1. Western (Last week: 1)
To become Yates Cup champs, the Mustangs will first have to get through the defending Yates Cup champs. After beating up on an already-banged-up McMaster squad in week three, the Mustangs host the Marauders in the OUA semi-finals this weekend. The return of all-purpose threat Matt Uren might be the catalyst to take the Western offence from good to legendary.
2. Laval (LW: 2)
After facing Sherbrooke in the RSEQ finals a year ago, that matchup will take place a week earlier in 2013. As Laval gets closer to a potential home date in the Vanier Cup, their focus remains razor sharp.
3. Calgary (LW: 3)
Back-to-back matchups against the Thunderbirds—the two teams played in the final game of the regular season and will meet again this week in Can West playoffs—is a tough draw for the conference-champion Dinos. UBC has played Calgary tough and poses the Dinos’ biggest challenge out of Can West because of their exceptional offensive line and ability to run the ball. Beating any team twice in a season—never mind three times—is a tough task, but this Calgary group may be, offensively, the best Blake Nill has had in Calgary.
4. Queen’s (LW: 4)
No team in the top 10 has been more Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde than Queen’s, especially on offence. That said, they finished the regular season with two resounding all-around performances before resting with a bye. If they haven’t fully exorcised the demons of their OUA semifinals collapse last year with their win over Guelph to close the regular season, a win this week over the Gryphons would certainly do so.
5. Guelph (LW: 5)
For the second consecutive year the Gryphons finished the regular season with a 7-1 record, however this time around they are feeling much less confident heading into November. The two things Guelph did better than anyone in the OUA last year was protect the ball and protect the passer. They are doing neither at an elite level now—not a good combination with an imminent matchup against a Queen’s defence that forces turnovers by relentlessly getting after quarterbacks.
6. Montreal (LW: 6)
The Carabins have made life difficult for themselves as they’ll start the playoffs on the road. It might be a 50-50 toss up whether or not they can beat Bishop’s in Lennoxville in the OUA semi’s. As the only team who has had the lead over Laval in two separate contests this season, there is no disputing that they are the only team in Quebec and possibly elsewhere that has the talent to beat Laval.
7. McMaster (LW: 7)
Since dipping below .500 in September, McMaster has gotten healthy and gained my respect. As I’ve watched them play inspired football the image of legendary Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich screaming “Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion!” comes to mind. This is a team loaded with fifth-year seniors who won’t go quietly.
8. Bishop’s (LW: 8)
If you thought a team wearing purple and silver was going to beat the vaunted Laval defence this year by passing the ball over the field, you might be correct—but it might not be Will Finch and the Western Mustangs if Jordan Heather and the Bishop’s Gaiters do it first. Bishop’s is the only team to have any semblance of success against Laval. Doing it in the playoffs at Peps is a whole different ball game.
9. Manitoba (LW: 9)
Both of Manitoba’s contests with Saskatchewan have come down to the wire, with each team getting one win. Instead of splitting, the Bisons could have possibly swept the season series if they played as disciplined as the Huskies. Brian Dobie is one of the best coaches in the CIS. No stranger to playoff football; he’ll have his team on task at home in Winnipeg Friday night.
10. Saskatchewan (LW: honourable mention)
Given the amount of players Calgary has graduated over the last two years, many thought the power was going to swing back to the Huskies in the Can West. If they fail to reach the Hardy Cup, 2013 will be looked upon as a grave disappointment. That being said, Brian Towriss’s teams have always been good on the road. If they can string together two road wins a potential Mitchell Bowl hosted in Saskatchewan would make for one of the best collegiate football atmospheres you could ask for.
Honorable mentions: Sherbrooke (LW: not ranked), UBC (honourable mention)
Dropped out: Ottawa (LW: 10)