Happy Thanksgiving weekend to our neighbors to the south.
I continue to be thankful for friends, family and solid showings in my Canadian game picks. Last week, I was 13-for-19, including nailing our Game of the Week, and raised my overall record to 131-for-178 on the year. It’s not much, but we should all be thankful for what we have.
While you might not be able to share turkey with loved ones this year (or at least you shouldn’t) a solid NCAA slate should warm the hearts this Saturday.
There are a couple of big time Top 25 showdowns to look forward to, including a few with Canadian connections, but for this week’s CanCon selection you’ll have to overlook a few flaws to see a great individual head to head.
NC State (-14.5) at Syracuse
Location: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY
Kickoff: Saturday, November 28 at 9:00 a.m. PST/ 12:00 p.m. EST
Where to View: TSN 5
Seriously, don’t roll your eyes.
Yes, the Orange are objectively a bad football team and there is a strong likelihood that in a year without bowl requirements, Dino Baber’s team will still be sitting at home all December. But hidden within this seemingly dud of a game lies one of the best head-to-head Canadian matchups that will take place anywhere in 2020.
NC State may sit at 6-3 on the season but their defence had struggled much of the year until they silenced high-flying Liberty with a one-point upset of the undefeated ranked school. One constant, however, has been senior defensive end Daniel Joseph from Toronto.
Joseph has deep CFL connections — his brother is none other than former Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ first overall selection Faith Ekakitie and his cousin is former fifth overall pick Ese Mrabure. It was those genetic gifts that made him a prized four-star recruit to Penn State.
For one reason or another, Joseph never seemed to break through with the Nittany Lions and he decided to join the Wolfpack as a graduate transfer this off-season. The move has paid off in spades.
As the veteran leader on the NC State defensive line, he is tops on the team in sacks with 5.5 and pressures with 23, easily surpassing his previous career marks as a pass rusher. It’s a senior year performance that will very likely see Joseph in the same first-round buzz for the 2021 CFL draft that his older kin received in their draft year.
Once a relative unknown, Joseph has flashed speed and power that will be highly sought after if he decides to come out in a pared down draft class and there should be more to come on Saturday — this time against an opponent who will likely follow his lead to the top of the top of prospect list in just a few years time.
Across from Joseph much of the game will be true sophomore left tackle Matthew Bergeron, a product of tiny CEGEP Thetford. Bergeron went from being the first player in school history to receive an NCAA offer to becoming the starting right tackle for Syracuse over the course of a wild 2019.
Midway through 2020, Bergeron made the switch to the blindside and the adjustment has been seamless. Syracuse’s offensive line has been problematic all year long and Bergeron struggled mightily early, giving up three sacks over the first four games, but has since found his footing.
Last week against Louisville was the first time in five games he’s allowed a sack and multiple pressures (just two), but it was also his strongest performance all year as a run blocker. If he’s able to lock down Joseph on Saturday, it will be tape that CFL scouts will lock away for 2023 and don’t be surprised if that exact matchup shows up in a CFL game in a few years.
While all eyes should be on the Joseph vs. Bergeron heavyweight bout, Syracuse’s defence has plenty of Canadian talent as well. Middle linebacker Geoff Cantin-Arku is the biggest name here, sitting second on his team in tackles with 55 and pressures with 15, getting home for his first two career sacks last week.
Outside linebacker Tyrell Richards often sees his role fluctuate week to week, but has the potential to be a difference maker as he’s created pressure on 11.2 percent of his pass rush snaps this season while making equally big plays on special teams.
The same can be said for true freshman defensive back Ben Labrosse, who has seen an increased workload recently as the all important Rover, making plays in the box and as a slot corner. Offensively, freshman receiver Damian Alford has made a few cameo appearances and senior Patrick Davis provides veteran depth at guard should disaster strike.
Despite their rolodex of star Canadians, don’t hold out hope for this one. The defence will fight valiantly but should get worn down in the fourth quarter yet again as their freshman quarterback Jacobian Morgan struggles to help offensively. NC State need only pound the rock with running backs Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person to cover the large spread.
Pick straight-up: NC State
Pick against the spread: NC State (-14.5)
Other Week 13 NCAA games featuring Canadians
UMass at Liberty (-37.5)
CanCon: Samuel Emilus, REC, JR (Mass), Tyris Lebeau, LB, JR (Mass), John Kourtis, C, SO (Lib)
Nebraska at No. 24 Iowa (-14)
CanCon: Alaric Jackson, LT, SR (Iowa), Barron Miles Jr, REC, FR (Neb)
No. 2 Notre Dame (-6.5) at No. 19 North Carolina
CanCon: Patrice Rene, CB, SR (UNC)
Pick: Notre Dame
Central Michigan (-7) at Eastern Michigan
CanCon: Mohamed Diallo, DT, SR (CMU), Sidy Sow, LG, JR (EMU), Jake Julien, K, SR (EMU), Cade Cote, DL, FR (CMU)
Pick: Eastern Michigan
No. 15 Oregon (-13.5) at Oregon State
CanCon: Nick Wiebe, LB, SO (Ore)
No. 4 Ohio State (-28) at Illinois
CanCon: Chase Brown, RB, SO (Ill), Sydney Brown, SS, JR (Ill)
Pick: Ohio State
Kentucky at No. 6 Florida (-25.5)
CanCon: Lamar Goods, DT, FR (Flo)
Maryland at No. 12 Indiana (-11.5)
CanCon: DK Bonhomme, OLB, SO (Ind)
Texas Tech at No. 23 Oklahoma State (-11)
CanCon: Chuba Hubbard, RB, JR (OkSt), Amen Ogbongbemiga, MLB, SR (OkSt)
Pick: Texas Tech
Penn State at Michigan (-1)
CanCon: Jesse Luketa, WLB, JR (PSU), Jonathan Sutherland, FS, JR (PSU), Theo Johnson, TE, FR (PSU), Malick Meiga, REC, FR (PSU), Luiji Vilain, DE, SR (Mich)
Northern Illinois at Western Michigan (-20)
CanCon: Woodly Appolon, FS, JR (NIU), Jack Taylor, OL, FR (W.Mich)
Pick: Western Michigan
Bowling Green at Ohio (-24)
CanCon: Kurtis Rourke, QB, FR (Ohio), Jett Elad, DB, FR (Ohio), Peter Kemeni, CB, FR (Ohio)
Kent State at Buffalo (-7.5)
CanCon: Dominic Johnson, REC, SR (Buf), Cole Burniston, TE, SO (Buf), Gabe Wallace, OG, SO (Buf), Deondre Dorion, OL, FR (Buf), Daniel Johnson, RT, SO (KSt), Reignings Awah, DE, FR (KSt)
Ball State at Toledo (-9.5)
CanCon: Geri Theodore, DE, FR (Tol)
No. 20 Coastal Carolina (-17) at Texas State
CanCon: Enock Makonzo, WLB, JR (CC), Wilt Gabe II, DE, SO (CC), Samuel Obiang, NT, SO (TexSt)
Pick: Coastal Carolina
No. 22 Auburn at No. 1 Alabama (-24.5)
CanCon: John Metchie III, REC, SO (Ala)
Pittsburgh at No. 3 Clemson (-23)
CanCon: Jared Wayne, REC, SO (Pitt), Liam Dick, OL, FR (Pitt), Ajou Ajou, REC, FR (Clem)
Mississippi State at Ole Miss (-9.5)
CanCon: Tavius Robinson, OLB, JR (Miss), Deane Leonard, CB, SR (Miss)
Pick: Ole Miss
Louisville at Boston College (-1)
CanCon: Ezechiel Tieide, REC, SO (BC)
San Jose State at Boise State (-11)
CanCon: Isaiah Bagnah, OLB, FR (BSt)
Pick: Boise State
San Diego State at Colorado
CanCon: Daniel Okpoko, DT, SO (SDSU)
Utah at Washington (-7)
CanCon: Keegan Markgraf, LS, SR (Utah)
Arizona at UCLA (-10.5)
CanCon: Cameron Fietz, QB, JR (Ari), Paris Shand, DE, FR (Ari), Leif Magnuson, OL, FR (Ari), Kenny Mestidor, LB, FR (UCLA)
Virginia (-9) at Florida State
CanCon: Terrell Jana, REC, SR (Vir)
Nevada (-7) at Hawai’i
CanCon: Nick Mardner, REC, SO (HI)