The Grey Cup is here and there is only one place to prep for today’s big match: Slotback Waggle. Read up on the big keys of the 102nd Grey Cup.
How they got here
The Calgary Stamepeders got to the Grey Cup in style after they were the top team in the CFL this year with a 15-3 record. In the playoffs, they had the first-round bye then dispatched of arch rival Edmonton Eskimos in style, 43-18
Hamilton had a bumpier ride as they needed to beat the Montreal Alouettes in the final week of the season to get to the playoffs. The race was so tight in the East that they still were able to pull the top seed with the win over Montreal and the BC Lions knocked out the Argonauts in the crossover. The Tigercats also got the first-round bye before ending the Alouettes season 40-28.
Calgary won both of the regular season matchups this season, winning 10-7 at home in week 5 and 30-20 at Hamilton in week 8.
Offensive keys for Calgary
It’s really about Bo Levi Mitchell. The Eastern Washington product has had an exciting season, completing 63 percent of his passes for 3,389 yards, 22 touchdowns and eight picks.
He’s brought out the best of the receiving corps especially young guns Joe West and Jeff Fuller who are having their best receiving years of their career. The passing has been spread out a lot more this year.
Most people will say the offensive key is Jon Cornish and it would be hard to argue that after winning the Most Offensive Canadian award on Thursday. The thing is he has been injured multiple times this season and won’t be the focus as much as he usually will. Don’t get us wrong, he will be a dynamic player today with a large amount of touches, but he’s a wild card and his lack of presence this season should be noted.
That brings it back to Mitchell to take charge and lead the Stampeders to the title.
Defensive keys for Calgary
The linebacking group will be the most stretched out group of the defense chasing after a mobile Zach Collaros and Nic Grigsby. Deron Mayo, Juwan Simpson and Keon Raymond will start according to the Stampeders’ depth chart, and the three are all ranked in the top six for tackles on the team.
Hamilton will be happy just taking time off the clock and creating a strong fight in the fourth quarter, so expect these three guys to be running a lot. If they can stay fresh with some good rotation and formation changes, they will be the key to this game defensively for Calgary.
Offensive keys for Hamilton
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How wild can the Tigercats get? No one besides Calgary seems to be giving Hamilton much of a shot in this game after their second half collapse to squeak into the playoffs and the Stampeders’ dominance this season.
That should lift a lot of pressure off the offense, which will help out the other young quarterback in this matchup in Collaros. Last week was his first playoff start, as the Argos brought back Ricky Ray to start the playoff game against Hamilton last year. This was after Collaros led Toronto to the East division regular season title.
Interesting to point out as well that the Ticats didn’t have Collaros in either meeting against Calgary this season as Dan LeFevour was the gunslinger of choice earlier this season.
No expectations and a solid quarterback means that anything could go, which means that a wild yet time-of-possession game plan should be coming from Steeltown.
Defensive keys for Hamilton
Do what they’ve done all year and stop the run. Hamilton has the best run defense in the league, allowing just 76.8 yards rushing — 19 yards per game better than second-place Edmonton.
-Hamilton Head Coach and GM Kent Austin
Calgary had 249 rushing yards in the two games against Hamilton this season and Cornish didn’t start in either of them. A lot of that is the strength of the Calgary o-line, according to Hamilton’s Head Coach and General Manager Kent Austin.
“They play well together. They’re strong. They have quickness in their initial get off the line of scrimmage. They’re very unselfish in their roles.”
If the Ticats can effectively stop the run, that puts more stress on the passing game, which we said earlier was strong under Mitchell and a deep receiving corps. However, Hamilton needs to stand true to themselves defensively to get the win.
Player to watch
Nic Grigsby, running back, Hamilton Tigercats
Use Grigsby to beat them at their own game. Cornish’s run ability is amazing, but before being released by Winnipeg, Grigsby was ranked fifth in the CFL in rushing and first for receptions out of the backfield.
Collaros has the arm to make passes the full width of the field with the right kind of arc on the roll outs. To allow Grigsby to slip out in the opposite flat and take off will allow Hamilton the complete field to tire out the Stampeders, which would allow the blue-collar Ticats a chance late in the game.
This is Calgary’s third Grey Cup under John Hufnagel. They are 1-1 in that time. Time of Possession is key, as the winner in TOP won the last nine titles. Turnovers are also huge as the winner of the turnover battle has won 44 of 49 Grey Cups since 1952.
Hamilton and Calgary have met twice before for the cup. They met in back-to-back meetings in 1998 and 1999 with Calgary winning first 26-24 and Hamilton after 32-21.
Hamilton is in the league’s second-longest drought behind Winnipeg. If they win, it will be their first title since 1999. Their last two Grey Cups have been won after losing the year before (1999, 1986).
It will be hard to knock over the Stampeders, but it’s going to be even tougher to beat a team three times in a season. Hamilton has had the rare postseason renaissance and made the right moves and got healthy at the right time. If the Ticats can keep it within one score heading into the fourth, they could pull off the upset. That said, if Calgary can get the passing game going early it won’t matter.
Calgary Stampeders 32 Hamilton Tigercats 27