Every week I cast my vote for the CIS Football Top 10. Making my vote public undoubtedly garners me fans at a single institution and detractors at 26 others, but since I open myself up for such punishment the least I can do is provide some context; some explanation about the methods I use to make my final decision about which teams belong where.
I rank teams based on who I think would win on a neutral field as their roster is constituted at that time — in layman’s terms, who is playing the best football right now.
1. Laval (Last week: 1)
They have the best defence in the country. Again. They are the best team in the country. Again. Enough said.
2. Queen’s (LW: 2)
Queen’s does the best job of protecting the passer and rushing the passer—better than anybody in the nation. Billy McPhee has been the beneficiary of that protection. If he in turn continues to protect the football, Queen’s will continue to be a scary opponent.
3. Western (LW: 4)
This vote will get me no favours on the campus I used to roam. Thus far they’ve been a bit more impressive than Queen’s but the Gaels have a few more players with big-game experience. I will concede that off of talent alone the Mustangs have a higher ceiling than any team that doesn’t count French as a first language. Will Finch has shown that he might be the best QB in the nation as a sophomore. A secondary that had serious question marks is now a strength.
4. Montreal (LW: 7)
The Carabins are allowing a mind-boggling 14 rushing yards per game. No, that’s not a typo. Their ability to run the ball with the best in the CIS coupled with their ability to stop the run with all-time proficiency is why they are proving they’ll be a formidable foe as the weather turns ugly down the stretch.
5. Calgary (LW: 3)
Andrew Buckley did what was asked of him. He didn’t win the game, but more importantly he didn’t lose the game. The Dinos still have enough athletes around him to play dominant football.
6. Guelph (LW: 5)
No real movement for the Gryphons as they were inactive on a bye week. That said, after this week’s results, their two wins over Laurier and Windsor seem less impressive. They’ve played down to their competition in years past so how they perform on national TV against a sub-.500 team they’ve had two weeks to prepare for will tell us if they’ve matured enough to be considered title contenders.
7. McMaster (LW: 6)
The Marauders are below .500 for the first time that I can remember. Their 12-game home win streak is over and their chances of hosting a Yates Cup are now unlikely. Having said that, they are definitely still in the hunt to win one. The lopsided score line against Western was misleading. Remove multiple All-Canadians from any team and they’ll struggle. If the Marauders get healthy down the stretch they’ll be just fine.
8. Saskatchewan (LW: 10)
Drew Burko grows more and more comfortable with every start, but they will have to make vast improvements defensively if they want to push Calgary for the conference crown. They’ll get that chance this week as the two remaining undefeated teams in Can West do battle.
9. Manitoba (LW: 9)
Manitoba and Saskatchewan are so close that if they played 100 times they’d probably split the contests 50/50. A home loss by the Bisons, though, means that they will likely start the playoffs on the road. Brian Dobie has amassed the most explosive Bison offence since he hoisted the Vanier Cup in 2007.
10. St. Mary’s (LW: not ranked)
The prize of being tops in the AUS is tough to quantify because the conference has been so down for so long. A road matchup with Montreal will be a great gauge on the relative strength of the Huskies and the AUS as a whole. Ben Rossong will have to prove he can sustain drives with his arm if the Huskies are to stay close with Montreal and subsequently move up the standings.
Honourable mention: Ottawa (LW: not ranked), Acadia (LW: 8)
Windsor (LW: honourable mention), Regina (LW: honourable mention)