OTTAWA -- The reigning Vanier Cup champions are still undefeated in 2013 but they are no longer the top-ranked team in CIS football. After spending five straight weeks at No. 1, the Laval Rouge et Or were dethroned by the high-flying Western Mustangs in the sixth Football Reporters of Canada poll of the campaign.
The Mustangs (6-0), who opened the season at No. 4 before moving up to No. 2 two weeks ago, received 17 first-place votes and 287 points in the new Top 10 to move past the Rouge et Or (5-0), who earned the remaining 13 first-place nods and 283 points from the FRC panel.
Western had last been ranked first in the country in 2011, for two consecutive weeks (Oct. 11 and 18 polls).
Rounding out the new media poll are the No. 3 Calgary Dinos (5-0 / up two), No. 4 Guelph Gryphons (5-0 / up two), No. 5 Queen’s Gaels (4-1 / down two), No. 6 Saskatchewan Huskies (4-1 / up one), No. 7 Montreal Carabins (3-2 / down three), No. 8 Bishop’s Gaiters (3-2 / no change), No. 9 McMaster Marauders (2-3 / no change) and No. 10 Manitoba Bisons (3-2 / no change).
In the marquee matchup of the past weekend, Western thrilled 12,185 homecoming fans with a convincing 50-31 win over previously undefeated Queen’s. Led by super-sophomore quarterback Will Finch, who currently leads the country in passing yards per game (356.3), touchdown passes (17) and completion percentage (71.4), the Mustangs jumped to a commanding 23-0 lead after 17 minutes of play and never looked back.
With two games remaining on its regular schedule, Western has scored a CIS-best 357 points (59.5 per game) and is on pace for a total tally of 476, which would ranked third all-time behind Laval’s 481 points in 2003 and Saint Mary’s 480 in 2001. The single-season OUA record of 424 was set by McMaster in 2003.
The Mustangs travel to Windsor on Saturday to face the Lancers (4-2) and will wrap up league play at home against York (2-3) on Oct. 19, following a bye week.
Meanwhile in the RSEQ conference, Laval also remained undefeated but, for the second straight week, got all it could handle from a Top-10 opponent. A week after they edged archrival Montreal 16-9 thanks to a superb defensive effort, the Rouge et Or won a wild 46-38 shootout against Bishop’s in Lennoxville, Que.
The defending Vanier Cup champs, who had allowed a CIS-low 31 points (7.75 per game) in their first four contests of 2013, had conceded this many points only once in their last 119 games overall (41-38 OT loss to McMaster in 2011 Vanier Cup), dating back to a 38-30 loss to Concordia on Oct. 4, 2003.
Ironically, while they dropped one spot in the national rankings, the Rouge et Or increased their lead atop the RSEQ standings over the past weekend as Montreal was upset 16-12 at home by Sherbrooke (2-3). Following their second straight loss, the No. 7 Carabins (3-2) are now tied with Bishop’s and McGill for second place in Quebec.
Other Week 6 results from Top-10 teams included Calgary 76, Alberta 21 (at Alberta); Guelph 41, Waterloo 19 (at Waterloo); Saskatchewan 17, UBC 12 (at UBC); Manitoba 34, Regina 15 (at Manitoba).
The schedule for the coming weekend is highlighted by a battle for first place in Canada West between No. 3 Calgary, the reigning five-time conference champion, and No. 6 Saskatchewan, Friday at 7 p.m. in Saskatoon, live on SHAW TV and canadawest.tv. The Dinos won the first end of the season series 36-24 on Sept. 14, in Calgary.
The OUA Game of the Week on Sportsnet 360 is the first Panda Bowl since 1998 between Carleton and Ottawa, live from the nation’s capital Saturday at 1 p.m. ET. On the same day and time, Radio-Canada airs a Montreal-Sherbrooke rematch, this time from Sherbrooke.
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Other teams receiving votes: Windsor (21), Sherbrooke (15), Acadia (4), McGill (1).