There seems to be one thing that pretty much everyone agrees on this season – the Western Mustangs are the favourite to win the OUA. I’m not going to dispute that. For the Gryphons I think that makes the regular season largely about positioning themselves in a place where they can upset the favoured Purple Ponies in the playoffs. Historically that is something the Gryphons did several times in the 1980s & 1990s.
There are two aspects to that. First, the team will need to develop and grow over the course of the season. Some of the young players that are being counted on will need to be playing like vets come playoff time. The various units and the team as a whole will need to develop chemistry. And momentum. Second, earning a home playoff bye could be big. Whether Guelph beats Mac tomorrow or not there will likely be a semi-final re-match in early November. I’d much prefer that game be at Alumni Stadium.
I already gave away some of my thoughts on the order of finish in the OUA in this post yesterday so let me just lay it out. I see three upper tier teams with the potential to win the Yates Cup – Western, Guelph and McMaster. [As I already acknowledged UWO is a heavy favourite.] Next, in the middle tier are four teams capable of making the playoffs – Windsor, Queen’s, Ottawa and Laurier. Finally, the lower tier is made up of Toronto, York, Waterloo and Carleton.
I really hope there are some upsets in the OUA this season. That, perhaps, one of those lower or middle tier teams will pull off an upset or two and put together a “dream” season. Sort of like Guelph going from 2-6 to 7-1 in one year. In my opinion, if there is a Cinderella this year it may be Windsor. Not that I think they have a chance of going 7-1 but I could see them potentially hosting a quarter-final. Perhaps their key game of the year is tomorrow versus Queen’s. Were the Lancers to win, it would change how many people perceive the OUA race. The Lancers will play another of their “most important” games just five days later at Laurier.
Guelph versus McMaster is similar in that it could determine playoff positioning on the opening day of the season. I think the winner tomorrow likely finishes 7-1 and the loser will be 6-2. When I say that, I’m not saying that I don’t think Guelph can beat Western. I do think they have a chance of doing it. A better chance than most people give them. And a better chance than anyone else in the conference.
In 2012 I acknowledged that there was a game on the Guelph schedule that they had virtually no chance of winning – i.e. the season opener at McMaster. I won’t do that this year. That’s not to say that Western doesn’t have the potential to be even better than the 2012 Mac squad. It’s more about the potential of this Guelph team in my opinion. We’ll have to wait until the games are played to know how it will work out but I’m not willing to concede this team has any “unwinnable games”.
What the OUA really needs are lots of competitive games in 2014. It would be nice to have a repeat of 2012(?) when not a single team went 0-8. There is too wide a disparity in talent between teams for there not to be some blowouts. York and Waterloo will be struggling programs this year but in York I see a program that is getting some institutional support. They’ve hired more coaches. They’ve improved their facilities. Their recruiting class in 2014 shows some signs of promise. As for Waterloo, all I can say is I that I’m optimistic the new Athletic Director will make a difference.
* * *
Thank you to the Gryphon football fans, and some fans of other CIS schools, who have been reading this blog in record numbers. Since training camp started this site has averaged almost 1,000 views per day. At this point in time those numbers don’t produce any revenue at all but they do make the time I spend “blogging” seem worthwhile.