Western and McMaster are ranked No. 3 and No. 4 in the country respectively. Both squads are undefeated, and both are expected to be in Yates Cup contention. This match-up is being pitched as the marquee game of the weekend – a preview for what the playoffs will produce.
What should viewers expected to see in London on Saturday?
The offence – Advantage: Western
Quarterback Will Finch is the finest pivot talent in the OUA and possibly CIS. He has accuracy on deep throws, can run the ball if needed and now has experience under his belt. Before the 2014 season started, Finch told the London Free Press he felt more comfortable with the offence, meaning the playbook would be expanded. That’s a scary statement considering the Mustangs led the country in scoring last season. Running backs Yannick Harou and Garrett Sanvido combine for an average of 145.5 yards per game. Due to blowout games, the duo has not had to play as long as they would in a competitive game, so their numbers are a little deflated.
Lining up under centre for Mac is Marshall Ferguson. His numbers – 259 yards per game, nine touchdowns, four interceptions – match up well with Finch’s, but have not yet seen a defence like Western’s. The Marauder running game has been the strong suit so far, with Wayne Moore and Chris Pezzetta doing the heavy lifting and combining for 149.8 yards per game. Between the two, they have nine touchdowns.
Western gets the advantage here primarily because of their red zone production. It is not much better, but Mac still cannot consistently get six points when they reach the score zone.
The defence – Advantage: McMaster
The defensive side of Western’s team is where they got hit the hardest with turnover. LB Beau Landry was capable of zone coverage over the middle of the field, while also providing a consistent run-stopping presence. Dylan Ainsworth, a defensive lineman, joined the Saskatchewan Roughriders and leaves a gap on the line that cannot be easily filled. Western lost Pawel Kruba to graduation and he was another linebacker with an array of above-average skills.
Mac lost some pieces too, as we have covered before. But they have bounced back nicely, as Jacob Heathcote has filled the linebacking role alongside Nick Shorthill. Scott Martin, Steve Ventresca and Joey Cupido are still the best coverage corps in the conference. The d-line has a mixture of guys capable of crushing pockets and moving the quarterback, but their main job will be to stop the run and force 2nd and long situations. Finch is too good running the ball, and Mac struggled against Guelph’s scrambling QB Jazz Lindsey. The Marauders will want to force the Mustangs to throw the ball and let their superior DB group take care of business.
Mac has the advantage because their assets have proven themselves to be as good or better than they were the year before. Western, with the turnover, has regressed but their D has not been tested yet. The Mustangs have played York, Queen’s, Toronto and Waterloo. This will be the first time Greg Marshall’s bunch goes against a true offence with multiple threats.
- This is the most important game of the season so far for either team.
- Western’s turnover is significant but probably a little overstated by the collective OUA football media scene. If they show themselves capable of handling McMaster by a healthy margin, you can start penciling their path to the Vanier.
- Mac is the underdog here. They did muzzle the offence in playoffs last year, but Finch is just an incredible QB and the more experience he gets, the less it matters who is lining up against him.
- Predicting a score or a winner for this game is tough, but I would have to lean towards a Mustang win with both team scoring in the 20s.