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Winnipeg Blue Bombers can clinch first in West Division with victory over B.C. Lions

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers can ensure Saturday that the path to the '21 Grey Cup in the West Division will go through IG Field. Winnipeg (9-1) can clinch top spot in the West Division with a home victory over the B.C. Lions (4-5).

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers can ensure Saturday that the path to the '21 Grey Cup in the West Division will go through IG Field.

Winnipeg (9-1) can clinch top spot in the West Division with a home victory over the B.C. Lions (4-5). With an eighth straight win, the Bombers would be the host team for the West final Dec. 5.

And that would certainly favour the Bombers. The defending Grey Cup champions are not only 7-0 this season within the West Division but remain unbeaten in five home games.

Winnipeg has also won seven straight at IG Field dating back to 2019 and 16 of its last 17 games there.

However, if B.C. wins and Saskatchewan (5-4) loses to Calgary (5-5), Winnipeg would still clinch top spot. The same would also apply if the Lions defeated the Bombers by less than 21 points and the Roughriders beat the Stampeders.

While the Bombers are on a nice roll, B.C. (4-5) comes in having lost three straight. That includes a one-sided 39-10 home decision last week to the surging Calgary Stampeders.

And the last time Winnipeg and B.C. met,  the Bombers captured a 30-9 win at B.C. Place on Oct. 1. Zach Collaros threw for a season-high 417 yards with two TDs while receiver Kenny Lawler had 12 catches for 205 yards and a touchdown.

Winnipeg's top-ranked defence did its part, too, registering six sacks and holding B.C. to just 16 yards rushing. Lions quarterbacks Michael Reilly and rookie Nathan Rourke were a combined 22-of-35 passing for 232 yards with an interception.

And Reilly was B.C's rushing leader with nine yards. However, the veteran quarterback is 9-7 all-time versus Winnipeg and has thrown for over 300 yards seven times against the Blue Bombers.

The Bombers are looking to win eight straight for the first time since 2002-03 and reach the 10-win plateau for a fifth consecutive year, their longest such streak since 1962.

And a testament to Winnipeg's depth is last week Brady Oliveira ran for 105 yards after incumbent Andrew Harris (knee) was injured in the club's 30-3 victory over Edmonton. Oliveira also had 126 yards rushing in the Bombers' season-opening 19-6 home win over Hamilton on Aug. 5.

Pick: Winnipeg.

Toronto Argonauts versus Montreal Alouettes (Friday night)

At Montreal, Matt Shiltz makes a second straight start for the Alouettes (5-4) after passing for 281 yards and a TD and scoring another in last week's 27-16 win over Ottawa. The home team has won three straight overall. So has Toronto (6-3) with McLeod Bethel-Thompson as the starter. Over that span, the Argos have forced eight turnovers resulting in 31 points, or 35 per cent of their total (89). Defensive lineman Shawn Oakman has sacks in four of the last five contests while former Als linebacker Henoc Muamba returns for the Double Blue.

Pick: Toronto.


Ottawa Redblacks versus Hamilton Tiger-Cats (Saturday afternoon)

At Hamilton, the Ticats (4-5) look for their first home victory in three contests after their 11-game win streak ended with a 23-20 overtime loss to Montreal on Oct. 2. In both losses at Tim Hortons Field, the Ticats have held double-digit leads in the fourth quarter. Veteran Jeremiah Masoli is expected to get the start but is 2-5 all-time versus Ottawa (2-8). Dynamic kick-returner DeVonte Dedmon (lower body) won't play for the Redblacks. Caleb Evans will make another start but with Devlin Hodges, a former Pittsburgh Steeler, serving as the backup with Taryn Christion (broken fibula) out.

Pick: Hamilton.

Saskatchewan Roughriders versus Calgary Stampeders (Saturday night)

At Calgary, the Stampeders look to register a third straight win against Saskatchewan, having won a home-and-home series earlier this month. The Stamps have won three straight overall, having outscored their opponents 31-9 in the opening quarter over that span. Starter Bo Levi Mitchell didn't have an interception in last week's 39-10 win over B.C. after throwing 10 picks in his previous six starts The Roughriders have lost two straight and starter Cody Fajardo is 0-4 versus Calgary but 17-4 versus other clubs. Receiver Duke Williams, back in Canada after being released by the NFL's Buffalo Bills, is expected to suit up for the Riders.

Pick: Saskatchewan.

Last week: 2-1.

Overall: 18-24.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct., 21, 2021.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press