OTTAWA (CIS) – The McMaster Marauders top the final Football Reporters of Canada - CIS national rankings of the 2012 campaign. The reigning Vanier Cup champions were ranked No. 1 in each of the 10 weekly polls this fall.
For the fourth time this season, the Marauders received all 30 first-place votes and 300 points from the FRC panel. McMaster (8-0) was the only team in the country to keep an unblemished record in conference play.
The only change in the last media poll of the year sees the Sherbrooke Vert & Or (6-3) return to the Top 10 after a four-week absence, in tenth position. The Manitoba Bisons drop out of the rankings for the first time since Week 1.
All other ranked teams stay put, including the No. 2 Laval Rouge et Or (8-1), No. 3 Calgary Dinos (7-1), No. 4 Montreal Carabins (8-1), No. 5 Guelph Gryphons (7-1), No. 6 Queen's Gaels (6-2 / 1-0 playoffs), No. 7 Regina Rams (6-2), No. 8 Western Mustangs (5-3 / 1-0) and No. 9 Acadia Axemen (7-1).
The playoffs got under way in Ontario this past weekend with a pair of OUA quarter-finals. Queen's blanked Laurier 34-0 and Western outscored Windsor 56-35, while McMaster and Guelph enjoyed byes in the opening round.
In the other conferences, results of regular season finales involving Top-10 squads were Laval 32, Concordia 19; Calgary 78, Manitoba 54; Montreal 37, Bishop's 7; Regina 19, Alberta 0; Acadia 45, Mount Allison 24; Sherbrooke 30, McGill 17.
Like McMaster, Laval (RSEQ), Calgary (Canada West) and Acadia (AUS) finished first in their respective league.
Seven conference semifinals are on the schedule this week.
The action kicks off Friday night in Canada West with Saskatchewan (5-3) visiting Regina (7 p.m. CT, Shaw TV / CanadaWest.tv web). The provincial rivals met only once this season, on Sept. 21 in Saskatoon, with the Rams prevailing 35-26. Saskatchewan hopes to advance to the Canada West final for the first time since 2009, while Regina has played in the Hardy Cup game since 2007.
In the second Canada West semi, Manitoba (4-4) visits Calgary on Saturday (5 p.m. MT, Shaw TV / CanadaWest.tv web). The Dinos won both head-to-head duels in conference play, 33-12 on Sept. 15 in Winnipeg, and then the wild 78-54 affair at home last Saturday in a game that didn't have much significance for either team. Calgary is looking to capture a record-setting fifth straight Canada West banner, while Manitoba is making its first playoff appearance since its Vanier Cup triumph in 2007.
The first OUA second-round matchup sees Queen's travel to Guelph to battle the Gryphons (Saturday 1 p.m., theScore TV & web). In the only face-to-face meeting this fall, on Oct. 13, the Gryphons overcame a 28-3 deficit to prevail 33-28 on home turf. Queen's last played in the Yates Cup in 2009, when the Gaels went on to claim the third Vanier Cup title in school history, while Guelph hopes to advance to the OUA final for the first time since 2007 – and then win a first conference banner since 1996.
In the second OUA semifinal, Western travels to Hamilton and hopes to prevent undefeated McMaster from tying Laval's all-time CIS record of 19 consecutive overall wins (Saturday, 4:30 p.m., theScore TV & web). The Mustangs gave the Marauders their closest game of the season on Sept. 29 in London when they scored nine points in the final minute of regulation to make it a 33-27 final. McMaster is looking to become the first team since the 2008 Mustangs to successfully defend the Yates Cup on Nov. 10, while Western wants to avenge a 41-19 loss to the Marauders in last year's conference final.
In Quebec, Saturday's RSEQ semis will see Laval host McGill (2-7) in Quebec City (1 p.m., Radio-Canada web) and Montreal host Sherbrooke (1 p.m., Radio-Canada TV & web).
Laval went 2-0 against McGill in league play, including a 33-15 season-opening win at home on Sept. 2 and a crushing 69-0 road victory in the rematch on Sept. 21. Should the Rouge et Or extend their CIS-record streak with a 56th consecutive overall win on home turf on Saturday, they will have a chance to claim a 10th straight conference title on Nov. 10, another national mark.
Montreal also kept a 2-0 record against its semifinal opponent in the regular season, including a 38-14 schedule-opening win at Sherbrooke on Sept. 1st and a 15-6 home victory on Sept. 22. The Carabins made it to the RSEQ final a year ago, losing 30-7 to Laval, while the Vert & Or reached the Dunsmore Cup championship match for the first time in program history in 2010, dropping a 22-17 decision against the Rouge et Or.
In the AUS conference, Mount Allison (3-5) travels to Halifax to face Saint Mary's (3-5) on Saturday (1 p.m. AT, Eastlink TV & web / AUStv.ca web). Acadia will host the winners in the Loney Bowl final on Nov. 10.
The Huskies and Mounties split their regular season series with Saint Mary's dominating 43-7 at home on Oct. 5 and Mount Allison rebounding a week later (Oct. 13) with a 25-12 home victory. Saint Mary's has played in the last six AUS finals, winning four of them but losing 39-20 to Acadia a year ago, while Mount Allison is looking to advance to the title match for the first time since 1998.