TORONTO — It's been a season to remember for Jerome Messam and the Calgary Stampeders.
The eight-year veteran ran for a career-high 1,198 yards this year and Thursday was named the CFL's outstanding Canadian. The six-foot-three, 254-pound running back helped Calgary post a league-best 15-2-1 record and advance to a Grey Cup showdown Sunday at BMO Field against the Ottawa Redblacks.
But all of that will mean nothing to Messam if Calgary can't finish its dominant campaign hoisting the CFL championship trophy.
"It's super important," Messam said following Calgary's final practice Saturday. "What we've done to this point means nothing if we don't get this Grey Cup."
A win would stamp Calgary as one of the greatest teams in CFL history. The Stampeders finished just one win off the league's single-season record held by Edmonton (16-2) but that year the Eskimos lost in the West final to eventual Grey Cup-champion Saskatchewan.
However a win by Ottawa — which finished atop the East Division with an 8-9-1 record — would arguably be the biggest upset in Grey Cup history.
"We understand the magnitude of the game," said Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, the CFL's outstanding player this season. "There's plenty of historical evidence of upsets in the Grey Cup.
"We're just going to be confident in ourselves and make sure we go out here and execute the gameplan."
Mitchell, 26, is chasing his second Grey Cup win as Calgary's starter. He led the Stampeders to a 20-16 win over Hamilton in 2014 and learned a valuable lesson in the process.
"I overdid things in 2014," he said. "I wanted to see every single piece of film, every single footstep that somebody took.
"It locked me into things in the game and kind of threw me off sometimes because I was like, 'OK, I know if the linebacker lines up outside of this position this is the coverage,' and all of a sudden it's not the same in the game. So now the preparation is once I figure it out, I just let things go, allow myself to go out there and be confident playing and let my talents take over."
Ottawa hasn't won a Grey Cup since 1976 when Tony Gabriel's 24-yard TD catch earned the then Rough Riders a thrilling 23-20 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Exhibition Stadium. A win Sunday would also avenge the Redblacks' 26-20 loss to Edmonton in last year's contest.
"It would mean a lot for us to win this championship because it's something this organization and the city of Ottawa have waited for for a long time," said Redblacks quarterback Henry Burris, who was just a year old when Ottawa beat Saskatchewan. "It's been an awful long time . . . it would truly be special."
A full house of nearly 35,000 spectators is expected come the opening kickoff at 6:30 p.m. ET. The weather should be decent with a forecasted temperature of 2 C at gametime with winds of 11 kilometres an hour and just a 10 per cent chance of precipitation.
Canadian opera group The Tenors will perform the national anthem minus controversial former member Remigio Pereira. The Tenors split with Pereira after he changed a lyric in "O Canada" and held up a sign proclaiming "All Lives Matter" at baseball's all-star game last summer.
American band OneRepublic headlines the halftime show. Last month the group released its fourth album "Oh My My."
Calgary was 1-0-1 this season against Ottawa. The two teams tied 26-26 at TD Place on July 8 before the Stampeders earned a 48-23 home victory Sept. 17.
Veteran Henry Burris will make his first appearance of the season against Calgary as Trevor Harris started Ottawa's two regular-season contests. But kick-returner Tristan Jackson — who returned a punt for a TD in last weekend's East final — and kicker Chris Milo won't play.
"Not healthy enough to do it," head coach Rick Campbell said. "We love those guys, they've done great things for us this year but we've got to go with guys who're completely healthy and good to go."
The two starters planned to spend Saturday night in their hotel rooms, reviewing gameplans and watching television. Burris was hoping to take in his alma mater, Temple University, facing East Carolina while Mitchell had designs on watching "Sully," a movie starring Tom Hanks about American pilot Chesley Sullenberger landing his damaged plane on the Hudson River in January 2009.
"I never even honestly heard the story, that's probably pretty bad," Mitchell said. "Anything they've got in the hotel.
"I can't walk the streets and go to the movies. You run into too many people.