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CFL Preview - Toronto (6-5) at Montreal (7-4)

From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Sunday, September 23, 1:00 p.m. (et).

GAME NOTES: The Montreal Alouettes try to strengthen their hold on the top spot in the East Division as they tangle with the Toronto Argonauts on Sunday afternoon at Stade Percival-Molson Stadium.

Outside of a few sub par efforts so far in 2012, the Alouettes are still a formidable squad that needs to be reckoned with now that it is tops in the division standings with a record of 7-4, two points ahead of Toronto.

It was a case of the teacher leading the student last Sunday in Montreal, as Anthony Calvillo conducted another strong effort at quarterback for the Als as they defeated Saskatchewan and first-time starter Drew Willy, who was filling in for an injured Darian Durant.

Calvillo completed just 14 of his 27 pass attempts, but still managed to generate 266 yards through the air and one touchdown for the squad in the 28-17 home victory. Running back Brandon Whitaker not only ran for 45 yards and a score, he caught four passes for a game-high 102 yards and brought back a pair of missed field goals for another 80 yards, but that was the extent of the good news for him.

The league's leading rusher a season ago, Whitaker was third in the league this year in scoring through 11 games and second in yards from scrimmage with 1,147 yards, but in the fourth quarter he was felled by injury, later discovered to be a torn ACL which has ended his season prematurely.

Another injury issue for Montreal is that of receiver Brian Bratton who, after catching an eight-yard TD in the second quarter on Sunday, was also hit by the injury bug and will be lost for several weeks at least with a hyperextended right knee.

Following up back-to-back wins over Hamilton earlier in the month, the Argonauts were turned away by a streaking British Columbia squad which has now won two straight and six of the last seven outings thanks to a 28-23 final last Saturday versus Toronto.

Ricky Ray tried to keep the Argos competitive by hitting half of his 38 pass attempts for 311 yards, but all of that led to just a single aerial TD, a 52- yard strike to Chad Owens late in the fourth quarter. Owens, who is gunning for a third straight season with at least 3,000 combined yards, caught a game- high eight balls for 114 yards, adding another 108 yards on kickoff returns which means he needs just 305 more yards to reach his goal.

Much more of a presence within the offensive scheme this year for the Argonauts, Owens just might have his sights set on the all-time, single-season mark for combined yards which stands at 3,840 yards set by Michael Clemons in 1997.

Seemingly from out of nowhere, Owens is second in the league in receiving with 938 yards on 67 receptions, leading to five majors. Clearly the Argos are comfortable with putting him on the field as much as they can, even if he does have a penchant for putting the ball on the turf from time to time.

One of the issues facing the Argos heading into this game is the status of Chad Kackert, the most productive running back for the team on the season with his 48 carries for 365 yards and five touchdowns, his yardage total already ahead of his numbers from all of last season. He didn't have any carries last week, and this time around he is found on the injured list, which means Gerald Riggs will probably be the main man coming out of the backfield yet again.

As a team, Toronto ranks fifth in the league in overall rushing with just 93.0 ypg, so losing Kackert for any amount of time will hurt the unit for sure. Then again, if that stat sounds rather weak, consider that the last team in the league in rushing is Montreal with just 82.4 ypg, and perhaps the Argos can feel a little better about themselves.

Montreal owns a 106-83-3 advantage in the all-time series, dating back to 1946 and only taking into account regular-season matchups. The Als have taken three of the last four battles, but it was Toronto that secured a 23-20 victory in Montreal in the most recent meeting back in late July.

October 14 offers the last regular-season meeting of 2012 between the two clubs.

So as it stands, both teams will be searching for someone to help fill rather big shoes coming out of the backfield and that might force the squads to rely that much more on their respective quarterbacks. If that is indeed the case, Calvillo is the man to put your money on.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montreal 31, Toronto 23

09/19 11:14:47 ET

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