What is harder to find in building a team; 24 starters or a really good quarterback? It was an interesting question we discussed on air for a brief time among us CFL panel people and discussed in length off air.
Montreal beat Ottawa 20-10 to start Week 11 and the similarities are profound yet common. Both teams are trying to win while also trying to find good players that you want to sign to extended contracts.
For Ottawa, it is about finding and developing top 24 starters on offense and defense. With Montreal, it is about only one player - a quarterback. Jonathan Crompton was good against Ottawa last week but not great. He had 245 yards, completing 60 per cent, no interceptions and a touchdown. That's good but not great.
When you consider there are 117 Division 1 schools that play football in the United States, 124 Division 2 schools, 300 Division 3 schools and approximately 30 CIS schools, the initial response is it must be easy to find players. Every one of those schools has at least 10 players of good ability that would love to play football for money. And they do, but finding the best ones that can play is an odyssey of difficulty in a world all its own. All those schools do have a quarterback of some talent and you would think that there is a surplus. They do, and there isn't. To answer the question: What is harder to find, 24 starters or a really good quarterback, I think it is the quarterback. His quality value may outshine 23 other players.
In Saskatchewan, the Riders have moved to 7-2 and looked good in the process. Going into last week's game against Winnipeg, they ran 402 plays -- 213 were pass plays and 189 were run plays. At the end of the 35-30 win, they totaled 239 pass plays and 215 run plays this season. That's right, in the Winnipeg game they had 26 run plays and 26 pass plays. Remarkable balance in run/pass ratio and it goes a long way to keeping a defense completely off balance.
Saskatchewan still has to play Calgary twice - on October 3 at home and on October 24 in Calgary - and they have Edmonton three times, with the last one at home on the last game of the year. Those five are going to determine first place in the West.
The final drive by Saskatchewan in Sunday's game against the Bombers was impressive. They were on their own 35 yard line, 2:58 to go and down 30-28. Nine plays later, they are up by five and ran the ball for 62 of the 75 yards. That is impressive, as Saskatchewan took control and made it happen.
In Hamilton, there were three stories. First, the new stadium, which by everyone I have talked to, was a successful debut in all ways conceivable.
Second was quarterback Zach Collaros. Did he find his personal magic? I thought so. He was 21-of-38 for 71 per cent, one touchdown and no interceptions. Considering the absence of playing time and coming off a concussion, that is magic to me.
The third story is: Can this change a season for Hamilton? New empowering home, quarterback back and an East Division that is wide open. Hamilton does visit Montreal next so that is focus number one, but their last five games are all in the East so in a very real way their future in playoff opportunity may be right there for the taking from October 10 on. Instead of losing a close game, they won one with six against the East, four against the West. It can still be a good season in Hamilton and at Tim Horton's Field.
Final game of Week 11 saw Calgary beat Edmonton 28-13. The Stampeders have now won the head-to-head series, winning the first game 26-22 back on July 24. After this week's game on Saturday, that is it for head-to-head, so winning the season series is the best end of season tiebreaker there is. It will be tougher this Saturday night, as Edmonton will feel the urgency and should have Mike Rielly back. Matt Nichols is good but Mike Reilly can be great.
And finally; now every team has their stadium that is traditional over time or brand new or on its way to being brand new. Come on, Toronto! Something has to give in the near or soon-to-be near future. Without a good home field or a good home practice environment, you just can't play the way you need to create a winning team. Come on, Toronto!