U Sports Football Report (Conference Semi-Finals)

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The best time of every season is finally here for everyone as the U Sports playoffs began in full this week.

After the OUA began their playoffs a week earlier with the quarter-finals it was time for the rest of the conferences to join in with the semi-finals.

It was an interesting week but a week that many could see going a very specific way as a new era of the league continues.

For years it was simple to figure out who was going to win the conferences as dominant teams were walking through the rest of their conference.

The bigger debate surrounded the Vanier Cup as it was the only game that seemed to matter on the playoff schedule.

It was the only game where there was at least a chance for different teams to take home the title, even if Laval took more than most.

Every other game almost didn’t matter because it truly didn’t have any competition but that has changed over the last few years.

New teams rose up and conference playoffs began to get a lot more entertaining with more teams ready to challenge the old guard.

After a few years where everything was a little more unexpected the dust has settled but things have not gone back to the old way.

The Conference semi-finals weren’t necessarily where that difference was going to show though, as there are still the dominant teams that found things a little easier.

In Ontario, the Western Mustangs were once again the easy favourites against Guelph and they took the easy win 66-12.

For the RSEQ, the Rouge et Or took another easy step towards the Dunsmore Cup beating Sherbrooke 45-0.

Calgary followed suit in the west, albeit slightly closer than the other two, taking a comfortable 39-22 win to move on to the Hardy Trophy.

Those three teams had always been the three that could be depended on to play in the national spotlight and one of those three were always going to win the Vanier.

Things have shifted though as these teams are no longer the only teams that have a legitimate shot at their conference titles.

Western might be the usual suspect in the OUA but the Laurier Golden Hawks are the defending champions.

They get another shot at the national playoffs as they took on the McMaster Marauders and took a comfortable 19-6 win.

In the CanWest conference, the shift to more good teams was clear as Regina and UBC have both challenged Calgary in the past and they fought it out in a tough semi-final.

The Thunderbirds came out on top and are looking to beat the Dinos for their second Hardy Trophy in three years, the last time they won they found their way to a Vanier Cup win.

A shift in the number of competitors is no clearer than in Quebec where Laval is no longer the only competitor.football-sidebar

The Montreal Carabins are a legitimate threat to win it all every year and they are back in a position to do that after beating Concordia to find their way to the Dunsmore Cup.

All of these conferences are following the pattern of the AUS where no team has had a long enough run in the past five years to truly be named a dominant team.

The Acadia Axemen took the bye this week and will take on their long-time rivals in the Saint Mary’s Huskies who barely got by the StFX X-Men.

The AUS has been the conference with the most parity as any team can win and although the other conferences aren’t exactly at that point, competition is now the name of the game.

The OUA will see a rematch of last year as the Western Mustangs look to get revenge on Laurier and find their way to the national stage.

In the west, the Dinos are looking for their own revenge after dropping the conference final two years ago to the Thunderbirds.

One of the greatest rivalries in the sport right now will define the RSEQ for another year as Montreal and Laval face-off with Montreal taking two of the last three titles from Laval.

In the east, the Axemen are trying to get back on top after winning the Jewett Trophy last in 2012 while the Huskies look to get back on top for the first time since 2010.

Although the semi-finals might not have been the most exciting, aside from a couple big games, the finals are much more unpredictable.

Good teams with legitimate shots at their conference titles are in the final games looking for a chance to enter that national stage.

Once the finals are over the pursuit of the Vanier Cup gets that much closer and teams get their chance to take the ultimate prize in University Football.

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