U Sports weekend watch (11): Conference semifinals set for Saturday

Fifteen teams are still in contention for the 54th Vanier Cup, presented by Promutuel Insurance as the U SPORTS football schedule has now reached the conference semifinal stage.

The reigning national champion and top-ranked Western Mustangs (OUA) are one of four teams kicking off the defence of their conference titles on Saturday, along with the No. 2 Laval Rouge et Or (RSEQ), No. 3 Calgary Dinos (Canada West) and No. 10 Acadia Axemen (AUS).

While Western, Laval and Calgary all went undefeated in the regular season, Acadia settled for third place in the AUS and the Axemen must now win back-to-back road games in order to once again represent Atlantic Canada on the national stage.

Riding an impressive 20-game overall winning streak since the start of the 2017 campaign, Western opens the playoffs at home against Carleton, a team that pushed the Mustangs to overtime in their OUA opener, back on Aug. 26 in Ottawa.

Here is a game-by-game look at Saturday’s conference semifinals as well as a detailed schedule, including all television broadcast and webcast info.


No. 8 Carleton (5-3 / 1-0 playoffs) at No. 1 Western (8-0)

  • 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT
  • Rogers TV (tape delay) & OUA.TV

Last week (Carleton): 30-25 home win vs. McMaster (OUA quarter-final)… Last week (Western): Bye… 2018 head-to-head matchup: Western 26, Carleton 23 in OT (Aug. 26 at Carleton)… In a nutshell: In the regular-season opener for both teams on Aug. 26, Western had to overcome a 20-3 halftime deficit en route to an 26-23 overtime win… The Mustangs, who have qualified for the playoffs every year since 1984, are riding a 20-game overall winning streak since the start of the 2017 campaign, five shy of Laval’s U SPORTS record (2012 to 2014)… Carleton missed the playoffs last fall following back-to-back OUA semifinal appearances in 2015 and 2016… In their 30-25 quarter-final win over McMaster last Saturday, the Ravens led 30-5 five minutes into the third quarter and then held off a furious Marauders’ comeback… Key regular-season stats (Carleton): The Ravens’ defence had a U SPORTS-best 24 sacks and also led the country in tackles per game (56.4)… Key regular-season stats (Western): The Mustangs led the country in scoring for the fourth straight year (48.0 points per game) and were the nation’s top rushing team for the second consecutive season (274.6 yards per game).

No. 6 Guelph (5-3 / 1-0 playoffs) at No. 5 Ottawa (6-2)

Last week (Guelph): 45-34 home win vs. Waterloo (OUA quarter-final)… Last week (Ottawa): Bye… 2018 head-to-head matchup: Ottawa 12, Guelph 10 (Sept. 8 at Ottawa)… In a nutshell: The two teams are set to meet in the nation’s capital for the third time in just over a year, as the Gryphons upset the Gee-Gees 30-8 in the first round of the 2017 playoffs (quarter-finals) while Ottawa prevailed 12-10 earlier this fall (Week 3)… Guelph is making its sixth OUA Final Four appearance in seven years, a run that includes a Yates Cup triumph in 2015… Ottawa is looking for its first post-season win since 2014, when the Gee-Gees downed Windsor 46-29 in the quarter-finals before dropping a 42-31 decision to McMaster in the semis… In their playoff opener last Saturday, a wild 45-34 victory over Waterloo, the Gryphons racked up 524 yards of offence but allowed 553 to their visitors… Key regular-season stats (Guelph): The Gryphons’ defence ranked second in the country in sacks (23), second in touchdowns scored (4) and third in interceptions (11)… Key regular-season stats (Ottawa): The Gee-Gees had 17 interceptions, five more than any other U SPORTS defensive unit.


Sherbrooke (2-6) at No. 2 Laval (8-0)

  • 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT

Last week (Sherbrooke): 28-21 home win vs. Concordia… Last week (Laval): Bye… 2018 head-to-head matchups: Laval 14, Sherbrooke 1 (Aug. 24 at Sherbrooke) / Laval 53, Sherbrooke 0 (Oct. 21 at Laval)… In a nutshell: With a pair of head-to-head wins earlier this fall, Laval improved to 30-0 overall against Sherbrooke since the Vert & Or returned to university football in 2003… The Rouge et Or have won all five previous playoff matchups – all in Quebec City – including 45-0 in last year’s semifinals, 32-11 in 2013 (semifinal), 40-17 in 2012 (Dunsmore Cup), 22-17 in 2010 (Dunsmore Cup) and 72-14 in 2005 (semifinal)… Laval is making its 21st straight playoff appearance and has won at least one post-season round every year over that period with the exception of 2002, when the Rouge et Or were upset 29-21 by Concordia in the conference semis… Making its eighth trip to the playoffs in nine years, Sherbrooke is looking for its first post-season win since 2012, when the Vert & Or upset Montreal 42-24 to advance to the Dunsmore Cup for the second time in program history… Key regular-season stats (Sherbrooke): The Vert & Or were one of only two teams across the country (with Guelph) to amass more rushing than passing yards and their percentage of total yards gained on the ground (64.1) was tops in the nation… Key regular-season stats (Laval): The Rouge et Or’s defence ranked first in the country in total yards (192.3), passing yards (123.9) and rushing yards (68.4) allowed per game, while also finishing second in points conceded per contest (6.8).

McGill (2-6) at No. 4 Montreal (6-2)

  • 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT
  • TVA Sports

Last week (McGill): 16-0 home loss vs. Montreal… Last week (Montreal): 16-0 road win vs. McGill… 2018 head-to-head matchups: Montreal 33, McGill 0 (Aug. 24 at Montreal) / Montreal 16, McGill 0 (Oct. 27 at McGill)… In a nutshell: Montreal is riding a 24-game overall winning streak against McGill dating back to a pair of shutout losses in 2002, when the Carabins returned to university football after a three-decade hiatus… The Carabins blanked the Redmen in both regular-season meetings this fall, holding their cross-town rivals to 105 yards of offence on Aug. 24 and to 53 yards last Saturday… The Carabins advanced to the Dunsmore Cup final each of the past five seasons – all against Laval – and claimed back-to-back conference banners in 2014, when they went on to capture their first Vanier Cup title, and 2015… McGill is looking for its first playoff win since 2002, when the Redmen edged Concordia 10-6 in the Dunsmore Cup championship match before dropping a 22-0 decision to Saskatchewan in the Mitchell Bowl… Key regular-season stats (McGill): The Redmen’s defence tied for the U SPORTS lead with 11 fumble recoveries and tied for second with 23 sacks… Key regular-season stats (Montreal): The Carabins’ defence led the country and set a single-season RSEQ record with only 46 points allowed in eight games and ranked second in the nation in total yards (200.8), passing yards (128.5) and rushing yards (72.3) allowed per contest.


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Manitoba (3-5) at No. 3 Calgary (8-0)

  • 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT
  • SaskTel maxTV, TELUS Optik TV, Bell MTS &CanadaWest.TV

Last week (Manitoba): 38-34 home loss in OT vs. UBC… Last week (Calgary): 52-6 road win vs. Alberta… 2018 head-to-head matchup: Calgary 34, Manitoba 16 (Oct. 12 at Calgary)… In a nutshell: Making their 12th straight playoff appearance, the Dinos are looking to advance to the Hardy Cup final for the 11th consecutive year, having claimed eight of the past 10 Canada West titles… The Bisons return to the post-season after a two-year absence looking for their first playoff win since 2014, when they upset Calgary 27-15 in the Hardy Cup final at McMahon Stadium before losing to Montreal in the Uteck Bowl… Calgary has won all six head-to-head matchups since that 2014 Hardy Cup loss, including a 34-16 win at McMahon Stadium three weeks ago, when the Dinos took a 34-1 lead into the fourth quarter… Key regular-season stats (Manitoba): With 301.3 passing yards per game, the Bisons ranked seventh in the country but had to settle for fourth best in the high-flying Canada West conference… Key regular-season stats (Calgary): Led by Adam Sinagra, who set a single-season U SPORTS record with 3,233 passing yards in eight games, the Dinos averaged 433.1 yards through the air per contest, 71 more than second-best Waterloo.

No. 7 Saskatchewan (5-3) at No. 9 UBC (5-3)

  • 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT
  • SaskTel maxTV, TELUS Optik TV, Bell MTS &CanadaWest.TV

Last week (Saskatchewan): 57-14 road win vs. Regina… Last week (UBC): 38-34 road win in OT vs. Manitoba… 2018 head-to-head matchup: UBC 20, Saskatchewan 10 (Oct. 12 at UBC)… In a nutshell: UBC has played in the Hardy Cup final each of the past three years, every time against Calgary, including a magical run in 2015 that culminated with the Thunderbirds’ first Vanier Cup triumph since 1997… After missing the playoffs a year ago for the first time since 2001, Saskatchewan is now looking for its first post-season win since 2009, when the Huskies crushed Regina 53-23 in the Canada West semifinals before dropping a 39-38 heartbreaker on home turf against Calgary in the Hardy Cup championship game… UBC has won three straight against Saskatchewan since a 40-10 loss in Saskatoon in 2016, including a 20-10 decision three weeks ago in Vancouver, when the T-Birds’ defence dominated with four interceptions… Key regular-season stats (Saskatchewan): The Huskies topped Canada West and ranked second in U SPORTS (behind Western) with 26.6 first downs per game… Key regular-season stats (UBC): The Thunderbirds’ 318 pass attempts (39.75 per game) ranked second in the country behind York’s 325 and resulted in UBC placing third in the nation in passing yards (335.6 per contest).


No. 10 Acadia (5-3) at StFX (6-2)

  • 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT
  • Bell Aliant Fibe TV1 & AUStv.ca

Last week (Acadia): 31-2 home win vs. Saint Mary’s… Last week (StFX): 38-15 home win vs. Mount Allison… 2018 head-to-head matchups: StFX 30, Acadia 24 in OT (Aug. 31 at StFX) / StFX 33, Acadia 30 (Oct. 5 at Acadia)… In a nutshell: Acadia (2017) and StFX (2016 & 2015) have combined to win the past three AUS titles… The old rivals last met in the playoffs in the 2015 semifinal round, when the X-Men prevailed 26-4 on home turf… StFX swept the two-game head-to-head series this season but both contests went down to the wire, with the X-Men coming up with last-minute magic on both occasions… On Aug. 31, StFX prevailed 30-24 in overtime thanks to TD runs by star running back Jordan Socholotiuk with 40 seconds left in regulation and quarterback Bailey Wasdal in extra time, while on Oct. 5, Keiran Burnham kicked a 46-yard field goal with 44 seconds left and a 41-yarder as time expired to turn a 30-27 deficit into a thrilling 33-30 victory… The winner of Saturday’s duel will travels to Halifax on Nov. 10 to face Saint Mary’s in the Jewett Trophy final… Key regular-season stats (Acadia): The Axemen were the top rushing team in the AUS and the third-best in the country with 186.9 yards per game… Key regular-season stats (StFX): The X-Men’s rushing attack finished right behind Acadia’s with 178.4 yards per contest, good for second in the Atlantic conference and fourth in the nation.

About the Vanier Cup, presented by Promutuel Insurance

The Vanier Cup, the championship game for Canadian university football, is one of the country’s most storied sporting events. The first national championship game, then called the Canadian College Bowl, was won by Laval University of on Nov. 20, 1965. Two years later, a playoff system was instituted by the governing body for Canadian university sport. The title contest became the Vanier Cup in 1982, named in honour of Canada’s first Governor General, Georges Vanier.

Sportsnet and TVA Sports are once again the official broadcasters of the U SPORTS football semifinals and final in 2018… The Mitchell Bowl (CW at OUA) and Uteck Bowl (AUS at RSEQ) are set for Saturday, Nov. 17, while the Vanier Cup, presented by Promutuel Insurance, follows on Saturday, Nov. 24 at TELUS-UL Stadium in Quebec City… For all the information on the 54th Vanier Cup, presented by Promutuel Insurance (including tickets) click here.

Source: usports.ca

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