Team Turnaround meets Team Turmoil in the crossover semifinal, outdoors at McGill University – itself a change from tradition that has seen the Larks go back to decrepit Olympic Stadium for the playoffs.
First, a commercial message from yours truly against the continued farce of having the fourth best team in one division (it’s always been the West) coming east if it has a better record than the third-place team east of Manitoba.
This has happened seven previous times and only twice has the West team won – both going on to lose in the East final (Edmonton by 10, B.C. pounded). Remind me again why we do this?
Now back to your regularly scheduled preview, where we discover after two hours of stat work that these two clubs are actually pretty close to each other in most categories.
Neither has much of an offence (it’s been almost three decades since the Lions have been this bad), and both can play some defence.
Both rely on big-play receivers to move the ball, once in a while – Emmanuel Arceneaux and Ernest Jackson for the Lions, Duron Carter and S.J. Green for the Als.
Both are missing their No. 1 runners, and their second guys are each one bad hit away from going out again. B.C.’s Stefan Logan, if he lasts, is a much better overall threat than Tyrell Sutton, if he lasts.
Both have dominant inside linebackers – Solomon Elimimian for the Leos (143 tackles) and the Larks’ Jonathan Bear Woods (89, in six less games).
Don't look for tight game
This may look like 10-10, halfway through the fourth quarter type game, but I don’t think so.
Look, stats tend to reflect the entire season, one that includes a 1-7 Montreal start and 8-2 rush to the playoffs. The Als come into the game off a big loss to Hamilton on the road, but overall they have a tremendous feeling of accomplishment and “let’s do more.”
These Lions, on the other hand, haven’t played a complete game in at least six weeks and have been crushed in the last two contests – by 34 to Edmonton, by 17 to Calgary at home - on more than 1,000 yards allowed in total. They are not a happy dressing room.
Coming all the way East, kicking off at 10 a.m. PT according to their body clocks and playing in the cold – none of this adds up to a big-time victory.
Two things that could turn this around: B.C. pivot Kevin Glenn has started 171 games, not counting playoffs, and he knows what has to be done. Lark’s Jonathon Crompton has exactly 10. The Montreal saviour already runs a stuttering offence, so might this be a leveling factor?
Second, No. 1 QB Travis Lulay is testing his injured shoulder this week in practice. If he’s ready to go, he’ll be rusty and who knows how well he can toss the ball. But, matching him in and out with Glenn might give the rest of the Lions a boost.
Says here they’ll need one.