In recent years the Battle of Alberta—on the ice or the football field—has been devoid of hype.
The Flames, Oilers and Eskimos haven’t been able to put together winning teams of late, leaving largely meaningless—except for provincial pride—games to be played.
The Stampeders are the only professional franchise to make the playoffs from Alberta since the Eskimos did so in 2011. And Calgary has dominated Edmonton since 2012, winning seven straight meetings. But with the Esks’ reemergence this season both teams enter the Week 5 tilt undefeated. In fact when Calgary (3-0) visits Edmonton (4-0) on Thursday it will mark the deepest into a season the two rivals have met as unbeatens—ever.
This week, Calgary and Edmonton add some fresh faces to the storied rivalry as Bo Levi Mitchell looks to tie an impressive record. And that’s just one of the stories this corner has zeroed in on for Week 5.
Bo knows… how to win
All Bo Levi Mitchell has done in the Canadian Football League is win. The 24-year-old pivot is 6-0 as a starter to begin his CFL career, just one victory away from tying Jeff Garcia for the all-time mark. And interestingly enough Mitchell spent time learning from Garcia at his quarterback camp this past off-season.
Calgary’s 24-year-old pivot has impressive poise for a young player at the game’s most important position—he never lets his emotions show and seems to ooze charisma. Physically, the Eastern Washington product possesses a strong arm and some sneaky athleticism if he needs to move around or scramble out of the pocket. And on top of his physical traits, Mitchell is a smart decision-maker. He is the only starting passer in the league not to have thrown an interception so far this season.
Mitchell’s toughest test to date will come on Thursday night against Chris Jones and his play-making Eskimos defence. Edmonton leads the league in both sacks (18) and interceptions (9).
Manny being Manny
It seems as though Emmanuel Arceneaux is fully recovered from a broken hand he suffered early in training camp. In his second game back from injury Arceneaux exploded for 145 yards and a career-high three touchdowns on eight catches. It was Manny’s best CFL performance since returning from the NFL before the 2013 campaign.
Manny being Manny—CFL version—was making leaping and contested catches look easy as he took over the game against the Alouettes in Week 4. Question is can Arceneaux back up his strong outing with more of them? Great receivers consistently produce at a high level. If Arceneaux wants to be mentioned as one of the best pass catchers currently in the CFL, he has to continue to prove it.
Can the 26-year-old use his impressive performance as a springboard to sustained stardom? Or will it be just an outlier? Either way it will be interesting to keep a close eye on Arceneaux’s Lions host the Blue Bombers this week, fresh off their first defeat of the season, a 26–3 drubbing at the hands of Edmonton.
Ticats go back to school (again)
The opening of Tim Hortons Field has been pushed back due to construction delays and it means the Ticats will make another university stadium their temporary home. Last year Hamilton played eight of the team’s nine ‘home’ games at the University of Guelph, a place where they won five times during the regular schedule.
Kent Austin did a masterful job of minimizing the possible distractions associated with not having a true home field. Yes, it has to be disappointing for the players and coaching staff not to be settled in and comfortable at Tim Hortons Field yet, but McMaster University is a place the Ticats know well. Hamilton held all of their 2013 practices there and for the last number of years the team has held training camp at Mac, too.
Austin has preached about no excuses. And even though no team in the East has more than a single win, at 0-3 the Tiger-Cats are in desperate need of one. A victory is a must in Hamilton’s home opener against division-leading Ottawa, especially when you consider the Ticats have three straight games against West opponents on tap before a bye week in August.
Riders’ running back carousel spins again
Saskatchewan’s player personnel department is looking for a ball carrier who can simply hold onto the football. In three straight games to open the season the Riders’ starting running back has lost a fumble. Anthony Allen lost one in Week 1 and 2. Then Hugh Charles, who was signed along with Canadian Jerome Messam before Week 3, started immediately and he coughed up the football. The gaffe led to the game-winning field goal for the opposition. So obviously ball security is at a premium these days in Riderville.
After the Riders’ 26–13 loss to the Lions, Charles was released and GM Brendan Taman went out and grabbed another international back, Will Ford. A hamstring injury sidelined Ford for training camp and early this season in Winnipeg and allowed Nic Grigsby to takeover the starting job for the Bombers, which led to Ford’s release. Saskatchewan is hoping Ford can help cure their case of “fumblitis.”
If Ford or any other running back can prove he’s able to hang onto the football, a 1,000-yard rushing campaign behind a strong Riders offensive line could easily be possible.