Intro to Canadian Studies: No turkeys in Week 6 NCAA action

Photo courtesy: Syracuse Athletics

Like all university courses, Intro to Canadian Studies took the Thanksgiving weekend off, but we are back with a special Tuesday lecture to let you know all about the best action in Week 6 of the NCAA football season.

Canadians south of the border clearly couldn’t celebrate the holiday with their families because there were no turkeys on Saturday — just an incredible slate of high-scoring thrillers. Canadians played a key role in many and the top of the class is once again a collection of the NCAA’s best and brightest. Without further ado, let’s wipe the gravy off our fingers and get back to class.

Top of the Class

1. MLB Geoff Cantin-Arku, SO, Syracuse Orange (Levis, Que.)

It’s been a couple weeks but sophomore sensation Geoff Cantin-Arku is back at the top of the class in spectacular fashion. In a tough loss to winless Duke, the kid from Levis gave everything he had and recorded the first defensive touchdown by a Canadian this season.

From the middle of the Syracuse defence, Cantin-Arku racked up 10 tackles, eight of which were unassisted, and forced a fumble in the opening frame. In the second quarter, he one-upped himself.

Defensive back Cam Jonas came on a blitz, crushing quarterback Chase Brice from the blindside and Cantin-Arku scooped up the football and raced in for the score. The performance earned Cantin-Arku an overall Pro Football Focus grade of 72.8, but he was more dominant against the run as per usual with a grade of 80.0 in that regard.

Cantin-Arku gets lost in the flashy play of a contingent of talented Canadian offensive weapons, but the Quebecer has firmly put himself in the Cornish Award conversation with his early-season play. He’s only gotten more productive as the season has progressed and don’t expect Cantin-Arku to be under-appreciated for much longer.

2. REC Josh Palmer, SR, Tennessee Volunteers (Brampton, Ont.)

Josh Palmer is Tennessee’s best player and with another strong performance Saturday, many believe he has locked down a spot in the 2021 NFL Draft. How high that spot ends up being remains to be seen but at this point, nothing seems out of the realm of possibility.

Canadian Josh Palmer makes two spectacular touchdown catches for Tennessee in top-15 showdown against Georgia

Palmer made two impressive touchdown catches look easy against Georgia, showing off his ability to high-point and toe-tap. He finished with four receptions for 71 yards and a team-high PFF grade of 71.9. The senior can do it all.

T-3. REC Terrell Jana, SR, Virginia Cavaliers (Burnaby, B.C.)

Finally, after hyping up Ontarians, Quebecers and Albertans all season, I get to celebrate a B.C. kid.

Jana had a touchdown last week, but against NC State the native of Burnaby was the engine that kept Virginia going. In a whopping 84 offensive snaps, he brought in nine passes for 111 yards. Working from the slot, Jana was actually targeted 21 times by quarterbacks Brennan Armstrong, Lindell Stone and Keytaon Thompson, though each played poorly and struggled to deliver with accuracy. Despite all the action, Jana was only credited with a single drop and received a PFF grade of 67.5, impressive for the volume sent his way.

Jana is one of the NCAA’s most underrated seniors and continuing to put out strong performances like this one, despite adversity, will be key to raising his draft stock.

T-3. REC John Metchie III, SO, Alabama Crimson Tide (Brampton, Ont.)

It wasn’t the all-world break-out from a week ago but Metchie played well enough in prime-time to force a tie for the final spot here.

With four catches for 75 yards, Metchie was impactful when called upon in an offensive shoot-out and posted a PFF grade of 72.6. That only tells part of the story. Metchie had an incredible game as a blocker and was directly responsible for both DeVonta Smith touchdowns.

Canadian John Metchie III plays key role in Alabama’s shootout win over Ole Miss

It was teach tape as he manhandled defenders all the way to an incredible 89.9 blocking grade, a truly elite performance. He also secured the game with a savvy recovery on the final onside kick, going and getting the ball rather than waiting for a final bounce. I value complete performances as well as eye-popping stats, so Metchie earned his spot here.

Notes on the Margins

OLB Tavius Robinson, JR, Ole Miss Rebels (Guelph, Ont.)

Ole Miss had a terrible showing on defence against Alabama, preventing only 43 yards of potential offence on the day. It’s hard to find redeeming features in that but, according to PFF, Guelph transfer Tavius Robinson was one.

The former OUA sack master was the Rebels’ highest-graded defender by a wide margin with a rating of 71.9. Robinson can’t be held responsible for his team’s failures and Saturday was another strong performance for a player still adjusting to the SEC. He made three tackles and twice hurried Mac Jones, proving that U Sports athletes really can play with the best.

CB Patrice Rene, SR, North Carolina Tarheels (Ottawa, Ont.)

I’m calling it right now, Patrice Rene is back.

While he struggled when returning early from his torn ACL, a couple more weeks of rehab had the pride of Ottawa looking sprightly against Virginia Tech. He wasn’t great against the run, but that’s not what you rely on Rene to do. He posted a promising PFF coverage grade of 67.7 and only allowed one catch for two yards all game. Rene also deflected a pass, made five tackles and twice hurried the quarterback as an effective blitzer.

I’ll admit I was scared for Rene after his dismal debut in Week 2, but now that looks to be in the rear-view mirror. That should excite fans and scouts alike.

Re-Submit Assignment

LT Matthew Bergeron, SO, Syracuse Orange (Victoriaville, Que.)

While a Syracuse sophomore from Quebec tops this list, there is also one at the bottom. Matthew Bergeron was heaped with praise in 2019 after taking over the right tackle position midway through his true freshman season, even being named second team All-Freshman by PFF. That success has not continued in 2020 and Saturday was just another example.

Flipped to the left side of the line against Duke, Bergeron was barely adequate in his first start on the blindside. The result was a PFF grade of 51.4, with equally poor marks as both a run and pass blocker. He also allowed his third sack of the season, matching his total from 2019 in just over half the amount of snaps.

On the redeeming side, Bergeron is still arguably the best player on an abysmal Syracuse line and his teammates graded out far worse. The offensive line position works so cohesively, that it’s a hard situation to excel in as an individual player. Still, if you can’t win matchups against a winless basketball school, who are you ever going to beat?

Class Attendance

NT Olivier Charles-Pierre, SR, Houston: 26 defensive snaps, one tackle

C John Kourtis, SO, Liberty: Nine offensive snaps

FS Ben Labrosse, FR, Syracuse: Six defensive snaps, two tackles

NT Samuel Obiang, SO, Texas State: 55 defensive snaps, four tackles

REC Jared Wayne, SO, Pittsburgh: 30 offensive snaps, three receptions, 53 yards

REC Ajou Ajou, FR, Clemson: Six offensive snaps

CB Deane Leonard, SR, Ole Miss: Nine defensive snaps, one tackle

PK Gabe Siemieniec, SR, Louisiana Tech: Four kickoffs, 260 yards, 65.0 average, one touchback

Rostered but not dressed: OL Liam Dick, FR, Pittsburgh / REC Ezechiel Tieide, SO, Boston College / DT Lamar Goods, FR, Florida / DE Daniel Joseph, SR, NC State / SLB Tyrell Richards, JR, Syracuse / RG Patrick Davis, SR, Syracuse / REC Damien Alford, FR, Syracuse

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.