Grey Cup Party Cheat Sheet: Snack-sized facts, figures, predictions

Former Grey Cup MVP Travis Lulay and Arash Madani discuss how the Toronto Argonauts and Calgary Stampeders are preparing for the big game.

Tens of thousands of Canadians will be attending Grey Cup parties this Sunday, but not all of them will be die-hard CFL fans with an intimate knowledge of the Toronto Argonauts offensive playbook.

Luckily, we’re here to help.

So if you plan to consume as much football as calories on Sunday — and would like to impress your fellow party-goers in the process — here’s a Grey Cup Party Cheat Sheet to help you keep up when the conversation shifts to football and away from your delicious, homemade guacamole.

The head coaches

Toronto: Marc Trestman | 6th CFL season | 2017 record: 9-9
Calgary: Dave Dickenson | 2nd CFL season | 2017 record: 13-4-1

The starting QBs

Toronto: Ricky Ray | 15th season | 2017 stats: 28 TDs, 11 INTs, 5,546 yards
Calgary: Bo Levi Mitchell | 6th season | 2017 stats: 23 TDs, 11 INTs, 4,700 yards

What happened at last year’s Grey Cup?

Led by starting quarterback Henry Burris, the Ottawa REDBLACKS shocked the CFL. The REDBLACKS, who had only been in existence for three years, upset the heavily-favoured Stampeders (15-2-1) in overtime. In his final CFL game before retirement, Burris threw for 461 yards, three touchdowns and added two rushing TDs.

Who has the better defence?

It’s a toss up. Both teams tied for league lead with 50 sacks. Calgary led the league in pass defence, giving up just 254.6 yards per game. They also played well against Toronto, sacking Ricky Ray three times in each of their meetings this year. But in those contests the Argonauts were without two of the best pass rushers for long stretches as Sean Lemon and Victor Butler missed six games each due to injury. Both are back now and they were a terror in the East Division Final against a good Saskatchewan offensive line.

Who has the better offence?

Toronto. They were the second-best offence in the league during the regular season, averaging 32.7 more yards per game more than Calgary. Calgary was fifth in the CFL in yards per game.

Who has the better special teams?

Calgary by far. Roy Finch is the best returner in the CFL and the Argonauts have had trouble covering kicks all year. So much so it almost cost them a trip to the Grey Cup when Saskatchewan’s Christian Jones returned a punt 79 yards to give the Riders a late lead in the East Division Final.

Toronto’s X-factor: James Wilder Jr.

The Argonauts have rushed for an average of 120.1 yards per game since Labour Day. During that span their record was 6-2. Prior to that they averaged 65.4 yards per game and were 4-7. The difference? Inserting James Wilder Jr. as the starting tailback in favour of Brandon Whitaker. Calgary has the best rushing defence in the league but has struggled in that department of late. If Wilder runs wild, the Argonauts can control the clock and will have a chance to win.

Calgary’s X-Factor: Roy Finch

“He’s our X Factor. And our Y and our Z,” said Calgary safety Josh Bell when describing Roy Finch. Between returning punts, kick-offs, missed field goals, catching the ball and having it handed it to him, Finch might touch the ball 20-25 times on Sunday. Finch is capable of producing a moment of brilliance and changing the complexion of a game.

Trash Talk: The trash talk started before the game as Stampeders defensive lineman Charleston Hughes said: “Ricky Ray is not difficult to take down at all. He is one of the easier quarterbacks to sack because when he sees you coming he’s going to turtle.”

Hughes had three tackles and one sack in the West Division Final.

Some quick stats to impress your fellow Grey Cup party-goers:

• The Grey Cup was first awarded in 1909.

• Calgary is looking to become the eighth team to win a Grey Cup the year after losing it. Calgary last accomplished that feat in 1992 when Doug Flutie led them to a championship.

• Toronto has only four players on their starting defence who played together before this year.

• When Dave Dickenson was cut by the B.C. Lions as a player, Marc Trestman reached out to him about being an assistant coach in Montreal.

• The Argos have won the Grey Cup a record 16 times and have been in the game 22 times.

• In Calgary’s previous 19 seasons during which it finished with the CFL’s best record, they have only gone on to win the Grey Cup six times.

Who should win and why?

Calgary. They are deeper and more balanced. They’ve had a better year and they have more experience. They also beat the Argos in both of their games during the regular season by a cumulative score of 64-31. But all these things were true even moreso last year and they lost. See the above stat.

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