Today is the Grey Cup, the championship game of the Canadian Football League. It takes place in Calgary, and pits the Western Conference champs the Saskatchewan Roughriders against the Eastern camps, the Montreal Alouettes . The game is the most popular televised event in Canada each year, and the trophy that the winner will hoist is an old one – it was first awarded in 1909. Even if you aren’t a Canadian, this game, which kicks off after 6:30 pm eastern time, is worth a look. To get you up to speed on this contest here are five things you’ll need to know if you aren’t familiar with the league:
1. The rules – The CFL plays to a different set of rules – 12 players per side instead of 11, a wider and longer field, three downs instead of four, a point for a missed field goal, and so on.There are all sorts of effects on the game that the rules have, but none of them really matter for a casual viewing. All you need to know is that the fewer downs requires teams to be more aggressive offensively, and that leads to games that are often wide open, high scoring affairs.
2. The spread – Montreal is favored by 9.5 points over Saskatchewan, and is drawing a solid majority of the bets. The Alouettes are clearly the best team in the league, and they have been all year, so this is a legitimate spread. The teams met twice during the regular season, and Montreal won both times, but he latest meeting was in August so a lot has changed since then.
3. Anthony Calvillo – Calvillo is the quarterback for Montreal and the best player in the league. He has been named the outstanding player in the league three times, including the last two seasons. Calvillo started at Utah State for two seasons, capped by the Aggies’ first ever bowl win in 1993. Calvillo is playing the best football of his career right now, and he gives Montreal a massive edge here. The Riders need to find a way to contain Calvillo or this one will get ugly fast. The weather is supposed to be decent so that won’t make it any easier for Saskatchewan.
4. Darian Durant – Durant is Saskatchewan’s starter. ACC fans will remember him as a star at North Carolina – the school’s all-time leading passer. He tried to catch on with the Ravens as a free agent after graduating in 2005, but didn’t make it. His brother Justin is a linebacker for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Durant was a backup who saw limited attention for two years, and then got some starts last year. He earned the starting job in preseason this year, and has gotten much better as the season has progressed. He turned the ball over far too much earlier in the season, but he’s got more consistent and effective in recent weeks. Durant is a duel threat quarterback. He is very much a momentum player, so Montreal will be trying hard to shake his confidence early on.
5. The fans – This is a neutral site game, but it might as well be a Saskatchewan home game. The Riders play in Regina, and that’s about an eight hour drive from Calgary, so many fans have made the trip. On top of that, Calgary has a very large population of people who are from Saskatchewan – when the Riders play the Calgary Stampeders in the regular season it seems like a Saskatchewan home game. Saskatchewan fans are fiercely passionate, and will be rabid for this one. That will help Saskatchewan level the playing field slightly here.