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Calgary Stampeders can clinch first in West Division with win over Riders

Calgary Stampeders' Jamar Wall (29) and Keon Raymond (25) celebrate a touchdown against the Edmonton Eskimos during first half action in Edmonton, Alta., on Friday October 18, 2013. It's a clash between the CFL's two hottest teams with top spot in the West Division on the line.The Stampeders (13-3) host the Saskatchewan Roughriders (11-5) on Saturday needing a win or tie to clinch first and home-field advantage for the division final Nov. 17.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
October 23, 2013 - 6:00 AM

It's a clash between the CFL's two hottest teams with top spot in the West Division on the line.

The Calgary Stampeders (13-3) host the Saskatchewan Roughriders (11-5) on Saturday needing a win or tie to clinch first and home-field advantage for the division final Nov. 17. The Riders can finish no worse than second but need the victory to keep their first-place hopes alive.

However, the Riders will need help. They must beat Calgary, have B.C. defeat the Stampeders Nov. 1 and then dispatch Edmonton on Nov. 2 to finish first.

Saturday's showdown has plenty of interesting sub-plots.

Most notably, it features the CFL's top two rushers in Calgary's Jon Cornish (1,690 yards) and Saskatchewan's Kory Sheets (1,556). Sheets opened the season by running for 100-plus yards in six straight games and seven of Saskatchewan's first eight (for 1,058 yards overall) before missing three contests with a knee injury.

Cornish took the CFL rushing lead with Sheets on the sidelines and hasn't looked back. The New Westminster, B.C., native needs 376 yards over Calgary's final two games to break Mike Pringle's single-season record of 2,065 yards.

Cornish requires 207 yards to break Willie Burden's club record of 1,896 yards (set in 1975) and 310 to become the first Canadian — and second CFL player ever — to reach 2,000 rushing yards in a season.

Recently, Sheets said he was a better back than Cornish. When told, the CFL's top Canadian last year took the moral high ground and only praised Sheets' ability.

However, Cornish's numbers speak for themselves.

He has achieved his rushing total on 234 carries, averaging 7.2 yards per attempt. Sheets has a league-high 276 rushes and 5.6-yard average.

Cornish also has 40 catches for 332 yards and two TDs while Sheets has 35 receptions for 266 yards.

Not surprisingly, Calgary and Saskatchewan are ranked 1-2 in CFL rushing. The Stamps are averaging 145.3 yards per game with Saskatchewan next at 129.

They're also ranked 1-2 in CFL scoring, fewest sacks allowed and fewest points allowed. Calgary comes in having won four straight while Saskatchewan has claimed three consecutive victories.

The Stampeders also have a league-high 54 sacks with the Riders and Montreal tied for second, three behind. Calgary's Charleston Hughes and Saskatchewan's Alex Hall are tied for the CFL lead with 15 sacks each.

Calgary and Saskatchewan have split their head-to-head meetings this year, with the home team winning each time. The Riders are 5-3 on the road but the Stampeders counter with a league-best 7-1 home record.

Pick — Calgary.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Toronto Argonauts on Thursday night.

Toronto (10-6) can clinch first in the East with a victory but was tooth-and-nail to beat Winnipeg 26-20 last weekend. Ricky Ray was 21-of-35 passing for 246 yards with a TD and interception, just his second this season.

The Argos are a CFL-best 7-2 on the road this season but will be at Rogers Centre, where they're just 3-4 this year.

Then again, Winnipeg (3-13) is a league-worst 2-6 on the road.

Max Hall finished 30-of-50 passing for 385 yards with a TD, interception and lost fumble for Winnipeg. Former NFL star Mike Sims-Walker registered eight catches for 137 yards (both game highs).

A positive sign for Toronto was kicker Swayze Waters hitting all four field goals he tried, even if his two longest boots were from 37 yards out. This season Waters has made 14-of-21 attempts (66.7 per cent).

Pick — Toronto.

Edmonton Eskimos at B.C. Lions on Friday night.

The Lions (9-5) will finish third in the West Division and open the playoffs in either Calgary or Regina. It's crucial they gain some much-needed momentum heading into the post-season.

There's also erasing the bitter memory of last weekend's 35-14 loss to Saskatchewan. B.C. committed eight turnovers, including four interceptions by quarterback Thomas DeMarco, who also lost a fumble.

Stefan Logan ran for 51 yards on 11 carries in his first game back with B.C. but also lost a fumble. Nick Moore added five catches for 73 yards and a TD.

Edmonton has dropped four straight since sweeping a home-and-home series with Winnipeg. Quarterback Mike Reilly was 18-of-34 passing for 247 yards with a TD and interception in last weekend's 27-13 loss to Calgary as Cornish ran for 145 yards against an Eskimos defence allowing a league-high 138 yards rushing per game.

B.C. is 2-0 against Edmonton but the two teams haven't met since July 20.

Pick — B.C.

Montreal Alouettes versus Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Guelph, Ont., on Saturday.

The Ticats (8-8) are tough to figure out. They sweep a home-and-home series with Toronto then drop a lopsided 36-5 road loss to Montreal (7-9) as newcomer Troy Smith was 17-of-35 passing for 247 yards and three TDs.

Hamilton can clinch the season series and a home playoff game with a win. Despite last weekend's loss, the Ticats are 6-2 within the East Division.

Hamilton starter Henry Burris will look to bounce back after completing 11-of-23 passes for 106 yards and an interception against Montreal. The veteran quarterback has a CFL-high 4,629 passing yards.

Having a full week to prepare for Smith, a former Heisman Trophy winner, should help the Ticats' defence. Offensively, Hamilton must account for Alouettes linebacker Chip Cox, who has a CFL-best 104 tackles and recorded two sacks last weekend.

Cox also has eight sacks and four interceptios to anchor a solid Montreal defence that's tops in fewest yards (317 per game) and rushing yards allowed (83 yards) and tied for second in sacks (51). Other noteworthy contributors are defensive back Geoff Tisdale (CFL-high six interceptions) and defensive lineman John Bowman (team-high 11 sacks).

Pick — Montreal.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2013
The Canadian Press

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