With 2009 being considered a year with a lack of talent in the CFL, the league sure has had it's fair share of intresting games and last minute victories. One team that has had more than enough of these is the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The Riders have had many games that have come down right to the wire including two straight over time games against the Calgary Stampeders and British Columbia Lions in which they went 1-0-1. The Riders have gone through many tough battles on their way to first place in the CFL's Western Division.
Quarterback Darian Durant has gone through a lot this year with the Riders. Most of the season, fans as well as sports writers had been saying Durant was not ready to be a starting quarterback in the CFL, boy were they wrong. Coming on especially at the end of the year, Durant was the Roughriders' Most Outstanding Player nominee and many people felt he should have won the Western Division MOP, but that went to Calgary tail back Joffrey Reynolds who lead the league in rushing yards. At this point in the season, many consider Durant to be the best quarterback in the Western Division and a big reason for why they have the best chance at winning the Grey Cup.
Although Durant has slightly less yards and more interceptions than both Henry Burris and Ricky Ray, Durant has come on time and time again down the stretch in tight games and must win situations where he managed to capture first place in the Western Division. In the second half of the season, Durant had 12 touchdown passes, 9 interceptions and 2269 passing yards. Burris had 1916 passing yards, 8 touchdown passes and 9 interceptions. Eskimos quarterback Ricky Ray had 2244 passing yards, 10 touchdowns passes and 4 interceptions. Although the season stats of Durant are not as good as Burris or Ray, in the second half of the season he has outplayed Ray and heavily outplayed Burris.
The biggest reason Saskatchewan is the Grey Cup favorite coming out of the West is due to the fact that they only have to win one game to get there. Since the Riders are first place in the West, they have a first round playoff bye and will have home field advantage while playing the winner of the Western Conference semi-final. Whether it is Edmonton or Calgary, either team will have a lot of trouble hearing plays and signals in Mosaic Stadium due to the roaring croud of Saskatchewan.
Even though Montreal has been the best team in the CFL so far this season, I would not count out Saskatchewan to beat them should they meet in the Grey Cup. The Grey Cup is in Calgary this year which means should the Riders be there, at least eighty percent of the fans will be cheering for the Riders considering how close Calgary is to Saskatchewan and how many Rider fans live in Alberta. Also, Saskatchewan finished the season hot and firing on all cylinders while the Alouettes finished the season knowing they had first place locked up and resting Anthony Calvillo.
There are many things the Riders will need to do to win the Grey Cup. Darian Durant has to the effecient touchdown passing quarterback we have seen and not the one who throws interceptions on little dump passes and weak short throws. Also, the running game will be a big factor. Wes Cates was the only starting tail back in the league this year to not rush for 1000 yards. To be the best team by the end of the season, he will need to step up his game, as well as the Rider defense will need to shut down the opposing teams' running backs. Should these things happen, I believe the Saskatchewan Roughriders will be 2009 Grey Cup champions.