Tale of three teams

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

It's an interesting barroom bet right now. A terrific topic to try out around the water cooler at work.

Which team is going to finish higher in the standings? Edmonton or Saskatchewan?

Last year, one team finished dead last and lost their final six games of the season. The other won the Grey Cup.

The two teams open the season against each other Saturday in Regina.

There's reason to think that the Roughriders are on the down elevator from the penthouse. There's also reason to expect the Eskimos to be on the up escalator from the basement.

Saskatchewan lost coach Kent Austin, quarterback Kerry Joseph and top talents Fred Perry and Reggie Hunt. Perry is now part of a retooled Eskimo team which appears to be dramatically improved on both lines and special teams with added CFL experience with the likes of Jordan Younger, John Comiskey, Dario Romero, etc. and are coming off two years of being the most injury-riddled team in the league.

So who finishes higher - Edmonton or Saskatchewan?

Or try the same discussion with two other combinations.

Who finishes higher - Calgary or Edmonton?

Who finishes higher - Saskatchewan or Calgary?

MYSTERY BUILDING

To me, the CFL season, which begins tonight, is first and foremost a tale of three teams. The most mystery involves the Roughriders, Stampeders and Eskimos.

To sort it out for us, we bring to the stand Professor Wally Buono.

"I really don't know," said the head coach of the B.C. Lions team most people are picking first.

"We went to Saskatchewan to play a preseason game and I don't know what I saw.

"I watched Edmonton play in Calgary and don't know what I saw.

"I watched Saskatchewan play in Edmonton and don't know what I saw. Nobody played veteran players against veteran players.

"Who are the real Edmonton Eskimos?

"Who are the real Saskatchewan Roughriders?

"Who are the real Calgary Stampeders?

"Who are the real B.C Lions?

"There have been significant changes with each team. I really think it's up in the air.

"Saskatchewan? They are going to be a different team. They are not going to rely on the athleticism and legs of their quarterback. Is the new head coach going to be the end all and be all?

We'll find out. He has capable assistants and co-ordinators. They've gotten younger, but that doesn't mean they got worse?

"Edmonton? I've always believed if you have the quarterback and put the weapons around him, you can be a good team," he said of giving Ricky Ray an offensive line and some people to catch and carry the football.

"Calgary? They're going to be a different team, too," he said of John Hufnagel's high-powered offence with big questions on the offensive line.

"What about us in B.C? The thing about our team is we're going in a different direction at quarterback. Neither Buck Pierce or Jarious Jackson have ever been the guy we counted on. Dave Dickenson was here. We have a big unknown.

"I think there's a lot more parity this year. There's a lot of questions. Call me on Labour Day."

Eskimos coach Danny Maciocia - who is just trying to still be here on Labour Day - agrees.

"The whole league is wide open," he said. "You go from B.C., where there's not much change there to Calgary where they are changing the whole regime. I believe the whole division is wide open.

"Would it surprise me if Saskatchewan finished first? No. Would it surprise me if Calgary finished first? No.

"And if they can finish first, why can't we?"

Try it the other way.

Would it surprise you if Saskatchewan finished last?

Would it surprise you if Calgary finished last?

Would it surprise you if Edmonton finished last?

"With Calgary, Edmonton and Saskatchewan you just don't know," said quarterback Ricky Ray. "There's a lot you can't really predict."

OCCUPATIONAL HAZARD

Making predictions is an occupational hazard in my line of work. Sorry, Saskatchewan.

The Evil Empire is on the way back.


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