November 19, 2012
Kirk Penton's Grey Cup Preview
By KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency
The Toronto Argonauts and Calgary Stampeders will battle in the 100th Grey Cup at Rogers Centre on Sunday.
The Argos won the season series 2-0 and have won five in a row against the Stampeders dating back to 2010, but Sunday's division semifinals proved that season series don't mean much when it's win-or-go-home time.
Here is an early primer for Sunday's game, which will be the third title match between the Argos and Stampeders in the Grey Cup's 100-year history.
FOOT SOLDIERS TO WATCH
Argos long snapper
He was a receiver at the University of Saskatchewan and with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, but now he makes sure Noel Prefontaine receives pinpoint snaps and then charges downfield. He was among the league leaders among long snappers this season with 10 special teams tackles.
Argos backup defensive back
The Toronto native is a key piece of the Double Blue puzzle. This season alone he returned 10 kickoffs for 153 yards -- two punts for 27 yards -- led the squad with 21 special teams tackles, made 12 defensive tackles, recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown, and knocked down a pass.
Stamps backup safety
He was a third-round draft pick in May, but all he did was tie for third on the team with 11 special-teams tackles during the regular season. He didn't stop there. He also recovered a fumble and returned it 63 yards for a touchdown, and he contributed on defence with five tackles.
The Alberta product does a little bit of everything for the Red and White. He catches passes (17 for 184 yards), he catches touchdown passes (two), he forces fumbles (one), he makes special teams tackles (six), he returns kickoffs (three), he makes defensive tackles (two), and he even had a tackle for a loss.
Don't expect to see the quarterbacks taking off and running in Sunday's Grey Cup.
The game features two of the league's most prominent pocket passers in Ricky Ray and Kevin Glenn, which is saying something when you consider Anthony Calvillo won't be there. Ray likes to jokingly call himself slow and "unathletic," while Glenn has made it clear he does not like to run with the ball.
The stats back up the belief that the running on Sunday will be left to the running backs and receivers, as the Stamps and Argos had the fewest quarterback rushing yards this season.
Glenn and Ray didn't play all 18 games for their respective teams, but they played the bulk of them. Calgary's pivots ran the ball 57 times for a league-low 216 yards, while the Toronto gunslingers dashed 62 times for 223 yards.
The next-lowest mark in the league was Montreal's 329 yards, 155 of which came from the feet of Calvillo.
Glenn had 20 carries for 120 yards, while Ray dashed 17 times for 84 yards.
KEY MATCHUPS OFF THE FIELD
David Braley vs. the Calgary Flames owners
It'll be steel against oil on Sunday, which is perfect for the 100th Grey Cup when you consider both are key parts of Canadian industry. Braley, the steel magnate who already owned the B.C. Lions, came to the CFL's rescue last year by buying the rudderless Argos, while the Flames, who are owned by six men, some of whom are in the oil and gas industry, purchased the Stampeders in March. Both run their organizations well, and the owners will no doubt treat their players even better during Grey Cup week.
Jim Barker vs. John Hufnagel
Barker is just the GM of the Argos, while Hufnagel is coach and GM for the Stampeders. There's not much they can do now, as there's no more signing to do. Both have done an excellent job, along with their bird dogs, of gathering talent. Barker got Ricky Ray in the off-season, and Hufnagel traded for Kevin Glenn. Hufnagel got a five-year extension in March, while Barker is heading into the final year of his deal. That might change with an Argos win.
Chris Jones vs. Rick Campbell
This will be a juicy subplot all week, as some members of the Stamps are still peeved that Jones left Calgary for Toronto last winter under not-so-friendly terms. The Argos even got fined $5,000 for tampering, but that will no doubt be considered money well-spent because Jones knows most of Calgary's defenders inside and out. Campbell, meanwhile, left Edmonton for Calgary after Jones departed, and the Stamps were better than the Argos on defence during the regular season.
Mike O'Shea vs. Mark Kilam
(Special teams co-ordinators)
You always have to watch out for the trick play on special teams, and Toronto's O'Shea has developed a reputation as the master of those. Calgary's Kilam, meanwhile, fires up his troops by running down the sideline along with the play if his returner breaks free. There's no reason not to empty the special teams playbook in the Grey Cup if a spark is desperately needed. There's no need to save them.
STAMPS COME UP "BIG"
The Stampeders were the kings of the big play during the regular season, and they have kept it up in the post-season.
That could spell big trouble for the Double Blue, who might want to take note of that going into Sunday's 100th Grey Cup.
The Stamps had a league-best 63 "big plays" during the season. Big plays are defined as rushes of at least 20 yards, passes of at least 30 yards and returns of at least 40 yards.
Calgary won Sunday's West final due to three big passing plays and one large rushing effort by Jon Cornish.
The Argos, meanwhile, allowed the most "big plays" during the regular season. They surrendered 68 of them, including a league-worst 36 passing plays of 30 yards or longer.
The Argos were also the league's bottom feeders after allowing 17 kick returns of 40 yards or more.
TURN IT AROUND?
Will turnovers be the key on Sunday?
The way the semifinals went, it sure doesn't look like it.
The Argos turned the ball over four times against the Alouettes on Sunday and still won the game, although Montreal had four giveaways as well. The Stampeders turned the ball over one more time than the Lions and still won the game.
Interestingly, the Argos were the No. 1 team in the CFL this season when it came to turnover ratio. They had 43 takeaways and 33 giveaways for a plus-10 ratio. The Stampeders, meanwhile, were sixth in the league with a minus-4 ratio, yet they find themselves in the big game.
Look at their turnover ratios more closely, however, and you'll find both teams were a league-best plus-4 in the final third of the regular season, so maybe they have figured out how to keep possession of the ball.
Then again, on Sunday they failed to do and still won.
BY THE NUMBERS
68: Percentage of passes on first down for the Argos this season.
58: Percentage of passes on first down for the Stampeders this season.
4: Teams that have won the Grey Cup at home since 1955, when the Grey Cup started being held outside of eastern Canada.
9: Teams that have had a chance to win the Grey Cup at home since 1955.
1788: Penalty yards for the Argos this season, the most in the league.
8: Games with at least 300 passing yards for Kevin Glenn against the Argos in his career.
13: Games with at least 300 passing yards for Ricky Ray against the Stampeders in his career.
0-6: Toronto's record during the regular season when it had more turnovers than the opposition.
4-5: Calgary's record during the regular season when it had more turnovers than the opposition.
144: First-quarter points for the Stampeders this season, the most in the CFL.
117: First-quarter points allowed by the Argos this season, the second-most in the CFL.