Taking opponents to school

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:35 AM ET

History is clearly not on the side of the Edmonton Eskimos and B.C. Lions in this year's chase for the Grey Cup.

No crossover team has ever won a playoff game since the rule was instituted in the mid-'90s, which means the Eskimos are the underdogs going into Winnipeg Saturday for the East semifinal.

A Wally Buono-coached team has never won a semifinal playoff game on the road (although the sample size is small), as the Lions travel to Regina and face the Saskatchewan Roughriders later the same day.

The only time Buono went on the road for the first round was in 2003, when the Lions were the crossover team against Toronto.

However, strange things happen in the CFL playoffs, so expect the unexpected this weekend. Here is how we see the games shaking down:

East semifinal: Eskimos at Blue Bombers -- The Bombers have their rushing game going (all-star Fred Reid piled up 160 yards on 14 carries against the Ticats last week) and the Eskimos have the worst rush defence among the playoff-bound clubs.

But Bombers starting QB Kevin Glenn has a 81.3 passer rating against teams with a winning record this season.

The two clubs split the season series, in which bad blood ensued in the first meeting, and each team won at home. The Eskimos should be at full strength on offence with receiver Fred Stamps set to return from injury. When receiver Kelly Campbell gets 100 yards, the Eskimos are 5-0, and they are 4-0 when he catches more than five passes this season.

Of course, the Eskimos also have quarterback Ricky Ray, who has never lost a playoff game outside of the Grey Cup. In Ray's five previous seasons in the league, the Eskimos either missed the playoffs or qualified for the Grey Cup.

Pick: Eskimos.

West semifinal: B.C. Lions at Saskatchewan Roughriders -- After going 19 years without a home playoff date prior to last season, the Riders are hosting the semifinal for the second straight year, again to a soldout crowd.

The Riders went 12-6 again despite missing the large majority of their offence for huge chunks of the season due to injury. The Riders have the Stamps to thank for knocking off the Lions Saturday at McMahon Stadium.

The Lions won the season series 2-1, including a 27-21 victory Sept. 20 at Mosaic Stadium.

When Buck Pierce is healthy enough to throw the ball, he is among the league's elite quarterbacks and running back Stefan Logan came out with a vengeance against the Stamps and ran for 138 yards.

The key to this one is Riders quarterback Michael Bishop, who can get hot but has been simply lukewarm in recent weeks. Although Bishop threw four interceptions against the Argos last week, he ran for three TDs. The Lions defence will try to disguise their formations and it will be up to Bishop to read and make the correct decisions.

Pick: Roughriders.

ALL-STAR SPECTACULAR

The divisional all-stars came out yesterday and the B.C. Lions and Montreal Alouettes cleaned up again. For the past several years, the Lions have dominated come award time, but this time it seems odd. The Lions are third in the West Division with a 11-7 record. Of the 13 Leos named to the team, only three are first-timers so it could be argued the voters went with precedent. The Alouettes quite correctly put 14 on the East Division team as the only club above .500, and they had a whopping nine on offence. The West Division-leading Stamps only had six players named, including just one (defensive back Brandon Browner) from their staunch second-ranked defence. The Eskimos and Riders had four players recognized each. All four players from the Eskimos are first-timers, while two of the Riders get their first honours (RB Wes Cates and LB Anton Mackenzie).


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