Monday, November 17, 2008

Mythbusters Sunday

OK, CIS football fans, it's time to reevaluate some of your dearest held myths about the league. They died Sunday. Let us embrace the new reality.

What myths?

Well, there were two in particular that fell. In the early game, the fallacy of Canada West superiority was put to rest in, oh, about three minutes during Laval's destruction of western champs Calgary.

For years the assumption has always been that what happened west of Kenora was just a little bit better than what occurred anywhere else in the country. The fourth place CanWest team could win the Yates was always the thinking on various CIS football discussion boards. Even a long Vanier-less slump that just ended last year couldn't shake the believe that the west was best.

Benoit Groulx was pulled at half. The Uteck Bowl had turned into a mid-season Queen's - York game. It was ugly. It was unclear whether Calgary would have made the playoffs in Quebec. The power in Canadian university football has now undoubtedly shifted from the prairies to La Belle Province.

But, the west's fall was just half of the day's surprises. The other myth turned on its head (do myths have heads? Hmm...) was the ole' OUA bye.

Yes, SMU had a couple calls go against them, but the better team won. And, that team was from Ontario. The CIS whipping boy is now 3-2 in its last five out of conference playoff games. Not much of a "bye" is it?

There has been a couple changes the last few years that may have lead to yesterday's results. Probably the most important factor is that Ontario started to pay a little more attention to the scoreboard. It's not perfect yet. There are still far too many weak sisters in the OUA. But, at least six of Ontario's programs seem serious about winning now--and not just winning the Yates.

The other factor that we may be seeing is the impact of the new junior football eligibility rules. No longer are CanWest teams dressing players in their late 20s, with five years of junior football experience behind them prior to playing a down in the CIS. Although our western friends will likely be reluctant to admit that the rule change is making it more difficult for them to compete nationally (least they admit that the junior football factories in Western Canada benefited them during the conference's glory years), it's hard not to see the correlation.

Six days to the Vanier...


Dennis Prouse said...

Fair point on the junior football eligibility rule. That was a good rule change that was long overdue. For every 26 year old getting playing time, it meant that there was a 19 year old who WASN'T playing. That simply had to change.

It is worth noting, though, that it was three teams primarily (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Regina) who benefitted overaged former junior players. The BC and Alberta schools generally didn't get a lot of those players. In UBC's case, it was admission standards that hurt them - even at age 21 or 22, it was hard for a player with a academic background to get into UBC, whereas at Manitoba their "mature student" rule makes it a cinch to get pretty much any player admitted after his 21st birthday.

Finally, it is worth noting that these things go in cycles. For a while Canada West dominated - now it is Quebec's turn, with a bit of resurgence in Ontario also. Eventually, the pendulum will swing back West. That machine that Laval has built themselves is awfully impressive, though.

Dan said...

After reviewing Calgary's roster this year it looks like there are 10-15 former Junior players so it seems like it applies to them.

Anonymous said...

The Quebec conference dominance really is Laval's program being so dominant over everyone else.
But the Q is a pretty good conference otherwise, with the notable exception of McGill.
Certainly, Quebec is currently is a better league than the AUS was when SMU was running roughshod over everybody.
Ontario has always had a lot of dead wood in it...some really, really bad programs.
I think that has hurt the better teams in the league.
Playing teams like York or Toronto is worse than a bye week.
A good team can fall into some bad habits continually playing inferior competition.
I just hope Western can give Laval a good, competitive game this Saturday.
It was stunning to see Calgary get chewed up, spat out and ground under Laval's heel.

Dennis Prouse said...

Dan - I stand corrected regarding Calgary! I would ask, though, how many of those 15 former junior players were truly impact players. If a good number of them were their go-to guys, then obviously the former junior player pipeline is alive and well.

As a guy who played junior football, though, I will say this - the quality of players, and of the leagues, can really vary from season to season. Some years there are some stud players in the junior leagues, and some years the quality of play can be really spotty.

Steve C said...

Canada West's superiority ended some time ago. They had a good run. It is still the strongest conference, top-to-bottom, but Laval clearly has University football's top program. The fourth place CanWest team could win the Yates, but the OUA has started to close the talent gap.

Calgary looked bad on Sunday, but it's a mistake to judge the whole conference on one game by 5-3 team. Calgary may not have made the playoffs in Quebec, but that's mostly due to the growth of football in Quebec.

The eligibility rule change is making it more difficult for the CanWest teams. It's also diminished the Prairie dominance of junior football.

dan said...

"The fourth place CanWest team could win the Yates, but the OUA has started to close the talent gap."

I think this is old thinking.

Mike Radoslav said...

I agree with what Dan said above, definitely old thinking! Really the way Calgary played this weekend they'd likely have been in 4th place had they played in the OUA this season - at best ;)

Young team they'll bounce back, they overachieved this season and good on them for doing it, but they were just completely outmatched! (as likely any of the CW teams would have been)

Steve C said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve C said...

By 'old thinking' I assume you mean the thoughts of a wise old man.

Was there a dramatic change in the OUA or CanWest from last year when Manitoba dominated Western?

Duane Rollins said...

You mean the No. 6 seeded Western team that unexpectedly won the Yates and was far from the most talented Ontario team?

And, Laurier did OK against Saskatchewan in 2005.

No, the west hasn't fallen into an abyss, but the suggestion that the fourth best Western team would win the Yates in 2008 is based on what evidence exactly?

Anonymous said...

There's been a dramatic change in Can West ... fewer juniors!

Steve C said...

Western was building a pretty good team in 2007, as evidenced by how they continued to win this season.

I'd argue that Calgary was the fourth best team in CanWest in terms of how they matched up against Laval.

Regardless, they were both conference champs and were crushed.

I didn't write that the fourth place CanWest team would win the Yates, only that they could. CanWest isn't that much better than the competitive OUA teams anymore. But CanWest is better. I think the OUA champ has only beaten the CanWest champ once since the 1994 (OT) Vanier Cup.

There aren't dramatically fewer juniors, as Dan posted above, but it is a gradual change.