52nd Vanier Cup Preview

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It is not the match-up that some were expecting with the dominant teams once again taking over.

It might have been a more interesting to see another new team win a Vanier Cup after two straight years where new teams won the top prize.

Before then it was all about the dominant teams who ruled over the entire league and really gave nobody a chance to win the Vanier Cup.

It was fun to see how good a program could get and to see one team dominate everyone while every other program tried to challenge them.

It made things even better when that program fell and the first time someone actually proved that they could be beaten.

That program was Laval and the team that proved that they could be beaten in the Vanier Cup was the McMaster Marauders in one of the greatest game in Canadian University football history.

It was an epic game but the Rouge et Or came back the next year to avenge their loss and did so by capturing their seventh Vanier Cup against the Marauders.

Laval was still on top and they remained that way until they were truly knocked off by the Montreal Carabins where they didn’t even get out of their own conference.

Instead, the Carabins were there and they took the Vanier ushering in what would have been a new era, although one that has only really last two years.

The Rouge et Or continued to fight with Montreal even throughout this year but this time they got back to the national championship.

It is a familiar spot for most people in the program as it was only three years ago that they walked away from the Vanier Cup with their 8th title.

They have always been the team to beat throughout the country and despite a two-year hiatus, they are back and ready to continue their dominance.

The Calgary Dinos are standing in the way though and hoping that the dominance in the Vanier Cup won’t continue.

Throughout the time that Laval stood on top of the CIS football world the Calgary Dinos were the less talked about dominant team.

They had won their conference six straight years and were always a favourite to make it to the Vanier Cup.

They have not been as great in the national playoff though as in the time that they continued to win conference titles they have not won a Vanier Cup.

Their last national championship came in 1995 but it wasn’t a lack of trying as they have made multiple Vanier Cups in that time.

The problem has always been that they ran into the Rouge et Or while they were the program in the country.

The Dinos and Rouge et Or have faced off twice in the final before losing both games and also faced off in the two bowl games also losing both.football-sidebar

The Rouge et Or have been the thorn in the side of the Dinos for the last decade as they just can’t seem to get by them at any time in the national playoffs.

For the Dinos, this is the year that it needs to change as they try to beat Laval for the first time in the national playoffs to take their first Vanier Cup since 1995.

Calgary is the underdog in the game but the fact is that this match-up pits two of the biggest and strongest programs in the country.

Thinking about it on the larger scale this game will be against the two teams that are so rarely underdogs.

They are two teams that have been favourites for the last decade and have been two of the best in the country.

Now they face off and although it is always fun to see a true underdog take home a championship this is the game that truly pits the best against the best.

They are truly two of the best teams in Canada and they proved it by going through their entire conference season and into the national playoffs.

More than that though they have been two of the best programs for more than only a few years and this is the game that pits them against each other.

Championship games are supposed to be between two great teams and that is what the 52nd Vanier Cup will provide.

This is much more than a game to determine the best team this year because there is unfinished business for Calgary and another match between the two greatest programs from the past ten years.

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The Rouge et Or are a team that has been out of the championship game for the past two years after falling to their rivals in the conference title games. They were once the most feared team in the league as they were guaranteed to make the national playoffs every year. They would walk through their conference and then begin their real season against the best teams across Canada. When they got there they did pretty well although it was not a cake-walk like their regular season was every year. They did struggle a little bit more in the bowl games but once they got into the Vanier Cup they were almost unbeatable. Over the last two years, the Rouge et Or have not looked as unbeatable as they did once before. They didn’t even finish first in their own conference but they did get the championship this year and looked like their old selves in the Uteck Bowl when they easily got past the Laurier Golden Hawks. Now they are back in the Vanier Cup with an 8-1 record in the game looking to take their ninth championship. In the years that they have taken home the championship, the Rouge et Or have leant on their defence to make the big plays. They are doing the same this year as their defence was the second best in the entire country. Led by defensive lineman Mathieu Betts and his nine sacks the defence has led the way and were able to shut down most teams. They are not a team that will force turnovers or score a lot but they will grind it out and prevent teams from moving forward. Their 9.8 points per game average was only bested by Montreal while their yardage stats are some of the best all around. They are a team that prevents teams from moving closer to the end zone and gives their own offence a chance to put them ahead. That defence is good but what has made the difference for them this year is their offence that took advantage of the opportunities their defence provides. Hugo Richard is having a great year under centre for the Rouge et Or this year and his experience was a big reason for Laval getting back to the Vanier. Both through the air and on the ground, Richard led his team and he will need to remain that way if he wants to grab his first Vanier Cup. They have been shut down before as Richard has had trouble in his few years under centre but this year does look different. That balance between the two sides of the team makes the Rouge et Or a force this year and now that they are in the Vanier Cup they will look to continue their good season and their dominance in the big game with another championship.

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Calgary has a very similar story to that of the Rouge et Or as they were once a dominant team that always won their division. It was rare that they would see a season go by without at least entering the national playoffs. They were never as successful as the Rouge et Or though as they struggled to get to the big game and once they got there it was usually against Laval. Just like the Rouge et Or the Dinos spent the last two years out of the national playoffs thanks to the rise of some more unknown teams. The Bisons beat them in 2014 while the Thunderbirds did the same in 2015 both teams did it in the conference finals. They looked to shake off those failures this year as they started out again much like they had the past seasons. Eventually, they found their way back into the conference final and they took the win to get back to where they were used to for so long. They took care of business in the Mitchell Bowl too as they easily got by the StFX X-Men taking a 50-24 win to move into the Vanier Cup. They are finally back and they get another shot at winning their first title since 1995 but in their way is a familiar opponent that has had their way with the best in the west. The Dinos season focused on their offence which was a top ten scoring offence in the CIS. Despite losing Andrew Buckley to the CFL should have hurt them on offence but Jimmy Underdahl turned out to be a good replacement throughout the season. Then he was injured and Adam Sinagara took over without much of a fall off and in the Mitchell Bowl Underdahl returned. What helped the offence during the changes was a solid receiving corps led by Austen Hartley but he too was injured and stayed out of the Mitchell Bowl. The depth of the team helped as Whitman Tomusiak, Hunter Karl, and Dallas Boath stepped up big and helped. Meanwhile, at running back the Dinos also saw issues when their top two running backs were injured. Jeshrun Antwi has stepped up and been great running the ball for the Dinos in an offence that has kept up despite losing some of their top players. On defence, it has been slightly different as they are not a stifling group that prevents other teams from putting up points. Instead, they try to take advantage of opportunities creating turnovers and becoming one of the top scoring defences in the league. They won’t be a team that can really shut down Laval’s offence but they will make sure that they take advantage of the opportunities they get. They will try to get by Laval for the first time in the national playoffs and for the Dinos it is all about putting up the points and getting to that defence to win their first Vanier Cup since 1995.

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