Your! Call: What will be the storyline at the 101st Grey Cup?

Shane McNeil,
11/18/2013 2:15:14 PM
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The matchup is set for the 101st Grey Cup with no shortage of hot storylines expected to play out in the lead up to Sunday's big game.

But what amongst all these subplots will be the biggest factor next Sunday when the Hamilton Tiger-Cats take on the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium?

The first story to formally unfold came at the final whistle of Sunday's Eastern Final when Kent Austin's Tiger-Cats toppled the Toronto Argonauts at the Rogers Centre.

Austin - a Rider legend, having led the team to Grey Cup victories as quarterback in 1989 and head coach in 2007 - is in his first season behind the Ticats bench. He will look to deliver Hamilton its first Grey Cup of the 21st Century in front of many fans that lived and died with him under centre between 1987 and 1993.

The 50-year-old Austin made headlines in his only prior visit to Regina this year, but Riders fans got the better of him after a 37-0 defeat in Week 4.

His homecoming would have been storyline enough, regardless of the opposition. However, once the Riders won the Western Final, the possibility of beating their former hero became a reality as the team hopes to win just its fourth Grey Cup in 103 years.

Speaking of former heroes, Austin's not the only former star looking to haunt Rider Nation on Sunday. Andy Fantuz - the Most Outstanding Canadian from the 95th Grey Cup - will be wearing black and gold Sunday after having spent six seasons with the Riders. Also making their Rider returns are Hamilton quarterback Henry Burris (a Rider in 2000 and 2003-04) as well as kicker Luca Congi (2006-11).

However, Saskatchewan is not likely to grant their visitors much of an advantage, boasting one of the CFL's most rabid fan-bases. Thus emerges another plot-line: Home-field advantage.

Saskatchewan bested the Calgary Stampeders Sunday night and earned the right to fight for the Grey Cup on their own turf. It marks the third straight year that the host city's team has advanced to the final and in both prior instances - the B.C. Lions in 2011 and the Argonauts in 2012 - the home side has won the Grey Cup.

Mosaic Stadium is regularly one of the most difficult playing environments for visiting teams, with fan support often acting as a 13th man in the defensive formation.

Unfortunately for Riders fans, "The 13th Man" is another ghost that they must exorcise if they hope to earn a fourth Grey Cup in franchise history. In each of their last two Grey Cup appearances, the Riders have been no worse than tied heading into the fourth quarter, including the infamous too many men on the field penalty that helped end the 97th Grey Cup in 2009.

Will they be able to close out the game in their first-ever Grey Cup home game? Or, will they suffer a record 16th Grey Cup loss?

But Hamilton, too, has its demons to battle. The Ticats have not even appeared in a Grey Cup since they last captured the title in 1999 and were on the losing end of the last Grey Cup meeting between these two teams: Austin's 77th Grey Cup triumph.

So, what will the biggest storyline be once Sunday rolls around? As always, it's Your! Call.

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