The opening line for the Grey Cup has the B.C. Lions as a seven point favourite, which is fair. Now before you start accusing me of writing yet another gushing column about the B.C. Lions, remember that the line is set to attract as much wagering as possible, it is not meant to condemn one team or shower the other with praise.
So why do the Lions deserve to be a seven point favourite? One word, style. Fans love offence; they love a good passing game over everything else.
So which team do you think looked more impressive this past weekend? The one playing in freezing temperatures where the quarterback had a difficult time completing a short out pattern or the team that was racing up and down the field? The Lions are going to be everyone’s darling but the cleverness of that seven point line is that it will give you a moment’s pause. At 6.5 everyone would be throwing their kids university funds on Travis Lulay & Co. but seven is an entirely different ball game.
You see, I like the Lions to win this game, but even I have a difficult time giving them a touchdown. To do so would ignore the remarkable turnaround Winnipeg has had this season. Statistically B.C. is the better defence, but Winnipeg’s is more dangerous, leading the league in takeaways, sacks and interceptions.
Then there is the fast track. I’m betting everyone this week will be focusing on all the team speed for the Lions (as they rightfully should), but the Bombers defence is littered with athletes. Playing at BC Place is only going to bring out the best in players like Hefney, Suber, Willis, Johnson … etc.
Finally, there is every sports writer’s best friend, the intangibles! Oh the glory of clichés that we abuse so frequently to help defend our arguments. In any championship game it is usually better to go in as the underdog. Winnipeg gets to rally around the “us versus the world” mantra as their coaching staff will no doubt fill the heads of every player on how they are being disrespected by the media. Always a powerful asset when used properly.
On an emotional level this will be the final game for Doug Brown, one of the most dominant interior linemen to have played this game over the past decade. I can see the team using that as additional motivational fodder.
Now throw in the fact that the Bombers swept the Lions this season and really wouldn’t I be a sucker not to throw my support behind Swaggerville?
In the end, no. And you already know all the reasons. The 0-5 B.C. start is a distant memory, the Week 5 and Week 7 losses by the Lions to Winnipeg are ancient history. This team bears little resemblance to the one from the summer. Arland Bruce had yet to acclimatize himself with the offence, Tad Kornegay the same on defence and Travis Lulay was adapting to his new role as unequivocal leader in the team.
This team is peaking at just the right time. No team scores more points than B.C. and no team allowed fewer. They ran over an Eskimos team that was feeling pretty good about themselves and now they get to play at home.
Lastly, as I wrote before, football is first about coach and quarterback. You want to find me a better duo than Wally Buono and Lulay?
Before I wrap up my prediction column, please allow me to gush for a brief moment about the Lions, more specifically Travis Lulay’s 61-yard touchdown run.
My favourite part of the run was the play of Arland Bruce. Let’s face it, at this point in time the game had pretty much been decided. One play earlier Dante Marsh had intercepted Ricky Ray, a pick by the way that was just a marvelous example of hand-eye coordination and body control.
Lions have the ball, up by 17, game over.
Would anyone really have condemned Bruce if he didn’t put his full effort in for blocking for Lulay? The guy’s 33-years-old and has been in the league since 2001. I think we all would have cut him some slack. Instead, as the play starts Bruce runs hard while pushing Weldon Brown 20 yards down field. Then, as Ray starts to make his move up field it is Bruce racing back and flinging his body into Donovan Alexander.
The guy has around six miles in receiving yards and yet there he was late in the game treating his body as a piñata for a bunch of sugar stuff kids. Throw in the yeomen work by Geroy Simon, Shawn Gore and the athleticism of Lulay and it adds up to one of the most memorable plays of the 2011 season.
Here’s hoping the Grey Cup is just as memorable. Look for the Lions to win 27-21 over the Blue Bombers.