VANCOUVER - The practices are over, film sessions complete. Now it's hatin' time for Korey Banks.
Banks and the B.C. Lions had their final walkthrough Saturday, capping preparations for their Grey Cup showdown Sunday against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. And Banks will take a rather unique approach to get his gameface on.
"I'll get a pad and put down every number I hate on there and there will probably be 56 numbers on it," the Lions' veteran defensive back said. "I build my hate tonight, then tomorrow I'll take it out.
"It's definitely time to play football. We're ready from head to toe . . . it's time to disrespect your body tomorrow."
Banks, 32, in his eighth CFL season, will make his second Grey Cup appearance. He's one of 11 Lions remaining from the club's '06-championship squad.
"I'll be nervous, I'm always nervous no matter what game we play," he said. "That's the fun part of it that takes over.
"When I see the enemy is there I'm ready. (On Sunday), I'll be really ready and, hey, let's go."
B.C. will be attempting to become just the fourth team — and first since '94 — to win the Grey Cup on home soil. The Lions were the last squad to accomplish the feat, beating Baltimore 26-23 on Lui Passaglia's last-second field goal.
Winnipeg will chase its first Grey Cup title since 1990, a 50-11 decision over the Edmonton Eskimos at B.C. Place.
Jann Arden will sing the national anthem prior to kickoff while Canadian rockers Nickelback will perform at halftime. On Thursday, Nickelback was criticized for appearing at halftime of the Detroit Lions-Green Bay Packers NFL game in the Motor City.
The Lions are decided favourites — anywhere from seven- to 10-point picks —and certainly will be the team of choice for the 50,000-plus spectators who will cram the revamped B.C. Place Stadium for the game.
Winnipeg defensive tackle Doug Brown will end his 11-year career in the contest, looking to go out with his first Grey Cup championship. Lions' tailback Jamal Robertson will also retire after Sunday's game, but he captured a Grey Cup ring as a member of Calgary's practice roster in 2001.
Sitting on the fence will be Lions' head coach-GM Wally Buono as well as veteran defensive end Brent Johnson. After the game, Buono will ponder whether he'll step down as head coach and remain as the club's GM while Johnson will mull over whether to return next year for a 12th season.
This year's Grey Cup will feature the CFL's two top defences.
Winnipeg led the CFL in fewest yards allowed (301.1 per game), most interceptions (25), fewest completions (320) and most sacks (55). Defensive end Odell Willis finished tied for the league lead in sacks with 13 while cornerback Jovon Johnson was named the CFL's top defensive player after registering a league-high eight interceptions, returning two for TDs.
Last weekend, Winnipeg held Hamilton to just 39 yards rushing in its 19-3 East Division final victory. Tailback Chris Garrett ran for 190 yards and a TD for the Bombers.
But Willis, relegated to part-time duty late this season as Winnipeg concentrated on stopping the run, ruffled feathers this week on Twitter. He tweeted obscenity-laced putdowns of the Grey Cup and Vancouver, said he'd rather have been home for the U.S. Thanksgiving and voiced his displeasure about being bypassed for the CFL Players' Association all-star squad.
"I had a talk with Odell and I don't think there was anything malicious," head coach Paul LaPolice said. "He was sincere, he talked about he didn't mean to offend anyone in any way, shape or form.
"He's very focused and very ready to play."
Winnipeg will certainly need Willis at his best to deal with a B.C. offence led by quarterback Travis Lulay, the CFL's outstanding player. Lulay was second overall in passing and tied with Montreal's Anthony Calvillo for the most TD passes (32).
Lulay and the Lions hardly had the look of Grey Cup favourites Aug. 13 in a 30-17 loss to Winnipeg. Lulay was benched that game after completing 12-of-23 passes for 103 yards but led B.C. to win in 10 of their 11 remaining regular-season contests before passing for 313 yards and two TDs and adding a 61-yard touchdown run in a 40-23 win over Edmonton in the West Division final.
A familiar face to Lions fans will be under centre for Winnipeg. Former starter Buck Pierce, who spent his first five CFL seasons in B.C., will get the start for the Bombers.
Pierce was a member of B.C.'s '06 Grey Cup-winning team but was released after the '09 season after five injury-plagued seasons with the Lions. Pierce has continued to battle the injury bug in Winnipeg, allowing backup Alex Brink to get valuable playing time.
Pierce and Co. will face a stiff challenge from an athletic Lion's defence that was tops in fewest points allowed (21.4 per game), touchdowns (32) and TD passes (20) and second overall in sacks (54), rushing yards allowed (95.9), passing yards allowed (249.1) and total yards (318 per game). Last weekend, the Lions forced four turnovers (three interceptions, one fumble) in the club's 40-23 West Division final win over Edmonton.
Both defences were also very good forcing turnovers. Winnipeg had a league-high 54 takeaways while B.C. was third with 44.
However, Winnipeg's offence turned the ball over 42 times (second-highest in the CFL) while B.C. had 34 giveways, tying it with Montreal for second-fewest in the league.
"I do think the turnover margin is going to be important," LaPolice said. "That's been a key thing for us all year."
Another factor Winnipeg must be concerned with is special-teams production. B.C. kicker Paul McCallum, the CFL's top special-teams performer, was 50-of-53 on field goals this season (record 94.3 per cent) and has made his last 29 straight field goals in the playoffs.
"Field position will be a key thing," LaPolice said. "We have to do a good job on special teams because McCallum will be able to be automatic and be able to kick it from pretty far away.
"He does such a great job on his directional punting to so. Offensively we need to sustain drives so we can flip the field."