Grab your seeds, seat cushions, and tune your voices folks! The Edmonton Eskimos and Saskatchewan Roughriders kickoff the 2008 season at odds with one another. This edition promises to be a brutally physical contest with players on both sides, still trying to earn the respect of teammates and coaches. The contest commences Saturday night at 5:30 CST, on Taylor Field at Mosaic Stadium, in Regina. The days forecasted high is 28 degrees celsius. Sorry fans, no power outage likely.
Here's how these teams stack up entering the contest:
Defensive Line: The defensive lines do not actually stack up against one another. Otherwise the Eskimos would be the best. But the Saskatchewan D-line manhandled the Eskimo O-line at times in pre-season action last week, minus two starters. The Eskimos starting D-line also fared well against the Rider O-line, but the Rider O-line was also short three starters. All said and done,ADVANTAGE RIDERS.
Linebackers & Defensive Backfield: The Eskimos might be the class of the league in these two facets of the game, though their lack of depth at linebacker may come into question at some point in an 18 game season. Of note, the Eskimos added Jordan Younger in the off-season, who while currently on top of his game, isn't getting any younger. The Riders are an unproven entity here. Major changes may mean major issues occasionally. With the continuity factor of Ritchie Hall still coaching and solid play from Anton McKenzie, Airabin Justin and Omarr Morgan this team could improve. It's tight, ADVANTAGE ESKIMOS.
Offense: The Eskimos looked pretty darn good last week. As they should have. They started incumbent QB Ricky Ray, their projected starting tailback Damien Anderson and each of their starting receivers saw action. The Riders did not. The most production in the Rider offense last week was from Regina Thunder(CJFL)grad Stu Foorde, who will not likely take the field this week in favor of last years starter, Wes Cates. This will be the first of many tests for Marcus Crandell, as patient head coach Ken Miller said, "he's not likely to get the hook at any time in this game." Despite a noticeable difference at receiver in Saskatchewan's favor, I'll say it's close again, ADVANTAGE ESKIMOS.
Special Teams: A lot of Canadians play on the special teams units. The squad with the best Canadian players traditionally wins this battle. I'd love to say that honor goes to the Eskimos to end the debate and score it 3-1 Esks'. I can't do that. I would be lying, not only to myself, but you. You deserve to know that the club deemed with the best Canadian talent prior to seasons kickoff, will typically make the strongest push for, and often win, the Grey Cup. No need to even mention who they are, ADVANTAGE RIDERS.
X-FACTORS: Edmonton, CB J. Buhl Riders, DL/LB Kitwana Jones.
Wherever you are in Canada, watch our uniquely Canadian institution this weekend with friends and family. Enjoy!!!
- Kelly Bundle