For the fifth consecutive year, the Laval Rouge et Or open the Canadian Interuniversity Sport season as the top-ranked football team in the nation.
The defending Vanier Cup champions, who led all nine CIS polls last fall and have topped 49 of the past 50 national rankings dating back to the start of the 2005 campaign, earned the 54 available first-place votes and 1,710 points in the inaugural Top 10 this season. The Western Ontario Mustangs, reigning OUA champs and Vanier Cup finalists last year, are ranked second with 1,543 points, followed by Calgary, the defending Canada West champs (1,168), Saskatchewan (1,125) and AUS champion Saint Mary's (1,108).
Rounding out the first Top 10 of 2009 is Concordia, Wilfrid Laurier, Queen's, Montreal and Ottawa.
The CIS poll has expanded this year and is now run by the University Football Reporters of Canada (UFRC), representing journalists and reporters from every region of the country. Coaches from all 27 CIS football programs also take part in the voting.
The 2009 CIS schedule gets off to an early start again as the Simon Fraser Clan visit the UBC Thunderbirds on Saturday, Aug. 29 at 2 p.m. Pacific Time. The Clan defeated their cross-town rivals 24-10 on August 23 last year to kick off the 2008 campaign.
The rest of the Canada West conference as well as Quebec and Ontario teams get into the action on Labour Day weekend, while Atlantic conference play is set to begin Sept. 12.
Early-season marquee match-ups include No. 3-Calgary at No. 4-Saskatchewan on Sept. 4. Two days later, No. 6-Concordia plays at No. 1-Laval and No. 2-Western travels to No. 10-Ottawa.
The top-ranked Rouge et Or, who defeated Western 44-21 last November at Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton to capture their fourth national crown in six years, will get a chance to defend their title at home this fall as the Vanier Cup final will be played in Quebec City, on Nov. 28. It will mark only the second time since its inception in 1965 that the CIS championship game will be staged outside of Ontario. The event was held in Saskatoon in 2006.
A total of 121 games will be played across the country before the Bowl games on Nov. 21, when the Canada West champions visit the AUS division winner for the Uteck Bowl and the QUFL champs travel to Ontario to battle the OUA titlists in the Mitchell Bowl.
The national semi-finals and the 45th Vanier Cup final will be televised on both TSN and Radio-Canada (SRC).