CFL Preview - British Columbia (6-2) at Montreal (5-3)
From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor
DATE & TIME: Friday, August 31, 7:30 p.m. (et).
GAME NOTES: The only two teams in the CFL at the moment that have won at least three games in a row are set to clash at Stade Percival-Molson Stadium on Friday night, as the Montreal Alouettes entertain the British Columbia Lions.
Representing the shortest-lived Labour Day weekend rivalry in the CFL, this meeting pits the top teams in their respective divisions against each other. Montreal, a winner of three straight since falling a game below .500 early on, has played well against the West Division with two wins in three opportunities so far in 2012.
As for the defending Grey Cup Champion Lions, their league-best four-game win streak has pushed them ahead of Edmonton over in their division and the bad news for the Als is that BC has taken all four outings against representatives from the East Division thus far.
Last week, the Lions were at it again as they took out Winnipeg on the road in a 20-17 final in order to move the best record in the CFL after eight games to 6-2. A scoreless game after 15 minutes of action, BC responded with 10 points in both the second and fourth periods to capture the victory, thanks in large part to a 41-yard field goal by Paul McCallum as time expired.
A model of consistency thus far in 2012, BC quarterback Travis Lulay managed to get beyond two interceptions and a pair of sacks in the contest, as he completed 16-of-26 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown. It may not sound like much in terms of positives for Lulay, but the fact is the signal-caller has now thrown at least one TD in 19 straight games which is the fourth-longest run in CFL history and is just two shy of second place on that list.
Considering the Lions were charged with 11 penalties for a total of 105 yards, the squad is lucky the game turned out the way it did.
As for the Alouettes, they too pulled a rabbit out of a hat in their last game, calling on Sean Whyte to boot a 37-yard field goal as time expired to give them a 31-29 home victory over Hamilton last week. Whyte finished with 12 points as he knocked through three of his four field goal tries.
Whyte played the hero for sure for the Als, but it wasn't as though the Montreal offense was struggling because they became the first team since Calgary in 2010 to register at least 400 yards of offense in five straight games. Professional football's all-time leading passer was at it again as Anthony Calvillo, who just happened to turn 40 last week, converted 25-of-36 pass attempts for 329 yards and a score. His favorite target, S.J. Green reeled in 10 passes for 168 yards, both game highs, and also found the end zone on a 10-yard play in the second quarter.
Green is easily the most productive receiver in the league after eight games with 45 receptions for 737 yards. While the receiver has just two TDs, he does have a total of four games with at least 100 yards which means he is a threat to break a big play at any and all moments for the Als.
Calvillo, now with an incredible 76,069 yards and 436 touchdowns for his career, again leads the league in passing yards with 2,657 and is second in both passing TDs (18) and overall efficiency rating (106.4). Sure, the venerable signal-caller has games where he doesn't set the field on fire, but unfortunately he's always going to be measured against his past exploits and those are very difficult to live up to.
Lulay, third in the league in passing TDs with 12, is last on the list of the five quarterbacks who have thrown for at least 2,000 yards thus far, his total checking in at 2,113 yards while completing 67.3 percent of his attempts. Unlike Calvillo who clearly has a go-to receiver that he seeks out more often than not, Lulay's top option remains Geroy Simon who has been relatively quite since setting the league's all-time receiving record during the first game of the season.
Granted, Simon is still head-and-shoulders above the rest of the CFL in terms of career yards (15,523) and now needs just 51 more receptions to assume the top spot in that category all-time as well, but he is listed 13th in receiving yards this year with 436 on 32 catches. Even more remarkable is the fact that Simon has yet to find the end zone while every other receiver seems to be putting up points on a weekly basis.
Arland Bruce, who is back on the Lions this year after being traded back by Hamilton, has taken some of the thunder and attention away from Simon thanks to 24 catches for 369 yards and two touchdowns, but the Minnesota product is nowhere near as potent as he once was either.
BC has won two of the last three clashes with the Als, including an ugly 43-1 romp last November. As a result, the Lions have now assumed a 33-30-1 edge in the all-time, regular-season series going back to 1954.
British Columbia has been tough against the East Division this season, but at some point the Lions will have to be truly challenged and that figures to be this week as Calvillo sets up to defend his home turf for the Als. It also doesn't hurt that Montreal has the motivation to succeed stemming from their awful performance in the last meeting between the teams.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montreal 35, British Columbia 26
08/29 11:26:02 ET