PREVIEW: What’s U SPORTS football cooking this season?

TORONTO, ON – As the summer heat begins to wane and the echoes of marching bands and cheering crowds draw near, anticipation mounts for the kick-off of the upcoming U SPORTS football season.

Teams from coast to coast are finalizing their depth charts and playbooks as training camps come to a close ahead of this week’s first matchups. Several squads from all four conferences have seen major shake-ups in their lineups, while others are near the end of their roster rebuilding era.

But no matter where or how they start the season, every team has one final destination in mind: Kingston’s Richardson Stadium for the Vanier Cup.

Here’s a preview of what looks to be another topsy-turvy fall, all the way to Queen’s.

Questions in Canada West

(Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbids Athletics)

The Saskatchewan Huskies, Calgary Dinos and Manitoba Bisons all have questions at quarterback. The Huskies and the Bisons lost their beloved veteran signal callers while the Dinos will have a different starting QB for the third straight season.

Calgary hasn’t been the scary boogeyman that other western Canada teams have had to worry about over the past few seasons, but Saskatchewan and Manitoba potentially falling this year will allow other teams to rise.

The Regina Rams, Alberta Golden Bears and UBC Thunderbirds all have the chance to make their case for the Hardy Cup this year with better QB rooms and a much more wide open conference.

Running it back in the OUA?

(Wetern Mustangs Athletics)

READ MORE | Western look for threepeat as Queen’s host U SPORTS Vanier Cup

Well, it looks like Western Mustangs and Queen’s Gaels could be heading back to the Yates Cup for a third straight season as both rosters will return key players on both sides of the ball.

But that doesn’t mean a new wave isn’t coming.

Other than their QB, Ottawa has lost three of its best players from last season — running back J.P. Cimankinda, receiver Daniel Oladejo and linebacker James Peter. This paves the way for both the Windsor Lancers and Laurier Golden Hawks to compete for OUA semi-final spots. 

Windsor got to the playoffs for the first time in almost a decade last season and Laurier is becoming a sleeping dragon that could get back to where they were, fighting with Western back in 2016 and 2017.

And don’t expect Ford brother-less Waterloo or the perennially inconsistent Guelph to escape mediocrity in 2023.

RSEQ, the same again?

(Laval Rouge et Or Athletics)

READ MORE | Laval seeking Dunsmore Cup repeat in competitive RSEQ

Laval and Montreal. Will it ever change?

Imagine that another team in la belle province breaks through and finally contends for the Dunsmore Cup instead of one of these two powerhouses. It’s slim to none, but that team could be McGill University.

Though they were bottom of the barrel last season, isn’t every team the same when Laval and Montreal’s embarrassment of riches prevails every year? With QB Eloa Latendresse-Regimbald at the controls after an eye-opening rookie performance last season, they could be that wildcard third team in the RSEQ conversation by November, or even October.

StFX have sights set on AUS domination

(StFX Athletics/Facebook)

READ MORE | As StFX chase U SPORTS bowl, AUS challengers beckon

Last year’s Uteck Bowl between the StFX X-Men and Saskatchewan was the first glimmer of a light at the end of the tunnel for what has been a second-rate AUS conference compared to the rest of U SPORTS.

We have seen blow-out after blow-out when atlantic teams made it out of the Loney Bowl, but the X-Men have set a new precedent — the east can compete with the west. 

That doesn’t mean the OUA and RSEQ couldn’t blow them out of the water, but we’ll have to wait until November 2024 to see if that’s true since this year’s Mitchell Bowl and Uteck Bowl are just flipping host conferences from last season.

StFX is the clear front-runner for the Loney Bowl, with a wide open conference looking for second spot behind them.


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