B.C. LIONS (12-5) at WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS (14-3)
Kickoff: Friday, 7:30 p.m. CDT, IG Field, Winnipeg
TV: TSN; ESPN+
Radio: 680 CJOB
Home/Road: The Blue Bombers are 7-1 at IG Field this year and 15-1 – including last year’s Western Final win over Saskatchewan – at home over the last two seasons. Dating back to the summer of 2018, Winnipeg is on a 27-2 run at home. The Lions are 6-2 on the road this season but are just 1-6 in their last seven visits to Winnipeg.
BetRegal.ca odds: The Blue Bombers are favoured by 3.5 points. For more of Bet Regal’s numbers on this game, click here.
Streaks: Winnipeg: 1L; B.C.: 2W.
Playoff picture: The Blue Bombers clinched first place in the West with a win over the Edmonton Elks back on October 8th, marking the first time the club has finished atop its division in consecutive seasons since capturing top spot in the East Division from 1992-94. The Lions are locked in to second place and will play host to their first home playoff game since 2016 when the Calgary Stampeders visit on November 6thfor the Western Semi-Final.
Joe Pop to the Ring: Blue Bombers Hall of fame receive Joe Poplawski will be introduced at halftime as the 14th addition to the club’s Ring of Honour. Read up on Poplawski’s career.
Celebrate: Friday is the Blue Bombers ‘Intercept Cancer’ game and 90’s Neon Night. Fans who want to download and print their Intercept Cancer Honouree card can click here.
- B.C. will start Nathan Rourke and he’ll reportedly play a quarter or so in his return from a foot injury. He is 9-2 in his 11 career starts 0-1 in his one career appearance against Winnipeg, coming earlier this season in a 43-22 loss at B.C. Place.
- Winnipeg lines up Zach Collaros behind centre. The CFL’s reigning MOP is 60-36-0 in his career and has a 31-4 record as a Blue Bombers starter, including back-to-back Grey Cup victories. He is 8-2 all-time in career games against the Lions.
Winnipeg: Mike O’Shea has a career won-lost record of 81-58. O’Shea’s 81 wins as a Blue Bombers head coach ranks third on the club’s all-time list, behind only Bud Grant (102) and Cal Murphy (86).
B.C.: Rick Campbell is 61-76-2 a head coach in the CFL and 6-10 vs. Winnipeg in the regular season.
Blue Roster Shuffle
The Bombers depth chart once again features significant changes from the loss to B.C. before the bye week.
Coming aboard are eight players, including five who were CFL All Stars in 2021 – defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, tackles Stanley Bryant and Jermarcus Hardrick, guard Pat Neufeld and defensive back Deatrick Nichols. The other three additions include receivers Drew Wolitarsky and Greg Ellingson along with safety Noah Hallett.
Off are SB Nic Demski, FB Konner Burtenshaw, OL Tyler Witt, OL Eric Lofton, OL Chris Kolankowski, DE DeJuan Cooper and DBs Evan Holm and Desmond Lawrence.
The secondary will see its 10th different combination of the season used with Winston Rose and rookie Tyrell Ford at corner, Deatrick Nichols and Jamal Parker at halfback and Brandon Alexander at safety.
To read more about the club’s success against the pass despite the changes, click here.
Take note: Winnipeg’s depth chart features a significant change at the linebacker position, with Shayne Gauthier starting at middle linebacker and Adam Bighill moving to the weak-side linebacker position.
“For us middle linebacker and the weak-side linebacker… it doesn’t make a lot of difference in our defence. He’ll play both,” said Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea. “It has to go on the paper (depth chart) somewhere. He’ll play both. Shayne, Malik (Clements)… you’re going to see all sorts of guys playing different spots.”
BLUE BOMBER SPOTLIGHT: CB Tyrell Ford
The Blue Bombers first pick in the 2022 CFL Draft, 13th overall, will make his first start at corner, replacing Desmond Lawrence, who has been moved to the one-game injured list. Ford came to Winnipeg after attending NFL mini camps with the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers after a stellar career at the University of Waterloo, where he doubled as a kick returner. He ran the fastest 40 at the 2022 CFL Draft Combine, with a 4.42 dash.
“I’m excited to get out there with the guys after working with them all season,” Ford said Thursday. “It’ll be nice to take on a bigger role and show them what I can do. It’s definitely a big step with it being my first start but at the end of the day it’s still football and I’ve got a good group of guys who are going to help me make it a lot easier.
“I feel like it would be easy to be overwhelmed, but you’ve also got to be confident in yourself and know what you can do. At the end of the day, you’re just playing football and I’ve been doing it since I was six years old.”
- A win by the Blue Bombers would be a franchise-best 15th in a single season. The 1960 Blue Bombers finished 14-2, while the 1993 and 2001 squads were 14-4.
- The Lions have secured second place in the West for just the fourth time in franchise history (also 1977, 1986 and 2016). In each of those three previous circumstances the Lions hosted the Blue Bombers – and beat them before subsequently losing in the Western Final.
- Across the CFL’s final weekend of the regular season there are no games with direct playoff consequences with all six playoff positions confirmed. That marks a first since 1996.
- Collaros (14-2) and Rourke (8-1) have a combined won-lost record of 22-3 for a winning percentage of .880. According to the CFL’s stats gurus only one game in CFL history has ever had a higher combined win percentage (minimum 15 games) and that came in October of 1966 when Hamilton’s Joe Zuger (7-1) met Ottawa’s Russ Jackson (10-1), for a combined win percentage of .895.
- Brady Oliveira needs 71 yards Friday to hit the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the first time in his young career. He currently ranks third in the CFL in rushing with 919 yards; Calgary’s Ka’Deem Carey is first at 1,088, while B.C.’s James Butler is second at 1,054. If he hits the 1K mark, Oliveira will become the fourth Canadian to accomplish the feat over the past decade along with Andrew Harris, Jerome Messam and Jon Cornish.
- Dalton Schoen has already set a Blue Bombers record for receiving TDs by a first-year player with 15 – a total that is third highest in CFL history for newcomers after David Williams (18 with B.C. in 1988) and Derrell Mitchell (17 with Toronto in 1997). Schoen leads the CFL in receiving yardage at 1,357 – just slightly ahead of Dominique Rhymes of the Lions at 1,346 – and he could become the first rookie to lead the league since Curtis Marsh had 1,560 yards for Saskatchewan in 2000.
Tip of the hat to Blue Bombers veteran FB Mike Miller, who was named Thursday as the club’s nominee for the prestigious Jake Gaudaur Veterans’ Award which ‘recognizes a Canadian CFL player who demonstrates the attributes of Canada’s veterans: strength, perseverance, courage, comradeship and contribution to Canadian communities.’
More on the award and each team’s nominee here.
“There’s always something at stake. It’s what you wake up for and what you’re doing this for. Just because something doesn’t mean anything on paper doesn’t mean it doesn’t mean anything at all. I’ll never look at it like that and that’s how bad things happen – when you think nothing is at stake. When we line up and they blow the whistle, we’re playing football.” – Blue Bombers defensive back Deatrick Nichols.|