SPORTS

Toronto Argonauts have a lot riding on game against Hamilton Tiger-Cats

10/08/2014 01:04 EDT | Updated 12/08/2014 05:59 EST
The Toronto Argonauts have plenty riding on Friday night's game with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Most importantly, a win keeps Toronto (5-8) in contention to finish first in the East Division and secure home-field advantage for the conference final. Hamilton (6-7) currently sits atop the standings, two points ahead of the Argos and Montreal Alouettes (5-8).

Toronto would also even the season series 1-1, making the Oct. 25 contest at Rogers Centre a pivotal one for both as head-to-head record determines the order of finish in the event of a tie.

Toronto would not only fall four points behind Hamilton with a loss, but also lose the season series and its control on finishing first in the division. The Argos' focus then, realistically, would have to shift to Montreal and winning their two remaining two games versus the Als to secure second and home field for the East semifinal.

Friday's contest has meaning for the Ticats but even with a loss they'd maintain a share of first with a game left against Toronto. And with two games remaining against Ottawa and another versus Montreal, Hamilton would still control its ability to finish first.

The Ticats will come into Rogers Centre on a nice roll, having won four straight and five-of-six games with quarterback Zach Collaros. He missed five starts with concussion-like symptoms before returning to lead Hamilton past Toronto 13-12 on Sept. 1 in the first-ever game at Tim Hortons Field.

Hamilton is 4-0 at the new venue.

Collaros was 27-of-38 passing for 317 yards and a touchdown against Toronto. But more importantly, the Ticats' offence converted 15-of-29 tries on second down (51.7 per cent).

That allowed Hamilton to control the play as they had the ball for a whopping 37 minutes 54 seconds. Toronto made just three-of-18 second-down chances and mustered only 142 net offensive yards as Ricky Ray was 16-of-29 passing for 142 yards with a TD and interception.

However, Toronto was minus slotback Chad Owens, who has played just six games due to injuries. Owens leads the CFL in receiving yards (109) and catches (8.7) per game.

Toronto has won two straight and over its last three games has averaged 35.3 points, 389 net yards, 121 rushing yards and 32:34 in time of possession. However, its defence has allowed 11 TDs and an average of 31.7 points per game over that span.

Hamilton's defence has surrendered an average of just 232 net yards over its last six contests.

It all points to a close affair with the more desperate team having a slight edge.

Pick — Toronto.

Ottawa Redblacks versus B.C. Lions, 10 p.m. ET on Saturday night.

Both teams would rather forget their previous meeting, won 7-5 by B.C. at TD Place on Sept. 5. Travis Lulay made his first start of the season for the Lions but re-injured his right shoulder. The Lions (7-7) have lost three straight and need the victory to at least remain fourth in the West. Ottawa (2-11) comes off an impressive 42-20 home win over Winnipeg but is 0-8 on the road and East squads have traditionally struggled in Vancouver.

Pick — B.C.

Saskatchewan Roughriders versus Montreal Alouettes, 1 p.m. ET on Monday afternoon.

Montreal (5-8) should be rested coming off a bye. Time off late in the season is often a good thing but consider the break came after two straight wins and four victories in five games. The onus will be on starter Jonathan Crompton to help the Als recapture that momentum. Saskatchewan (9-5) has lost three-of-four since starter Darian Durant (elbow) was hurt. Tino Sunseri likely starts, but for how long with veteran Kerry Joseph coming out of retirement?

Pick — Montreal.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers versus Edmonton Eskimos, 4:30 p.m. ET on Monday afternoon.

Winnipeg (6-8) looked awful in Ottawa last weekend as quarterback Drew Willy was intercepted three times and Redblacks' running back Jonathan Williams rushed for 180 yards and two TDs. The Bombers have dropped five straight and six of their last seven but are just two points behind fourth-place B.C. Edmonton (9-5) was flagged for penalties 18 times for 224 yards in last weekend's 33-32 road loss to Toronto and head coach Chris Jones will undoubtedly clean that up.

Pick — Edmonton.

Last week — 1-3

Overall — 39-22

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