Schultz: No divisions would solve competitive imbalance

Chris Schultz
8/11/2014 9:06:15 AM
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Let's put it to a vote across Canada. With B.C., Edmonton and Calgary all winning, the competitive balance between the two divisions does not exist. Would it not be more interesting and easy to follow if there was a single group of nine teams?

I'm a traditionalist, as I do enjoy the East/West rivalries if both divisions are good at the top. But at 2-4, the East-leading Argonauts are the sixth best team in the CFL and the league standings should reflect that. If the playoffs were to start today, Hamilton, Ottawa and Montreal - all at 1-5 - would be out. The five West teams would all be in with one East team.


If two West teams are in the Grey Cup, I have no issues with that as long as they've earned it through the regular season and through the playoffs.

For me, one division of nine teams is more visually attractive and easier to follow. Yes, the bottom three will have concerns over ever being able to catch a playoff spot and there's a chance that by early October, a team or two would be out of the playoffs completely. Well, welcome to big boy football - where if you don't win, you lose your job. It's no different than any other chosen profession of pressure and performance. One division of nine teams gives exceptional clarity of who is good and who is not with a quick glance of the sports page. I like it!

And if you're a Roughriders fan, you have to like your team coming off a road win in Ottawa and a road win in Winnipeg. I didn't think they could continue the turnovers for a third game in a row. Next up is a home game against Montreal and 5-2 is quite realistic.

Two players stand out in Regina. John Chick is having a heck of a year. It is the combination of physical ability, polished technique and excellent effort that makes him excel. What will happen as we're closing in on midseason is that teams will design packages of protection to make sure he keeps his distance from quarterbacks. That's when you know you're good - when a tackle gets help from a running back or when a tight end is lined up beside the tackle. I look for Richie Hall to move Chick around pre-snap so what a team plans can be seen as the game progresses.

The other is Jerome Messam. With over 100 yards rushing in one half of football, he is a true power back with a unique level of elusiveness. And the time to shine is now. And this is the team to do it with because George Cortez will never abandon the run. From Anthony Allen to Hugh Charles, from Will Ford to Messam, there's a job dangling with the Riders for someone to take. With Canadian citizenship, ratio-buster Messam has the inside lane in a sprint to be the No. 1 guy.

In Montreal, it was Edmonton that controlled everything in their game. With three plays, 54 yards and a touchdown, the Eskies were ready to play - especially when you add 191 yards rushing.

On the other side, Troy Smith ran 65 plays so the contingency of coaches and advisors have a lot of good video to work with. Smith only completed 44 per cent of his passes but I counted five dropped passes which would have taken him over 50 per cent. And I could have found another five catchable footballs to take him to 60 per cent. I still think Smith can lead, perform, and most importantly improve this year and still make it a good year in Montreal. That late touchdown was so important to end the talk of going 52 offensive possessions without a touchdown. When that is embedded in your mind you press to get it out of the mind.

With Hamilton, the challenge is to keep confident at 1-5 and that can be tough to do. The Ticats have now lost four games they could have won and you use it that to learn and move on. With a home game against Calgary on Saturday afternoon, it does not get easier. But with a win, perception changes. In Vancouver, the Lions have won two close games and Kevin Glen threw for 400 yards. Many will want Travis Lulay back ASAP, but I would wait until Sept. 5 in Ottawa. It would become a nice 10-game season for Lulay and that little extra week or two helps him get back and be more productive. In the second half of the season, B.C. could be a very good team.

Which brings me to a not so good team in Ottawa.

The 38-17 loss on Saturday night was pure logic in real time. The battles are threefold in the nation's capital. First, beat the opponent every week. Second, don't beat yourself every week - which is as difficult to master as beating any opponent. And third, finding new talent to inject and perform for the team. The other eight teams have players that have been around a while and are dependable and consistent. The Redblacks have not played enough games to make that type of conclusion with the present roster, so they must continue to evaluate until the coaches' confidence builds up. They don't think they have an 18-game starter on their roster. They know it. It's a tough challenge because it can take two years to find 12 on offence and 12 on defence you really are solid in every way. No one said this was going to be easy. Success never is.

Chris Schultz

Chris Schultz


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