U Sports Football: Vanier Cup weekend is upon us

The 55th Vanier Cup weekend; the biggest and most historic event in the U Sports calendar is upon us. This year’s final pits the Canada West powerhouse Calgary Dinos, against the Montreal Carabins.

This year’s game is being held in Laval, but it won’t involve the Rouge et Or, who were eliminated in the quarter-finals. The last two championships have featured Laval and Western University, but neither of them made it close to the final this year.

Calgary have been the heavyweights of the Canada West division for the longest time, but have not made the Vanier Cup since 2016. The Mitchell Bowl, which pits the winner of Ontario the Canada West champion has featured Western University the last few years, a team that has a long and rich history of football success. However, this year was different as the McMaster Maurderes knocked out the Mustangs, booking themselves a spot in the Mitchell Bowl and paving a much easier pathway for Calgary to make the final.

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Calgary Dinos celebrate their Mitchell Bowl championship (U Sports)

Montreal have not been a powerhouse in the RSEQ, but they have always been in the mix for the conference title. Having already put Laval in their rearview mirror, their kryptonite has been eclipsed, giving themselves a strong chance at the national championship.

Both sides come into the final with identical records of 9-2, but that has come in different ways. Calgary has gotten this far thanks to their potent offence, but Montreal is the opposite, making the defensive part of their game the focus. Montreal put this on display in the semi-final against the AUS champions Acadia, where they shut them out 38-0. Considering that Acadia was the highest-scoring team in the country, it goes to show that Montreal has perfected its defence. The regular season had Montreal ranked second in the country in points allowed per game with 11.6, but they have improved in the playoffs allowing only 16 points through three games. If Montreal is to find a championship in their home province, it is going to be focused on defence, rather than anything else.

As I mentioned, the Calgary Dinos are the exact opposite, opting to outscore their opponents without much focus on defence. You don’t even have to look far back to see that their offence can win games. In the Mitchell Bowl final, they defeated the Mardaurers 30-17, and that was their first playoff game without hitting the 35 point mark. Despite that, the Dinos still are averaging over 35 points throughout their playoff campaign.

Both teams have been very strong this year, and neither was expected to be in the final at the start of the season. Who’s going to win? Well, that’s an answer we will have to wait for.

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