Wild CFL season goes down to wire

Stampeders running back Jon Cornish rushes against the Roughriders defence at McMahon Stadium in...

Stampeders running back Jon Cornish rushes against the Roughriders defence at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, Alta., Oct. 21, 2011. (AL CHAREST/QMI Agency)

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:26 PM ET

CALGARY - If this wild CFL season continues, the six playoff-bound teams will be up late Saturday night either making travel plans or setting up home dates.

There is a chance that Saturday’s Montreal Alouettes visit to Vancouver to face the B.C. Lions decides both division winners and it won’t end until 1 a.m. Eastern time.

It all depends on the Calgary Stampeders. If the Stamps beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers earlier that day, it will open the door for the Als to clinch the East Division title for the fourth straight year.

Of course, there is a chance the game means nothing.

If the Bombers beat the Stamps, and the Riders upset the Eskimos Friday night, both the Als (second) and Lions (first) will have their positions locked in.

But with five teams tied at 10-7 records heading into the final week, expect it to come right down to the wire.

Now for a few notes from a league where anyone but the Argos and Riders can win the Grey Cup this year:

MILLER STEPS DOWN

For the second straight season, the Saskatchewan Roughriders will try to find a new head coach and head of football operations. Once again, it will be a tough act to follow.

While Ken Miller couldn’t salvage the 2011 after coming down from the front office to replace the fired Greg Marshall, the legacy the 70-year-old coach leaves is an impressive one.

In his first three full seasons at the helm, Miller took the team to two Grey Cups and won 32 regular-season games.

Miller was beloved with his players, especially quarterback Darian Durant. The past month, when Miller had Durant playing with a broken bone in his foot, will be a footnote in a great run.

Now the rumour mill will start as to who the next coach will be and whether general manager Brendan Taman keeps his job. Our prediction is the Riders will hire Corey Chamblin, a runner-up to Marshall who took over the defensive co-ordinator position in Hamilton when Marshall left for Regina.

NOT SO GRAND TOTAL

Just two seasons ago, the CFL had seven 1,000-yard rushers to set a record for most in one season. In 2011, only two players — Montreal’s Brandon Whitaker and Toronto’s Cory Boyd — have hit that mark heading into the final week.

It’s a combination of injury (Fred Reid in Winnipeg) and demotion (Joffrey Reynolds in Calgary, Jamal Robertson in B.C.) that has derailed some of the 2009 club.

Only one player from 2009 can hit the 1,000-yard mark again, and Tiger-Cat Avon Cobourne needs 39 yards to get there. Edmonton Eskimos power back Jerome Messam needs 19 for his first 1,000-yard season. Boyd became the second Argos rusher to hit the mark in two straight seasons after Michael Jenkins (2000-01).

The last time the CFL only had two 1,000-yard rushers was 2008 when Reynolds and Roughrider Wes Cates did it.

PIVOTAL PROBLEMS IN TICATLAND

The tinkering Marcel Bellefeuille’s doing with his quarterbacks has the makings of a full-blown controversy. Speaking anonymously, one Ticats player told the Hamilton Spectator the use of both Quinton Porter and Kevin Glenn is causing friction within the team.

“It’s garbage and the players hate it,” said one anonymous player. “Bellefeuille is killing the confidence of both quarterbacks by doing what he’s doing.”

This comes on the heels of both pivots playing poorly in the harsh Regina wind during a 19-3 loss on Saturday. Of course, there wasn’t much complaining when the Ticats beat the B.C. Lions a week ago with each QB playing a half.

The biggest question will be if this continues in the playoffs, when the Ticats must go on the road to reach the Grey Cup.

CONTENDERS SUFFER TOUGH LOSSES

When the NFL had its labour dispute, the players union vehemently opposed an 18-game schedule. The argument was injuries take their toll with the two extra meaningful outings.

It’s unlikely the Alouettes and Lions would argue against that right now. In Game 17 for each team, the Als lost left tackle Josh Bourke to a suspected torn pectoral, while the Lions had defensive end Keron Williams go down with an ankle injury.

However, both Bourke (lineman) and Williams (defensive player) could be in Vancouver during Grey Cup week attending the CFL awards ceremony.

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter @SUNIanBusby


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