U SPORTS Weekend Watch (11): 15 teams still standing heading into conference semifinals

Fifteen teams are still in contention for the 53rd Vanier Cup as the U SPORTS football schedule has now reached the conference semifinal stage.

Highlighting Saturday’s program are the top-ranked Laval Rouge et Or (7-1) hosting Sherbrooke (2-6) in Quebec City at 1 p.m. Eastern Time to open the defence of their 2016 national title.

Here is a game-by-game look at all Week 11 matchups.

BYE

No. 10 Acadia (6-2): Will host AUS final on Nov. 11.

SATURDAY (conference semifinals)

Sherbrooke (2-6) at No. 1 Laval (7-1)

The skinny: After finishing first in the RSEQ standings for the 12th time in 13 years, defending Vanier Cup champion Laval is making its 20th 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 semifinals (note: following the 2001 season, Laval forfeited two conference playoff wins after reaching the Atlantic Bowl)… Sherbrooke returns to the playoffs after a one-year absence and makes its seventh post-season appearance in eight years… Laval is 26-0 overall against Sherbrooke since the Vert & Or returned to university football in 2003, including 40-5 (home) and 46-15 (away) triumphs this season… In four previous playoff matchups – all in Quebec City – the Rouge et Or prevailed 32-11 in 2013 (semifinal), 40-17 in 2012 (Dunsmore Cup), 22-17 in 2010 (Dunsmore Cup) and 72-14 in 2005 (semifinal)… Key Stats (Laval): The Rouge et Or defence finished first in the nation in points allowed (9.6 per game) and also ranked second in total yards allowed (304.8 per game), second against the run (99.4) and fourth against the pass (205.4)… Keep Stats (Sherbrooke): The Vert & Or ranked 25th in the country in points scored (17.4 per game) and 26th in overall offence (292.8 yards per game).

No. 8 Guelph (6-3) at No. 2 Western (8-0)

The skinny: Western was the only undefeated team in the country during the regular season and has now qualified for the playoffs every year since 1984… Guelph, which opened the 2017 post-season last Saturday with a 30-8 quarter-final win at Ottawa, is making its sixth straight playoff appearance… The Mustangs have won 10 of 16 previous playoff confrontations but the Gryphons have taken the last two in 2015 (23-17 Yates Cup win at London) and 2014 (51-26 semifinal win at Guelph)… Guelph was Western’s toughest opponent in the 2017 regular season – on Sept. 4 in London – as the Mustangs had to erase a fourth-quarter deficit en route to a 41-34 overtime victory… Key Stats (Western): The Mustangs’ offence ranked first in the country during the regular season in points scored (48.3 per game), total yards (608.5) and rushing (309.9)… Key Stats (Guelph): Kicker Gabriel Ferraro set a single-season U SPORTS this fall with 33 field goals in eight league games – including a 4-for-4 performance against Western – and was 5-of-6 in last Saturday’s quarter-final win over Ottawa.

Concordia (3-4) at No. 3 Montreal (6-1)

The skinny: Montreal has made the playoffs every year since going 0-8 in its return to university football in 2002, including appearances in the RSEQ final each of the past four seasons… Concordia’s last eight post-season runs have ended with losses to Laval, including five times in the semifinals (2016, 2015, 2014, 2011, 2009) and three times in the Dunsmore Cup final (2008, 2007, 2006)… Montreal and Concordia have battled in the playoffs on three previous occasions, all in the semifinal round, with the home team prevailing in 2006 (Concordia 23-3), 2005 (Montreal 28-17) and 2003 (Concordia 35-8)… The Carabins have already defeated their crosstown rivals once this season, winning 37-19 on the road in their opener back on Aug. 25… Key Stats (Montreal): The Carabins defence ranked first in the nation against the run in league play (75.3 yards per game)… Key Stats (Concordia): Jean-Guy Rimpel was the only RSEQ running back to average over 100 rushing yards per game in conference play (101.1) but he was held to 42 yards on 14 carries against Montreal on Aug. 25.

Alberta (3-5) at No. 4 Calgary (7-1)

The skinny: The provincial rivals will battle at McMahon Stadium for the second straight week as the Golden Bears crushed the previously undefeated Dinos – who rested a number of veteran players – 53-3 last Saturday to put an end to a decade-long losing streak on the field against Calgary and, more importantly, secure their first post-season berth since 2010… The old foes had also met in their 2017 conference opener on Sept. 1st in Edmonton, where Calgary prevailed 55-26… Making their 11th straight playoff appearance, the defending Canada West champion Dinos are looking to advance to the Hardy Cup final for the 10th consecutive year… Calgary leads the all-time head-to-head playoff series 4-2 (3-0 at home), including a resounding 56-3 Hardy Cup triumph at McMahon Stadium in the most recent post-season confrontation in 2010… Key Stats (Calgary): Despite posting only three points in their regular season finale, the Dinos topped Canada West and ranked second in the country in both points scored (42.5 per game) and passing yards (347.6)… Key Stats (Alberta): The Bears topped Canada West and ranked second in the country in both total offence (517.8 yards per game) and rushing (221.1) but their defence finished last in the nation against the pass (337.4).

No. 7 McMaster (7-2) at No. 5 Laurier (6-2)

The skinny: Defending Yates Cup champion Laurier is making its fourth straight playoff appearance and its 14th in 15 years (missed 2013)… McMaster kicked off its 20th consecutive post-season run last Saturday with a 12-9 quarter-final win on home turf against Queen’s… The Golden Hawks are riding a three-game overall winning streak over the Marauders, including 40-15 in their 2017 conference finale on Oct. 21 (home), 21-19 in last year’s OUA semifinals (home) and 29-15 in the 2015 quarter-finals (away)… Laurier has also won the last five playoff confrontations since 2004 and is 7-3 all-time versus McMaster in the post-season… Key Stats (Laurier): The Hawks were the third-highest scoring team in the country in conference play (38.5 points per game) and their defence finished second in sacks (27)… Key Stats (McMaster): The Marauders’ defence ranked among the national leaders in most key categories in league play, including first in both yards (277.4) and passing yards (185.6) allowed per game, fourth in points allowed (14.4) and seventh against the run (120.9).

No. 9 Regina (4-4) at No. 6 UBC (6-2)

The skinny: Regina opened the regular season with a 36-20 home win over UBC back on Sept. 1st, but the Thunderbirds dominated last Saturday’s rematch in Vancouver 44-15 to earn home-field advantage over the Rams in the first round of the Canada West playoffs… The two programs also met in last year’s conference semifinals – marking their first-ever post-season encounter – as fourth-place UBC upset first-place Regina 40-34 to advance to the Hardy Cup final for the second consecutive season… Looking for their first playoff victory since 2012, the Rams captured their lone Canada West title in their second season in the league back in 2000, when they were seeded third with a 4-4 record… Key Stats (UBC): The Thunderbirds’ defence finished first in Canada West in most major statistical categories, including points allowed (21.5 per game), total defence (393.0 yards per game), against the run (119.6), against the pass (273.4) and interceptions (13)… Key Stats (Regina): Behind another solid season from Hec Crighton-winning quarterback Noah Picton, the Rams’ passing attack was the third best in the nation in league play (325.1 yards per game) but Regina was often hurt by penalties this fall, being called for a U SPORTS-high 140.4 yards per contest.

StFX (4-4) at Saint Mary’s (5-3)

The skinny: Saint Mary’s, the most successful program in AUS football history with 23 conference titles since 1960, returns to the playoffs for the first time since 2013 and is looking for its first post-season win since a semifinal victory in 2012… Reigning two-time conference champion StFX is making its fourth straight playoff appearance and is looking to reach the Loney Bowl final for the fourth year in a row… The old rivals haven’t met in the post-season since a 25-2 Saint Mary’s semifinal win in 2011… This season, the Huskies won both head-to-head matchups on the field, 38-23 in Halifax on Aug. 25 and 22-21 in Antigonish on Sept. 30, but they later forfeited their first triumph due to the use of an ineligible player… Key Stats (Saint Mary’s): The Huskies’ defence led the country in league play with 16 interceptions, while their offence ranked first in the AUS in points (30.9 per game), total yards (474.6) and passing yards (316.6)… Key Stats (StFX): The X-Men were the most disciplined team in the nation in the regular season averaging only 7.8 flags and 62.8 penalty yards per contest.

WEEK 11 SCHEDULE

November 4 (conference semifinals)

  • AUS: StFX (4-4) at Saint Mary’s (5-3), 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT (Bell Aliant Fibe TV1 & AUStv.ca)
  • OUA: No. 8 Guelph (6-3) at No. 2 Western (8-0), 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT (Rogers TV & OUA.TV)
  • OUA: No. 7 McMaster (7-2) at No. 5 Laurier (6-2), 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT (OUA.TV)
  • RSEQ: Sherbrooke (2-6) at No. 1 Laval (7-1), 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT
  • RSEQ: Concordia (3-4) at No. 3 Montreal (6-1), 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT (TVA Sports)
  • CW: Alberta (3-5) at No. 4 Calgary (7-1), 3 p.m. ET/noon PT (Sasktel maxTV, TELUS Optik TV, Bell MTS & CanadaWest.TV)
  • CW: No. 9 Regina (4-4) at No. 6 UBC (6-2), 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT (Sasktel maxTV, TELUS Optik TV, Bell MTS & CanadaWest.TV)

Source: U Sports

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