June 5, 2024

Costabile: 4 storylines to watch in Week 1

Kevin Sousa/CFL.ca

After what seemed like a long, long off-season, the CFL is finally back!

It’s been far too many days since we’ve seen a meaningful game played on a football field somewhere in Canada (199 days, to be exact) and now it’s finally time to watch the 2024 campaign kick off on Thursday, June 6.

There’s plenty of storylines to keep an eye on in all four matchups this weekend. From players suiting up for new teams to a rematch of last year’s championship contest, there’s something for everyone to get excited about ahead of the opening kickoff of the season.

While we wait for Thursday night, here’s one storyline to watch in every game this week.

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Montreal at Winnipeg | Thursday, June 6 | 8:30 p.m. ET

The last time we saw meaningful football was the 110th Grey Cup where the Montreal Alouettes defeated the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Tim Hortons Field in late November. And what a game it was.

That final drive was one of the most dramatic, you-really-can’t-write-this-stuff, endings to a football game I’ve ever seen. The Cody Fajardo scramble on second and 18. The Cole Spieker catch on third and five. The Tyson Philpot game-winning touchdown with 20 seconds left. I have chills just thinking about it.


We know an entire off-season has passed since that moment and we know that the teams are looking ahead at this season and not backwards at last. It’s also important to note that at the start of each season, the team that hits the field is quite different than the one who did the season before with plenty of personnel changes.

That being said, I still can’t help but think: if that late-November game was any indication, what drama is in store for us on Thursday?


Hamilton at Calgary | Friday, June 7 | 9:00 p.m. ET

Bo Levi Mitchell joined the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2023 but he and his team did not play a game in Calgary that season. That means this year, his second in Tiger-Town, will be the return to McMahon Stadium for Bo.

Mitchell played 10 seasons for the Stampeders, winning two Grey Cups with the team (2014 and 2018) and was named both games’ Most Valuable Player. He also was named the league’s Most Outstanding Player in 2016 and 2018.

Unsurprisingly, going back to the place where it all started means something for the 34-year-old signal caller, but he’s more-so looking forward to his team going 1-0.

“I’m pretty excited, it’s something I wanted to happen last year but the year of suspense I guess makes it just a little bit bigger,” Mitchell told the media after practice earlier this week.

“I have no ill feelings about anything that happened over there,” he continued. “So, if anything, I’m just excited to go play in front of the fans in a city I’ve played in a lot and I’m very familiar with, obviously. I’m just ready to go get my first win there.”


Saskatchewan at Edmonton | Saturday, June 8 | 4:00 p.m. ET

With adding AJ Ouellette to the mix this year, the Saskatchewan Roughriders are looking like a team ready to commit to running the football. After finishing the 2023 season second last in rush yards per game (84.4 yards per game), Ouellette is sure to help increase that number this season.

AJ Ouellette will look to help revitalize the Roughriders run game this season (Riderville.com)

Saskatchewan meets the Edmonton Elks in Week 1, a team that is looking to stop the run better than they did last season. Edmonton averaged 136.6 yards per game allowed last season, dead last in the CFL. (Just a note, Ouellette scored a trio of TDs against the Elks when Toronto visited Edmonton in Week 3 of last year.)

Keep an eye in the trenches and in the back field in this game on Saturday. How well will the Roughriders offensive line open up holes for Ouellette to burst through? Can the Elks front seven contain the Riders’ new bruising running back?


BC at Toronto | Sunday, June 9 | 7:00 p.m. ET

You’d have to look back to 2019 if you wanted to see the last time that the BC Lions won a game at BMO Field. There’s just something about the stadium on the lake in Southern Ontario that the Lions can’t seem to get in the win column lately.

BC’s last win in Toronto was a Week 4 contest that included a very-CFL moment as the Lions won the game on a rouge. Things were tied and Sergio Castillo booted his field goal that went wide left as the clock ran down to zero. Then-Argos returner Chris Rainey caught the ball in the end zone and as he planted his foot to return the ball, he stepped out of bounds. Rouge scored. Game over. Lions win 18-17.

The meetings in 2021, 2022 and 2023 all went in the Argos favour. 2021 saw Toronto punch their ticket to the playoffs with a 31-29 victory in overtime in a Week 13 meeting. In 2022, Toronto scored a late-game touchdown to take the lead, 23-20. The Lions’ looked to tie things up late in that one, but their field goal attempt hit off the upright (doinked, if you will) and Toronto walked away with the Week 18 victory.

Last season was the most lopsided game of the last few meetings with the Argos winning 45-24 in Week 4.

What does this year have in store? Can the Lions finally get a win at BMO or will Toronto keep their winning streak against the Leos alive?

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