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The Rouge: How to make sure the best teams reach the Grey Cup

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Paul Hoogkamp, TSN.ca
11/4/2010 11:29:42 AM
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With the playoffs fast approaching, CFL fans are looking forward to the exciting potential matchups on the road to the Grey Cup. Southern Ontario is already licking its collective chops at the upcoming grudge match between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Toronto Argonauts. And there must be fans in Edmonton and Calgary hoping the Eskimos make the playoffs and advance to the West Final at McMahon Stadium, just so they have a chance to eliminate their provincial rivals.

Some would like to see a Grey Cup rematch between the Montreal Alouettes and the Saskatchewan Roughriders after last year's extraordinarily memorable finish. Others feel the Alouettes and Stampeders have been the best two teams all season and that it would only be fitting that they meet at Commonwealth Stadium on November 28.

One thing is certain: the current system of East and West Divisions does not necessarily guarantee a matchup between the two best teams from the regular season. What would you do to make sure the best teams have a chance to meet in the Grey Cup? Or do you prefer the current setup that all but ensures that a team from each division will advance to the championship game?

CFL on TSN analyst Chris Schultz always says that the Grey Cup isn't necessarily a showcase of the two best teams as much as it is a clash between the two teams playing the best at that time. However, if the two best teams are in the same division, it is impossible for them to meet in the final. There are two possibilities that would enhance the chances of the league's two best teams colliding in the season's final game:

The Cross-Over

The cross-over option involves the league staying with the current division set-up, but instead of staying within the division until the Grey Cup, the second-place team from one division would cross over and play the winner of the other division in the Sunday before the big game.

This is often seen in international hockey events like the World Junior Hockey Championship, where there are about six teams with a legitimate shot to win the tournament and 10 teams looking to avoid relegation. If one division is stronger than another, teams from the strong division have a chance to advance to the medal round when they face a team from the weaker division in the playoff round.

The current cross-over concept is a positive tweak to the playoff system because it ensures the six best teams make the post-season, but it doesn't rectify the issue of two strong teams in the same division. This cross-over would allow a second-place team from the stronger division the opportunity to 'upset' the winner of the weaker division and advance to the Grey Cup.

No More Divisions

The second option would see the league abolish the divisions altogether and seed the teams according to regular season finish, with the top two teams getting byes. The third-place team would play the sixth-place team and the fourth-place team would play the fifth-place team in the opening weekend. Then, the two top teams would play those winners for the right to face off in the Grey Cup.

This system would reward the top teams with a bye and make their road to the Grey Cup easier. If there is an upset along the way, no team can complain that they were not given a fair chance to earn a ring.

The Downside

With every attempt to improve an existing system, there is always the possibility of side effects that could prove more damaging than any positive impact. In this case, would the Grey Cup lose its national appeal if the two teams playing are from the same part of the country? Would fans in Quebec lose interest if the Stampeders and Lions were playing? Conversely, would Western Canada give a collective yawn if the Ticats and Argos were squaring off?

The current playoff system has been in place for many, many years and the Grey Cup, coincidentally or not, has been a great event for many, many years so maybe the status quo is not such a bad way to go. But it never hurts to discuss the pros and cons of each and every option.

Maybe you feel the best teams already play in the Grey Cup every year. Or maybe you like the feel of the East vs. West matchup that brings the country together. Or maybe you think it's time for a change.

What would you do to ensure the best teams have a chance to meet in the Grey Cup?  

Let us know in the Your! Call feature below.

The Grey Cup (Photo: Harry How/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Harry How/Getty Images)
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