REGINA -- The Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders enter the 2005 CFL season giving off vastly different vibes.
The Roughriders can't wait to dive right in, while the Bombers are dipping their toe in the water, fearful that they might drown.
The Roughriders, who are returning 21 of 24 starters, are projected to improve on their 2004 season of 9-9, even though quarterback Henry Burris left for Calgary and Nealon Greene assumes to his starting role after breaking his leg in Week 1 last season.
The Bombers, who made sweeping off-season changes in an attempt to improve upon their 7-11 mark from last season, are an enigma. How far will quarterback Kevin Glenn take them? How good (or bad) is the offensive line? Will the secondary stop anyone?
It's time to find out.
What better way to kick off a football season than the Battle of the Prairies. Here's a closer look at tonight's tilt:
KEEP AN EYE ON ...
Winnipeg QB Kevin Glenn, No. 5
Sorry Kev, but all who bleed Blue and Gold will be watching your every step, pass and breath for these first few games. It's just the nature of being a starting quarterback ... especially in Winnipeg. With Tee Martin, Russ Michna and Spergon Wynn waiting in the wings, Bomber fans supporting you (they appear to be in the minority) will hold their collective breath every time you cock your arm.
REMEMBER WHEN ...
The Bombers dumped the Roughriders 17-4 in last year's 38th annual Labour Day Classic at Taylor Field? And Winnipeg's quarterback that night was none other than ... Kevin Glenn! He completed 13 of 25 passes for 169 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Milt Stegall and Kamau Peterson had the touchdown receptions.
Saskatchewan favoured by seven points.
Winnipeg leads 110-73, with three ties.
Winnipeg beat Saskatchewan 27-24 in the inaugural Banjo Bowl on Sept. 12, 2004, at Canad Inns Stadium. That improved Winnipeg's record to 5-7, while Saskatchewan fell to 4-8. Winnipeg finished the season with a 7-11 mark, while Saskatchewan got hot and ended up 9-9.
Tonight's clash marks the first time since 1956 that Winnipeg will open its regular season in Regina against the Roughriders. On Aug. 25, 1956, the Roughriders downed the Bombers 28-16. The season started so late because CFL teams played 16 games in 10 weeks back in those days.
"We look forward to playing one of the elite teams in the league, and we know the challenges that it provides. We're anxiously awaiting to see how we measure up to this team."
-- Bombers head coach Jim Daley, talking about the 'Riders.
BOMBERS: No. 88 Jamie Stoddard
The man who can't snag a starting spot had a team-high seven catches for a team-high 65 yards in two pre-season games. He'll be a backup receiver tonight.
ROUGHRIDERS: No. 33 Chris Szarka
The monstrous fullback showed during the pre-season that he knows how to find the end zone. He scored three touchdowns in just two games.
BOMBERS: No. 5 Kevin Glenn
It was just the pre-season, but the No. 1 pivot didn't do much to boost the confidence of fans, completing only 11 of 21 passes for 155 yards and two interceptions.
ROUGHRIDERS: No. 28 Kenton Keith
The running back isn't playing poorly; he just hasn't had a chance to heat up after missing both exhibition games due to injury. Keith said the first quarter tonight will serve as his pre-season.