Ticats at Riders Game Preview

crop_20466110219Two somewhat desperate teams, one more than the other, clash in Regina as the Ticats take on the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium tonight. The Ticats will look to end their four-game, season-opening road trip at 2-2, while the Riders are looking to finally get that elusive first win of the season and avoid starting in an 0-5 hole.

Both teams need a win; Hamilton, to avoid sitting two games back of the top teams in the East, and Saskatchewan for the obvious reason that they have yet to notch a win in 2015. Both teams come in with talented, though so far underachieving, squads. The Riders losses have been by a combined 12 points, while Hamilton’s two defeats have come by one and five points, respectively. Both of these teams could be better than their records, but they aren’t and each team is looking for a victory in order to keep pace with the rest of the teams in their division.

Shuffling the lineup

The Ticats have shuffled the deck heading into this week’s game. In are Courtney Stephen, Rico Murray, Jasper Collins, Quincy McDuffie, David Caldwell, Anthony Woodson and C.J. Gable, while Ray Holley, Michael Ford, Ed Gainey, Frédéric Plesius, Tiquan Underwood and Terrell Sinkfield all take a seat. Having Murray and Stephen back in the secondary is great news, but the biggest return is that of C.J. Gable. When healthy, Gable is one of the most well-rounded backs in the CFL, and having No. 32 lining up in the backfield forces teams to respect the run and will give more time to Zach Collaros in the passing game. Gable is a great pass protector and an excellent pass catcher, so his return is a major boon to the Ticats offense.

Missing Big Ted

One massive loss, however, could be that of Ted Laurent. Big No. 97 is listed as a starter on the depth chart, but he was in and out of practice all week and he could be one of the team’s two game day scratches. The loss of Laurent, who is proving week after week that he is one of the league’s best interior defensive linemen, will hurt the Ticats as they hope to contain Saskatchewan’s potent rushing attack of Jerome Messam and Anthony Allen. Both Messam and Allen are on pace for 1,000-yard seasons, and stopping them is one of the things the Ticats have to do if they hope to escape Mosaic with their second win of the season. That task will be much harder if Laurent is unable to go.

Best vs. Best

It is another week where Hamilton’s excellent defense will face a tough test against one of the league’s best offenses. In fact, this game pits the top defensive unit versus the top offensive unit. The Ticats boast the league’s No. 1 rush defense, No. 2 pass defense, and No. 1 overall defense, while the Riders enter the game with the league’s highest-scoring offense and are averaging a whopping 503.5 yards per game, by far the most in the league and the highest average after four games by any team in the last 21 years. This is truly a strength-versus-strength matchup, and the winner of the game will likely be decided by which league-best unit has the better game.

Beating Glenn

After being traded following the 2011 season, Kevin Glenn seems to have made it his personal mission to beat the Ticats whenever they play. Always expected to be the backup entering the season, Glenn has nonetheless started five games against the Ticats since he left town, three times with Calgary and twice with BC, and his team has come away with four wins in those five games. The only blemish on Glenn’s record was a 19-17 loss at Tim Hortons Field last October. It seems as if Glenn likes to play just a little bit better when he laces them up against the team that cast him aside four years ago.

Reversing the hex

Beating a Glenn-led team is not the only hurdle in the way of the Ticats evening their record tonight. The Ticats have not had much luck in Saskatchewan since the 1990s became the 2000s. Just twice in the last 15 meetings at Mosaic Stadium (née Taylor Field) has Hamilton left with a win: a 29-23 victory in 2000 and a 35-34 win in 2012. Regina has been especially unkind to the Ticats since Kent Austin took the reins for the 2013 season. In three games played in Saskatchewan, two regular season contests and the 2013 Grey Cup, the Ticats have been outscored by the Riders 113-33. The Ticats will need to reverse the hex on them and find a way to get the win if they hope to head home from this road trip on a positive note.

Josh Smith has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.