Four storylines to watch in the 110th Grey Cup
There hasn’t been a Grey Cup in the last four seasons that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers haven’t been a part of.
Kyle Walters and the entire Bombers organization has built an unstoppable team, one that has dominated the CFL on a punishing defence, a bruising run game, and a quarterback that only known winning since putting on the blue and gold (more on Zach Collaros later).
This Winnipeg squad is getting used to the show at the end of the season and lining up against them on Sunday will be a team that has a bit less familiarity with the big game in recent memory.
Led by the strength of their defence, one that stifled a Chad Kelly-led offence in last week’s Eastern Final, the Montreal Alouettes head to the chip for the first time since 2010. They made that last appearance count though, defeating the Roughriders to hoist the coveted trophy.
Montreal came into the 2023 season with new ownership, a new head coach, and a new franchise quarterback, and all of those changes have led them to this moment; playing for the 110th Grey Cup.
Who will raise the cup on Sunday at Tim Hortons Field? Only time will tell but as we prepare for the big game, here are four storylines to follow this week.
MR. GREY CUP
We can call him that now, right? Zach Collaros is set to start in his fourth-straight Grey Cup, making him the first quarterback in CFL history to accomplish that feat, so I think we safely can.
Since joining Winnipeg in 2019 via trade, the second one of the season for the quarterback, all Collaros has done is win. He’s led his Bombers to the championship four consecutive times and has won the Division in three-straight years. He’s 7-1 in playoff and Grey Cup games since heading down to Winnipeg, the only loss being last year’s Grey Cup against the Toronto Argonauts.
The former back-to-back MOP (2021, 2022) will look for his fourth Grey Cup, along with his two in Winnipeg, Collaros won the big game as a backup in Toronto in 2012.
Win or lose on Sunday, Collaros has to be considered one of the all-time greats.
THE DOMINANT DEFENCE
After his team’s Eastern Final win, Als quarterback Cody Fajardo said to members of the media, “offence wins game and defence wins championships.” Well, the Alouettes will need a repeat of their performance in the Eastern Final this weekend against Winnipeg for that to be true.
Montreal forced nine turnovers in their win over the Argonauts – four interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), four turnovers on downs, and a fumble recovery. Two of the turnovers were in the red zone and the Argos walked away with no points after the Marc-Antoine Dequoy pick-six and a turnover on downs thanks to a big tackle by Tyrice Beverette.
The Als stopped a juggernaut last week and now face another in Collaros and co. Can they do it?
BULLY BALL BRADY
Brady Oliveira doesn’t know what it’s like to end the season without playing in a Grey Cup. The Bombers running back has played in the championship game every year since joining the CFL in 2021.
Brady waited his turn to be the lead back in his first season, that year playing behind and learning from Andrew Harris before taking over the starting role in 2022.
This season Oliveira was sensational, earning a West Division MOP nomination on his way to hitting career-highs in rushing yards (1,534), yards from scrimmage (2,016) and total touchdowns (13 – nine rushing and four receiving). 2023 was his second 1,000-rushing yard season (he hit 1,001 yards last year) and his first time eclipsing the 1,500-mark. He’s also just the 15th player in league history to reach 2,000 yards from scrimmage in a single season.
An unbelievable season for the Winnipeg-native will no doubt be made even sweeter with a win at Tim Hortons Field this weekend and the Bombers are sure to rely on Oliveira early and often against Montreal as they try to do just that.
REDEMPTION FOR CODY
It wasn’t a secret heading into the off-season that Cody Fajardo wasn’t going to be part of the Saskatchewan Roughriders plans moving forward. He had a tough winter, the quarterback said after his win in Toronto on Saturday, as he spoke about how he felt after the Riders decided to go in a different direction.
“We’re a band of misfit toys and are a lot of guys on this team, including myself, that were kind of exiled from their own team,” said Fajardo. “Honestly, this off-season was incredibly tough and I don’t speak much about me, but this this off-season was incredibly tough for me and my family.
“I didn’t know if I was going to hang them up. I didn’t know if I was done, if a team was gonna give me a chance, and coach Maas signs here (in Montreal).Danny (Maciocia) offered me a two year deal, which showed the investment in me and the belief in me and I wanted to do everything I could to prove those guys right.”
Well, he certainly has done that after signing a two-year deal with the Als on the opening day of Free Agency.
Fajardo led his Alouettes to an 11-7 record while having one of the best seasons of his career. He threw for 3,847 yards, completing 317 of 446 passes to go along with 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also added another 341 yards and three majors on the ground.
Fajardo’s set to start in his first start in a Grey Cup, though he has been in one and won as a backup with the Toronto Argonauts in 2017. His Alouettes are riding a seven-game winning streak, including playoffs, as they face their biggest game of the season.
Can they make it eight-straight and tie a bow on his new career era with a championship?