SPORTS

Max Hall to make his CFL debut when Blue Bombers tangle with Tiger-Cats

08/14/2013 03:12 EDT | Updated 10/14/2013 05:12 EDT
Now it's Max Hall's turn to try kick-starting the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' offence.

The former Brigham Young star makes his CFL debut Friday night when Winnipeg (1-5) hosts the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (2-4). Hall will become the third different starter this season for the Bombers, who opened with veteran Buck Pierce under centre before replacing him with Justin Goltz.

These are eventful times in Winnipeg. Last week, the club fired GM Joe Mack and president Garth Buchko, hired former Bomber Wade Miller as acting CEO and Tuesday named assistant GM Kyle Walters the acting general manager.

Hall is a CFL rookie but appeared in six games with the NFL's Arizona Cardinals in 2010, starting three.

Hall takes over a Winnipeg offence ranked fifth overall in scoring (22.5 points per game) but second-last in total yards (285.2) and passing (220.2).

Hamilton's defence has its issues, allowing a league-high 31.2 points and 135.2 yards rushing per game.

Winnipeg's defence leads the CFL in sacks (24) but is vulnerable against the pass. The Bombers are allowing 9.1 yards per pass and 73.6 per cent of pass attempts to be completed.

That's not a favourable matchup against a Hamilton offence that's leading the CFL in passing and will be bolstered by the return of slotback Andy Fantuz.

Pick — Hamilton

Montreal Alouettes at Saskatchewan Roughriders on Saturday night

Bad timing for Montreal (2-4), which not only has the difficult task of playing in Regina but faces a Roughriders team coming off its first loss following five straight wins.

Even with GM Jim Popp on the sidelines replacing the fired Dan Hawkins, the Alouettes' problems continued in last week's 38-13 home loss to Toronto. Five lost fumbles certainly didn't help and neither did Chad Owens' 118-yard TD return of a missed Sean Whyte field goal try.

Montreal's offence continues to struggle. It's ranked last overall in passing (212 yards per game) and total yards (277) and the Alouettes are last in touchdowns (10).

That doesn't bode well facing a Saskatchewan defence that will undoubtedly be stinging from the club's 42-27 road loss to Calgary, a game that saw Stampeders running back Jon Cornish run for 175 yards and four TDs.

Kory Sheets ran for 133 yards against Calgary to boost his league-leading rushing total to 845 yards. While Montreal's defence is ranked second in fewest yards allowed (325.3 per game), it's also second-last in points allowed (29.5).

Saskatchewan's offence is ranked first overall in scoring at 35 points a game.

Pick — Saskatchewan

Calgary Stampeders at B.C. Lions on Saturday night

It's the second meeting of the season between the West Division rivals, with Calgary winning 44-32 at home June 28. Drew Tate started for the Stampeders that game but it will be veteran Kevin Glenn playing this time around with Tate still sidelined with an arm injury.

Glenn was a tidy 21-of-28 passing for 218 yards and a TD in leading Calgary (5-1) past previously unbeaten Saskatchewan but it was Cornish who stole the show.

Defensively, Calgary forced Saskatchewan to commit its first three offensive turnovers of the season. But the Riders still pulled to within 26-20 before Jock Sanders' untimely decision to field a punt near the goal-line rather than let it go for the single ultimately cemented the loss.

Calgary tackled Darian Durant for the safety on the ensuing series to regain the momentum, then put the game out of reach on Glenn's TD strike to Nik Lewis after Ricky Schmitt booted the ball out of bounds on the kickoff.

B.C. (4-2) will definitely be rested, having last played in a 27-20 win over Winnipeg on Aug. 5. The Lions are also 3-0 at home and 2-1 within the West Division.

Pick — B.C.

Edmonton Eskimos at Toronto Argonauts on Sunday night

After dropping two of their first three games, the defending Grey Cup champions have reeled off three straight victories to move atop the East Division.

Toronto (4-2) has outscored its opponents 111-44 over that span and its offence seems to have found its stride. Argos starters have completed 55-of-63 passes (87.3 per cent) for 691 yards and eight TDs with no interceptions the last three games.

Quarterback Ricky Ray faces his former team on a definite roll, having hit on 34-of-38 passes (89.5 per cent) for 438 yards with five TDs in his last two starts. He was 19-of-20 passing for 286 yards and two TDs in a 35-19 win over Winnipeg on July 19 before suffering a knee injury.

Backup Zach Collaros stepped in and completed 21-of-25 passes for 253 yards and three TDs in a 38-12 victory over B.C. on July 30. Ray returned and hit 15-of-18 passes for 152 yards and three first-half touchdowns in Toronto's 38-13 road win in Montreal last week but sat the second half after re-aggravating his knee injury.

Toronto's offensive prowess isn't good news for Edmonton (1-5). The Eskimos' defence will be without linebacker JC Sherritt, the CFL's top defensive player last year, and cornerback Aaron Grymes.

Sherritt is out indefinitely after recently undergoing successful thumb surgery. Grymes is also out indefinitely with an unspecified internal injury after colliding with teammate Donovan Alexander in practice Tuesday.

Fortunately, Grymes won't require surgery but there's no timetable for his return.

Pick — Toronto

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