The road to the Vanier Cup is officially underway, as all four U Sports conferences will be engaged in postseason play for the first time this season.
Eight semi-final matchups will be taking place across the country on Saturday, November 4, with 16 teams looking to book a ticket to their conference championship games. Here is what to expect.
RSEQ Semi-Final: Concordia Stingers (5-3) at Laval Rouge et Or (6-2) — 12:00 p.m. EDT
The Stingers will be flying high entering this matchup after doing last week what Laval hasn’t been able to do all season: beat Montreal. The Rouge et Or remain heavy favourites given that they haven’t lost to Concordia since 2003 but a disappointing year from Arnaud Desjardins and Kevin Mital, along with the big-time throw ability of Olivier Roy, means this one isn’t a sure bet.
AUS Semi-Final: Saint Mary’s Huskies (2-6) at St. FX X-Men (8-0) — 1:00 p.m. EDT
After their third straight undefeated regular season, the X-Men and their high-powered offence led by running back Malcolm Bussey are the runaway favourites in the AUS. Steve Sumarah will need to come up with one hell of a gameplan to change that in favour of the Huskies, as they lost both games against St. FX this year by a combined score of 91-31 — including a 40-10 drubbing last week.
OUA Semi-Final: Queen’s Golden Gaels (6-3) at Western Mustangs (8-0) — 1:00 p.m. EDT
An annual Yates Cup will happen a week early this year, as Ontario’s two most storied programs clash in the semi-finals. It took a last-second touchdown for the top-ranked Mustangs to slip by the Gaels last time around, but things could be dramatically different now that Queen’s is on a five-game winning streak thanks to the emergence of national rushing champ Jared Chisari. Meanwhile, Western will be rested thanks to a first-round bye but will not have star running back Keon Edwards due to a broken foot. The status of quarterback Evan Hillock, who was concussed in the fourth quarter of their final regular season game, will be a storyline to watch all week.
OUA Semi-Final: Windsor Lancers (7-2) at Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks (8-1) — 1:00 p.m. EDT
Hec Crighton favourite Taylor Elgersma lit up Waterloo for a 69-0 victory — no, that is not a typo — in last week’s quarter-final, making a serious statement about Laurier’s “Yates Cup or bust” mentality. That probably gave Windsor flashbacks to their 40-10 loss three weeks ago, the biggest blemish on the Lancers’ unexpected resurgence in 2023. After barely escaping Carleton in their first playoff game, they’ll need to lock in offensively to avoid a repeat.
AUS Semi-Final: Mount Allison Mounties (3-5) at Bishop’s Gaiters (6-2) — 2:00 p.m. EDT
Familiarity will not be an issue between these two clubs, as the Mounties and Gaiters met just last week on the very same field in Lennoxville. While only St. FX has been able to get past Bishop’s this year, Mount Allison has played them extremely tight, losing 18-10 and 18-8 in two meetings.
RSEQ Semi-Final: Sherbrooke Vert et Or (1-7) at Montreal Carabins (7-1) — 3:00 p.m. EDT
The Vert et Or have the dubious distinction of being the playoff team with the worst record in the country, as they slipped in through the back door due to point differential after their first and only win of the season against McGill last week. They draw a talented Carabins team that will be motivated after squandering their perfect regular season a week ago, something that won’t help to shrink the combined 93-26 margin of victory that Montreal established in the two previous meetings between these schools.
Canada West Semi-Final: Manitoba Bisons (3-5) at UBC Thunderbirds (6-2) — 4:00 p.m. EDT
The T-Birds have claimed the top seed in the Canada West for the first time since 1999, a surprising fact given how competitive the team has been over the last decade. Meanwhile, Manitoba needed a miracle to slip into the playoffs, returning a fumble for a touchdown as time expired against Calgary to get in on point differential. They’ll need more than that to get things done in Point Grey, where they lost 56-10 earlier this year.
Canada West Semi-Final: Saskatchewan Huskies (5-3) at Alberta Golden Bears (6-2) — 7:00 p.m. EDT
Just seven total points separated Alberta from the reigning Hardy Cup champions in two meetings this season, but that was enough to put the Huskies on the road for the playoffs. A healthy Matthew Peterson in the backfield should be a difference-maker for the Golden Bears, though Saskatchewan’s passing attack can’t be discounted if first-year starter Anton Amundrud finally figures out how to protect the football.