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Calgary Stampeders-Ottawa Redblacks GameDay: 5 things to watch

GAMEDAY: Redblacks at Stampeders

Ottawa (0-0) at Calgary (0-0)

Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, McMahon Stadium; TV, TSN; Radio, News Talk 770 CHQR; Weather: 21 C, risk of a thunderstorm; Wind: 13 km/h north

STATS PACK (2018)

Ottawa Calgary

(5th) 25.8 Points for 29.0 (2nd)

(3rd) 23.3 Points allowed 20.2 (1st)

(9th) 94 Yards rushing 99 (6th)

(3rd) 310 Yards passing 295 (4th)

(3rd) 387 Net yards 380 (4th)

(7th) 362 Yards allowed 321 (2nd)

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

1. NEW MAN AT THE HELM — After the off-season quarterback carousel stopped, the Redblacks were left without front-man Trevor Harris, who signed with the Edmonton Eskimos. So now, Dominique Davis is in charge of the offence. His chance to prove he’s the right choice as Redblacks starter begins Saturday in Calgary. The 29-year-old former East Carolina Pirates talent has just two CFL starts under his belt.

2. WHO’S UNDER PRESSURE? — A revamped defensive line for the Stampeders brings with it many question marks. At the head of the queue is just where will the pressure come from since Micah Johnson, Ja’Gared Davis and James Vaughters have taken their combined 26 sacks elsewhere? In Game 1 of the new season, it’ll be — for the most part — an inexperienced Stamps defensive line trying to harass an inexperienced Redblacks QB. (See more in KEY MATCHUP.)

3. STARTING STRONG — The Redblacks defence returns 11 of 12 starters from last season, with defensive back Rico Murray being the only departure. But in his place is Chris Randle, who joins the Ottawa squad just two years removed from being a CFL all-star with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. That continuity should help the Redblacks compete defensively against the league’s top player, Stamps QB Bo Levi Mitchell. And your only chance of beating the Stamps at McMahon Stadium is to slow down the 2019 Most Outstanding Player.

4. BEGELTON TO BE BIG — Pundits are calling for a breakout season from Stamps receiver Reggie Begelton based on his 25-catch, 488-yard season in limited action during the 2018 schedule. In Week 14, the sophomore talent rolled up 150 yards for a player-of-the-week nod, perhaps foreshadowing what could be in 2019. Mitchell sees that potential from the third-year pass-catcher, and if you’re on the same page as him, how could it be anything but a break-through?

5. SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE — Since 2014, the Stampeders, with a 3-1-1 mark, and the Redblacks, with a 2-0-1 record, are the CFL’s most successful Week 1 sides. None of the other seven teams have less than two opening-week losses in the last five seasons. So unless an unlikely tie is Saturday’s result, one of these teams will start with a rare ‘L’ and be in the strange spot of having to look up at another team living in what’s their usual first-place position after Week 1.

INSIDE THE GAME

How much change happened to both the Redblacks and the Stampeders in the off-season? Enough that they arrive in the starting blocks this year with the CFL’s two youngest rosters, average ages of 26.8 years and 27.0 years respectively … Both teams have made the Grey Cup in three of the last four seasons … Stamps DB Brandon Smith needs just two tackles to tie Dante Marsh for 19th most all-time in the CFL … QB Davis will make his second consecutive regular-season start for the Redblacks after suiting up as the No. 2 pivot in 53 straight contests. He went 16-of-23 for 220 yards in last year’s regular-season finale, a 24-9 win over the visiting Toronto Argonauts … During 2018, the Stampeders topped the Redblacks three times — twice early in the regular season with a 24-14 home decision June 28 and a 27-3 road victory July 12, and, of course, in the 27-16 Grey Cup game Nov. 27.

KEY MATCHUP

Stamps DE Cordarro Law vs. Redblacks QB Dominique Davis — Now in his sixth season with the Stamps, Law is making a lot of noise about becoming the league’s top sack-master. Injury limited Law’s performance last year, as he started just nine games and collected only four sacks. But he’s in the spotlight now as the guy being hyped to track down opposition pivots. It begins Saturday as he’ll try to hunt down the inexperienced Redblacks QB, who’s in the spotlight himself trying to secure his own dominance.

PREDICTION

Stampeders 27, Redblacks 16 — It certainly doesn’t appear to be a Grey Cup rematch given all the changes on both clubs, but why not make a prediction that repeats the scoreline from last November’s championship? After all, it’s not likely to be a high-scoring affair with offence generally slow on the uptake early in the season and a Redblacks defence, returning as a mostly intact unit, with potential to further limit Stamps QB Mitchell.

tsaelhof@postmedia.com

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Source: montrealgazette.com