June 14th, 2024

Kelly’s Peerless Pigskin Prognostication

By Lethbridge Herald on June 5, 2024.

Graham Kelly


Will Winnipeg become the fourth team in CFL history to make it to the Grey Cup five times? Will the Lions roar in 2024? Can the Stampeders find a cure for their red-zone blues? If the Elks keep losing will Edmonton fans set up a Go Fund Me page to buy out Chris Jones’ contract? Is Saskatchewan the Western heir apparent?

 Time for my Fearless Football Forecast, otherwise known as Kelly’s Peerless Pigskin Prognostication . It all gets underway tonight with Montreal in Winnipeg for a Grey Cup rematch. Tomorrow Bo Levi Mitchell and the Hamilton Ti-Cats invade the Crowchild Corral to take on the Stampeders while Saturday the new look Roughriders face the hometown Elks. Sunday B.C. is in Toronto. 

 Saskatchewan is the only team that has improved over last year. The rest in the West have regressed. During the last four seasons the Bombers have made it to the Grey Cup each year but have lost the last two by a combined total of five points. They are getting older. They have lost critical personnel, including tackle Jermarcus Hardrick to Saskatchewan. Return man Janarion Grant and receiver Rasheed Bailey were salary cap victims. Back up quarterback Dru Brown signed with Ottawa, replaced by Chris Streveler who can run but isn’t much of a passer. If anything happens to Zach Collaros the Bombers will be in trouble.

 They still have excellent receivers in Dalton Schoen, Kenny Lawler, Nic Demski and Drew Wolitarsky. Most Outstanding Canadian running back Brady Oliveira returns but he missed all of training camp with an injury. The offensive line shouldn’t miss a beat. Last year Eric Lofton defected to the Green and White but has returned to the fold.

 Defensively All-star corner Demerio Houston went to Calgary, and Jackson Jeffcoat retired. When he was injured last year linemate Willie Jefferson had no sacks. The great linebacker Adam Bighill is on the six game injury list and safety Brandon Alexander is hurt. 

 If the Bombers falter, most experts predict B.C. to win the West and host the Grey Cup in November. I don’t think so. Rookie head coach Corey Mace and his young coaching staff have infused their team with enthusiasm and confidence. GM Jeremy O’Day did a great job upgrading the talent. 

 Saskatchewan would have made the playoffs last year if Trevor Harris hadn’t got hurt. If he goes down again this season, his back-ups are pretty green, no matter what the shade. Mace passed the first big test of his head coaching career when he released veteran quarterback Jason Fine and kept rookie Jack Coan from Notre Dame. Not only is God on the rookie’s side, Mace recognized Fine wasn’t starter material, despite getting a two year contract extension. A more experienced coach would have towed the company line and kept the veteran. 

 Harris will be protected by a much improved offensive line. He has the bull A.J. Ouilette in the backfield and top notch receivers. The defence is better with corner Jameer Thurman. Special Teams are first-rate. Saskatchewan should finish second.

 The remaining three teams will fight it out for third. B.C. quarterback Vernon Adams, Jr. was outstanding last year largely because he had an excellent receiving corps. But Dominique Grimes, Kevin Hatcher and Lucky Whitehead are gone. William Stanback is the running back, the offensive line is good. Defensively, Mathieu Betts is gone. Rick Campbell says he has the best bunch of Canadian DBs he has ever seen. If missing all-stars can be replaced and Wells, Jr. stays healthy, they will be good. Big ifs. 

 With the likes of linebackers Cameron Judge and Micah Awe, corners Demerio Houston andTre Roberson, Calgary will be tough defensively. They lost receiver Malik Henry to injury and the offensive line is unsettled at tackle. For most of the last thirty years, the Stamps have had Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Jake Maier isn’t one them. Defence and special teams may not be enough.

 It is hard to imagine a Chris Jones team being terrible three years in a row. With the addition of McLeod Bethel Thompson, he has a proven quarterback. His receivers are sensational, running back Kevin Brown one of the best. The line is fine. But the defence is such, the Elks might have to score 35 plus points a game to win. A tall order indeed. 


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