Despite a close call in their conference opener, the Western Mustangs sit atop the first official rankings of the USports football season for the first time since 1995.
The Mustangs, who last November captured the seventh Vanier Cup title in school history to put an end to a 23-year national championship drought, received 246 total points in the inaugural top 10 of 2018. For the first time this fall, the rankings are the result of voting from a Football Reporters of Canada panel combined with statistical calculation by the ELO Rating System.
Back in 1995, the perennial contenders from London had placed second behind Saskatchewan in a national preseason poll but were selected as the team to beat once the first official rankings came out a week later.
With seven first-place votes on Tuesday, Western (1-0) was one of four teams to merit No. 1 nods from the 13-member media panel, along with the second-ranked Laval Rouge et Or (1-0 / 229 points), third-seeded Montreal Carabins (1-0 / 210) and fifth-ranked Calgary Dinos (0-0 / 166), who earned three, two and one, respectively.
Rounding out the first top 10 of the new campaign are the No. 4 Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks (1-0 / 170), No. 6 UBC Thunderbirds (0-0 / 133), No. 7 McMaster Marauders (1-0 / 71), No. 8 Guelph Gryphons (0-1 / 54), No. 9 Queen’s Gaels (1-0 / 39) and No. 10 Regina Rams (0-0 / 28).
Following a spectacular 2017 season that saw them post an unblemished 12-0 overall record and outscore their opponents by an astounding 261-64 margin over four playoff contests, the Mustangs got all they could handle from the Carleton Ravens in their 2018 opener as they had to overcome a 20-3 halftime deficit to prevail 26-23 in extra time, Sunday in the nation’s capital.
Western had also received an early wake-up call a year ago, defeating Guelph 41-34 in OT in Week 2 before cruising through the rest of the schedule, including a 39-17 Vanier Cup triumph over Laval.
Fortunately for the Mustangs, they now have ample time to go back to the drawing board as they head into an early bye week and only get back on the field on Sept. 8, when they host McMaster.
Western wasn’t the only Vanier Cup finalist who needed to shake off some rust in Week 1.
In a 14-1 victory at Sherbrooke on Friday, the usually-explosive Rouge et Or offence produced fewer total yards (221 to 235) and first downs (11 to 17) than its opponents and, in the process, failed to score a touchdown for the first time since the 2014 Dunsmore Cup final against Montreal.
Other Week 1 results from top-10 squads included Montreal 33, McGill 0 (at Montreal); Laurier 39, Ottawa 21 (at Laurier); McMaster 16, Guelph 15 (at McMaster); Queen’s 42, York 21 (at York). Calgary, UBC and Regina kick off conference play this weekend.
The Week 2 schedule is highlighted by a pair of top-10 matchups, one in Canada West and the other in the OUA.
On Friday night, No. 5 Calgary visits No. 10 Regina (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT, SaskTel maxTV, TELUS Optik TV & CanadaWest.TV), while on Sunday evening, No. 4 Laurier travels to Kingston to take on No. 9 Queen’s (6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT, YourTV & OUA.TV).
USports football top 10
New this season, USports is implementing the ELO Rating System for the calculation of its weekly national rankings, in conjunction with its regular Football Reporters of Canada panel. Powered by RankR, ELO’s unique algorithm blends a statistical calculation with customized variables that is adaptable across a range of sports. For football, it will be combined with the results of the media panel balloting (each weighted 50%) to produce the final top 10.
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|Honourable mention: Carleton (25), Acadia (21), Saint Mary’s (10), Alberta (5), Concordia (4)|