Three-down pigskin primer

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

Eight teams have high hopes and huge expectations.

Only one of them, however, will get to hoist the Grey Cup at Montreal's Olympic Stadium in November.

The 2008 CFL season kicks off tonight with the Montreal Alouettes visiting the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the B.C. Lions travelling to Calgary to take on the Stampeders.

To get you ready for 77 games of three-down ball, we urge you to check out Home Turf in tomorrow's Sun for a comprehensive preview of all eight teams.

Since we don't expect you to wait that long, take a peek at this quick primer on the upcoming CFL season.

KEY ADDRESS CHANGES

1. QB Kerry Joseph, Saskatchewan to Toronto -- He felt he deserved to be paid like the most outstanding player (which he was last year), so Riders GM Eric Tillman sent him east.

2. CB Jordan Younger, Toronto to Edmonton -- Same story as Joseph's. The all-star wanted a raise from the Argos, but they declined and shipped him to the Eskimos instead.

3. WR Tony Miles, Toronto to Hamilton -- The Ticats desperately need someone to catch the ball from Casey Printers, and the former Argo receiver, who left via free agency, should help.

4. DE Fred Perry, Saskatchewan to Edmonton -- He's on the down slope of his career, but the 33-year-old can still get after quarterbacks ... and hurt them, too. He too was traded after a contract kerfuffle.

5. QB Dave Dickenson, B.C. to Calgary -- He's not starting anymore, but the Stamps' backup position improved greatly after Dickenson signed in Cowtown as a free agent.

GAMES YOU CAN'T MISS

Thursday, July 3 -- Calgary at Edmonton

As the Esks and Stamps have proved in recent years, no one in the CFL has as heated a rivalry as these two.

Sunday, July 27 -- Toronto at Saskatchewan

Kerry Joseph, who led the Green and White to the Grey Cup last season, returns to his old stomping grounds.

Sunday, Aug. 31 -- Winnipeg at Saskatchewan

For the first time in its 44-year history, the annual Labour Day Classic will be a Grey Cup rematch.

Saturday, Sept. 27 -- Hamilton at B.C.

Ticats quarterback Casey Printers goes back to B.C. Place for the first time since his short but stormy tenure in the Lions den.

PLAYERS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW BUT SOON WILL

Tristan Jackson, Edmonton -- The kick returner took two footballs to the house in the pre-season. They've long forgotten what Tony Tompkins looks like in the City of Champions.

Adarius Bowman, Saskatchewan -- Pundits believe the former Oklahoma State receiver would have been an NFL draft pick had he not been busted for marijuana possession in April.

Saleem Rasheed, Calgary -- He's big (6-foot-2, 227 pounds), extremely athletic and is pencilled in as the Stamps' starting middle linebacker. He spent four years in the NFL, including three with the San Francisco 49ers.

Bethel Johnson, Toronto -- You're probably more familiar with his teammate, fellow receiver David Boston, but Johnson looks like he's ready to make an impact. The two-time Super Bowl champ caught a 77-yard touchdown pass on the first play of his first pre-season game.

ALL CFL, ALL THE TIME

For the first time ever, you don't have to ask if a certain CFL game is on TV or which channel it is on. TSN will broadcast all 72 regular-season games, all four playoff contests and the Grey Cup. Former CFLer Duane Forde has joined the network as an analyst, while Winnipeg native Sara Orlesky will be responsible for sideline reporting duties. The five-year TV deal kicks off tonight with a double-header starting at 6 o'clock.

ODDS TO WIN GREY CUP

(bowmans.com)

1. Toronto +220

2. B.C. +325

3. Calgary +450

4. Winnipeg +600

5. Saskatchewan +700

6. Edmonton +1050

7. Hamilton +1100

8. Montreal +1200

MOST IMPROVED TEAM ON PAPER

Edmonton Eskimos -- Other than the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the Green and Gold had the furthest to go in the off-season. They repaired many roster spots, bringing in cornerback Jordan Younger, defensive end Fred Perry and defensive tackle Dario Romero, but they have a ways to go.

LEAST IMPROVED TEAM ON PAPER

Saskatchewan Roughriders -- Gang Green lost their head coach, Kent Austin, to the University of Mississippi. Then they traded their Grey Cup-winning quarterback, Kerry Joseph, to the Toronto Argonauts. Their biggest off-season signing was cornerback Omarr Morgan, who was released by Edmonton.

PREDICTIONS

KIRK PENTON

East Division

1. Winnipeg 13-5

2. Toronto 11-7

3. Hamilton 6-12

4. Montreal 5-13

West Division

1. B.C. 15-3

2. Saskatchewan 9-9

3. Edmonton 7-11

4. Calgary 6-12

Grey Cup

B.C. over Winnipeg

East

1. Winnipeg 12-6

2. Toronto 10-8

3. Montreal 8-10

4. Hamilton 6-12

West

1. B.C. 13-5

2. Calgary 9-9

3. Saskatchewan 8-10

4. Edmonton 6-12

Grey Cup

B.C. over Winnipeg

East

1. Winnipeg 12-6

2. Toronto 11-7

3. Montreal 5-13

4. Hamilton 5-13

West

1. B.C. 14-4

2. Calgary 10-8

3. Saskatchewan 9-9

4. Edmonton 6-12

Grey Cup

B.C. over Winnipeg


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