CFL Preview - Calgary (12-6) at Toronto (9-9)
From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor
DATE & TIME: Sunday, November 25th, 6 p.m. (et).
GAME NOTES: Essentially a home game for Toronto, the 100th Grey Cup is up for grabs as the Argonauts and the Calgary Stampeders take the field at Rogers Centre on Sunday.
Neither one of these teams was thought to be a favorite to make it to the final game of the 2012 campaign, but that just proves how unpredictable Canadian football can be on a week-to-week basis.
The Argonauts arrived here after two rounds of stiff playoff competition. The first test for Toronto was in the East Division Semifinals back on Nov. 11 in this very same building, with Toronto capturing a convincing 42-26 victory against visiting Edmonton. A week later in the East Division Championship at Olympic Stadium, the Argos stunned Montreal with a 27-20 win, shutting down the Alouettes in the second half in holding them to just three points after intermission.
As for the Stampeders, their journey to the biggest game of the year also began in the semifinal round as they slipped by Saskatchewan at McMahon Stadium by a final of 36-30. Seven days later, in what was supposed to be just a formality for British Columbia, the defending Grey Cup Champion and the club with the best overall record in the league this year, Calgary pulled the upset in a 34-29 decision.
Making the win over the Lions even more surprising was the fact that, only days before the game, the Stamps informed Kevin Glenn that he was being inserted into the starting lineup because of an injury to Drew Tate. Glenn responded by throwing for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns.
Again, while these wins during the conference title games were considered upsets, the fact remains that Calgary is a team that has won six straight games now, including the playoffs, and the Argos are riding a four-game streak which just goes to show that timing can be everything in this league.
The key figures to watch for the Stampeders are, first and foremost, Glenn at quarterback and Jon Cornish coming out of the backfield. Glenn finished the season fourth in the league in passing yards with 4,220, while Cornish led all ball carriers with 1,457 yards. For his efforts, Cornish has been named the top Canadian Player of the Week a total of nine times, and the Canadian of the Month on three occasions, essentially cornering the market on the hardware.
As one of the most consistent receivers in the league, Nik Lewis is also a player to keep an eye on for the Stampeders. Having recorded at least 1,000 receiving yards in each of his nine campaigns, Lewis set a new standard for himself with 100 receptions in 2012, and he also tied his career-best with 10 TDs through the air.
For the Argonauts, they have one of the most exciting players in the modern era suiting up for them in Chad Owens. After breaking into the league with Montreal in 2009 and being used sparingly despite his exploits in college at the University of Hawaii, Owens found a new home for himself with Toronto and has used his new team to set new standards for all-purpose performers.
A much bigger piece of the offense this season, Owens caught 94 passes for a league-high 1,328 yards and scored six times, adding another 1,588 yards on kick returns and 828 yards in punt returns. The East Division Outstanding Player and All-Star, Owens is the first player in football history to post three consecutive seasons with at least 3,000 combined yards, and he is also the first player in CFL history to lead the league in both receiving and kick return yards in the same season.
Putting Owens in that position this year was quarterback Ricky Ray, who was traded from Edmonton to the Argos after last season. Ray managed to throw for more than 4,000 yards and toss 20 TDs, but there were also 11 interceptions along the way which may indicate times when he was having trouble adjusting to his new surroundings.
While there were a number of running backs who were given the chance to be the every-down back for the Argos, only Chad Kackert fit the bill as he averaged almost six and a half yards per bruising carry.
In terms of their meetings from earlier this season, Toronto won both encounters which means the all-time, regular-season series between the squads is locked at 41-41-1. In just the second week of the season, the Argos slipped by with a 39-36 victory at home and then a trip to Calgary in the middle of August again had the Argos coming out on the winning side, 22-14.
When it comes to meeting in this all-important event, Toronto and Calgary have faced each other two times previously, in 1971 and 1991, with the Stamps taking the initial meeting, 14-11, at Empire Stadium, and the Argos returning the favor two decades later with a 36-21 final in Winnipeg.
Since 1972, the Grey Cup has involved a club that calls that particular stadium in that year home a total of 10 times, but that supposed home-field advantage has only paid off on four occasions. Last season, British Columbia reminded everyone that it could be done as the BC Place inhabitants posted a 34-23 win over Winnipeg.
The good news for the Argonauts is that they've enjoyed home cooking for this event a total of 12 times, and on nine of those occasions they've been able to celebrate a win with their faithful fans. However, that hasn't happened in 60 years.
From a historical perspective, Toronto has been involved in the title game a total of 21 times previously, and while Winnipeg and Edmonton have both been here more, the Argonauts have hoisted the most trophies (15) and have the best winning percentage (.714). Further down the list is Calgary which has been to the title tilt 12 times and split those opportunities evenly with six championships.
Between the Argos and Stamps, the latter was in the championship game most recently, making an appearance against Montreal in 2008 and capturing the title with a 22-14 victory. Toronto competed for the 92nd Grey Cup against the BC Lions at Frank Clair Stadium and it too went home victorious following a 27-19 final.
The experience of Ray in pressure situations should pay off here, but it doesn't hurt that the Argonauts also have a game-breaker on their side in Owens.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toronto 28, Calgary 23
11/21 11:47:26 ET