The ALSternative

Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the Canadian Football League’s second season! The first stop on the road to the 102nd Grey Cup is Percival Molson Stadium where the Montreal Alouettes will host the BC Lions this Sunday at 1pm.

If you’re wonder why Vancouver’s football team is playing in Montreal, you can thank the CFL’s crossover rule which ensures that the best teams will compete in the playoffs. The fourth-place Western team (the Lions) come over to compete in the Eastern division’s second place team (the Alouettes).

The winner of this Sunday’s game will then go on to face the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the now sold-out Eastern Final at Tim Hortons Field on November 23rd. This Sunday’s Eastern Semi-Final game is still not sold out, so get your tickets now! I promise that the Canadiens aren’t playing at the same time, citizens of Montreal.

For the Alouettes, just making it to this playoff game is a vindication of sorts after the horrendous start to this 2014 season. Gone are the images of Troy Smith overthrowing his targets by 10 feet while Chad Johnson spends more time tweeting about parking tickets and eating at McDonald’s than he does catching footballs. No, that Alouettes team is dead and buried.

Replaced instead by a young dynamo with flowing locks under his helmet named Jonathan Crompton, who started this 2014 season fourth on the QB depth chart in Edmonton but quickly rose to #1 in the hearts of Alouettes Nation. Joining him is another incredible force named Duron Carter, who overcame injury woes early on to post an all-star season and all but ensure that one day, he’ll join his father Cris in being a superstar south of the border.

From an embarrassing 1-7 start to finishing up 9-9. Not quite the Cinderella ending for the Alouettes thanks to last week’s loss in Hamilton. But as many have said, it was perhaps better to lose this game and free this team of the potential added pressure that the 6 game winning streak had presented. The slate is wiped clean as each of the six teams in the playoffs now sport a 0-0 record.

Whatever happened in the regular season doesn’t amount to a hill of beans at this point. It’s truly win or go home.

———–

The general consensus throughout Alouettes practice this week is a sense of frustration in having to play this particular game. The players knew they had a golden opportunity to get the bye against Hamilton last week and it slipped through their fingers. But as Duron Carter said recently to some reporters, this will all help make for a memorable Grey Cup documentary. The energy level is going to be kicked into overdrive by the time Sunday’s game gets underway and for their sake, I hope that BC will be ready.

The Lions are coming into Sunday’s game with some questions of their own, as their regular season had several ups and down, also finishing the season with a 9-9 mark. The one question they don’t have is with their defense, who have played terrific football all season long. Solomon Elimimian has proven just how dangerous he can be, notching Western nominations for not only defensive player of the year, but most outstanding player as well.

Along with Adam Bighill, these two are going to do all they can to make Jonathan Crompton’s day a long and miserable one. Thankfully Crompton is playing behind one of the stingiest O-Lines in the CFL, not allowing their QB to get sacked very often. All that Canadian beef will give the young gunslinger the time he needs to connect with his playmakers like Duron Carter, S.J. Green and Brandon London.

BC will counter with their own offensive attack, but this week a new wrinkle has been added. Whereas the Lions have looked like geniuses by trading for Kevin Glenn at the 2014 CFL Draft, they have also given the green light for their marquee quarterback Travis Lulay to play even though he’s spent the better part of the season on the injured list. Will the Lions stick with Glenn throughout the entire game unless he gets hurt or will they try to rotate Lulay in for some snaps as well?

The run game will be a major question mark for both squads, as Andrew Harris is out for BC and Montreal’s Tyrell Sutton will be a game-time decision. Both teams have benefited tremendously from leaning on the run game at times, so both OCs Khari Jones and Ryan Dinwiddie better have something new up their sleeves for their quarterbacks.

Both teams have a dynamic defense along with an offense that if given the chance, will light you up. And both teams are missing stars that would have tilted the game in their favour. So this game will essentially come down to who will best be able to take care of the ball at crucial moments of the game. Not to mention whomever stays the most disciplined and wins the turnover battle will very likely be heading to the Hammer next Sunday.

This match has all the potential makings of a classic. If Montreal has one slight mental advantage, it’s that they are currently unbeaten versus the BC Lions when hosting a playoff game in the city of Montreal; One victory at Percival Molson Stadium and one at Olympic Stadium.

But recent history tends to favour the Grey Cup’s host city as well in the playoffs. It would definitely be the most unconventional way for the BC Lions to appear at a Grey Cup played in Vancouver, playing as the “Eastern” champion. Would the league allow them the use of their own locker room and facilities for the game, a very decided advantage? It would certainly be a very interesting take on the whole crossover scenario.

I had actually predicted a Montreal/BC Grey Cup to start the season. But I was expecting BC to find a way to win the West while I thought Montreal would win the East in a scrappy fashion. But here they are, meeting in the playoffs all the same.  Just not quite in the scenario that I was expecting.

So far ticket sales have not been strong despite the playoff implications and this being the last game played in Montreal for the 2014 season. I remain faithful that Alouettes Nation will brave the potential snowy conditions this weekend and sell out the stadium well before kickoff.

————

If you are attending the game Sunday, be sure to arrive early as Les Gars Qui Vivent are doing a special playoff version of their epic tailgate. This year’s theme will be a “cabane au sucre” to help get you in a wintery mindset. The BBQ will be fired up and ready to grill, so bring your grub and liquid refreshments to the blue tent on the eastern side of Mont-Royal Park.

And if you haven’t already, be sure to buy an Alouettes cheerleaders calendar as the proceeds from sales help get our favourite ladies to Vancouver for the Grey Cup!

That’s all for now. Be sure to follow along on Twitter and enjoy Sunday’s game, regardless of where you watch it.

GO ALS GO!!!