The question is: Can anybody beat Laval this year? The Rouge et Or are the gods of CIS football.
Going undefeated (again) in regular season play is almost a certainty but not too many teams can give them a run for their money in this country. They already are 2-0 in league play, knocking off one of two teams that could perhaps put up a fight. In beating Montreal 24-14 on Saturday, realistically only one team can prevent Laval from going onto an unblemished record and that is Sherbrooke.
Laval has won six Vanier Cups since 1999 and five of those came under their current coach Glen Constantin.
"I'm trying to build a dynasty," said Constantin.
But he has a dynasty. What he is trying to do is maintain it. He has a slew of returnees, including his quarterback Bruno Prud'homme and he gets his players to compete by not announcing the starters until Thursday.
"Last week we had 13 new players who dressed for game day," said Constantin.
Talk about fighting for a job. It makes for lively practices all week.
Out east, it's a one-team show and we are starting to wonder if this conference can get any better. It will be Saint Mary's Huskies, as they say, lock, stock and barrel. There is simply no competition for them anywhere in the conference. They walked over Mount Allison 54-14 in their first game this week, walked over Acadia in an exhibition game and will probably put 50 points up on St. F.X. when they meet in October.
Acadia is good for second spot and St. F.X. and Mount A will battle for the last playoff spot. However, the difference between first and second is enormous. The second-place team plays the third-place team with the winner facing Saint Mary's and getting destroyed. That's the way it's been for several years.
Since 1999. Saint Mary's has won the AUS (Atlantic University Sport) every time other than 2005-2006, when Acadia took the league title. And recently there is no competition. This year, they play one inter-locking game in Montreal against the Carabins. It should be their only meaningful contest this season, excluding the league final.
One wonders why the Saint Mary's Huskies can't get any opposition.
In Ontario, the strong may be stronger. The Marshalls are out to a 2-0 lead. That's Greg Marshall's Western squad aided by his sons Donnie at quarterback and Brian at receiver.
In beating McMaster 48-21 this weekend, they solidified their hold on first place and that is where they should end up. Other teams that should vie for playoff positions include McMaster, Ottawa, Windsor, Laurier and maybe Guelph.
Out west, Blake Nill of the Calgary Dinos will have his hands full. Nill's problem is losing players to the CFL, including linemen with college eligibility.
"This is a very tough conference, maybe the most competitive in the country," said Nill. "All our games are tough. If we're not ready for every game, we will lose."
For the first time in six seasons in Calgary, Nill has started the season at 2-0. This weekend, the Dinos were trailing the UBC Thunderbirds with 2:34 remaining and scored the winning touchdown with 18 seconds left for a 30-25 victory.
The Saskatchewan Huskies are always a contender and expect good things from Regina and UBC. This could be the toughest conference in the county.
Five years ago, there were four strong teams in Canada. Laval, Western, Saskatchewan and Saint Mary's. Now I feel there are three tiers in college ball with Laval alone at the top, Western, Calgary and Saskatchewan in the second tier and Saint Mary's and a few other teams vying for a spot in the third tier.
Saint Mary's has won their last four conference titles but have been beaten, if not annihilated, by Calgary in two straight national semifinals. Expect the same this year. They are the only team that doesn't face competition during regular season play aAnd, when they hit the Uteck Bowl, they just aren't prepared for the level of competition that is thrown at them.
For TSN.ca I'm Alex J. Walling
Alex J can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org