-season records) and the two candidates for most outstanding player (Burris and Calvillo). Look for some impressive offensive numbers on both ends.

Prediction: Montreal victory.
The teams are reasonably even on paper, but I like Calvillo's consistency at the quarterback spot. Burris has shown a tendency to get rattled at times, and the massive hometown crowd inside the Big O might be able to get on him. From experience at both the Big O and B.C. place, I know how loud domed stadiums can be, and that can be a huge advantage in football. It's tough to call audibles or even hear the snap count in those circumstances. The fired-up crowd may be the crucial difference in this game, and that could help Montreal earn the win.

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