It's been a long and hard-fought season of OUA football and the final week should be no different. With so many great matchups and playoff possibilities still to be settled, it's literally impossible to focus on just one Marquee Matchup. Instead, here's a rundown of all five games in the OUA.tv Week 9 Marquee Matchups presented by Wilson.
Windsor (5-2) @ Western (5-2)
The stakes in this game are high and the playoff implications are huge. Whoever wins gets third in the OUA standings and home-field advantage in the playoff quarterfinals. While both teams have clinched a playoff spot, a loss could plummet either squad all the way to the sixth playoff seed, depending on how the other games play out.
It's hardly a situation either team would welcome, or would have expected coming in to 2014.
The Western Mustangs made it clear in the preseason that winning the Yates Cup was an "expectation" not a goal. Now, having suffered losses to McMaster and Guelph, it's hard to call Western the odds-on favourite to win the Yates Cup, and the team will face a much tougher playoff road than anyone expected in the preseason.
The Lancers preseason goals may not have been as lofty as the Mustangs, but in his final season at Windsor, hometown-kid and standout quarterback Austin Kennedy made it clear that he wanted his team to host at least one playoff game at Alumni Field before his OUA career ended. Windsor has been bounced in the first round of the playoffs each year Kennedy has been there, another trend he wanted to end.
It's been proven that Western can be beaten, even at home, but ask the Laurier Golden Hawks what it's like to travel into London to face an agitated Mustangs team coming off a loss. Windsor will need to play a near-perfect game in London, and will need Kennedy, who has thrown just two touchdown passes and four interceptions in his past three games, to close out his regular season career with a bang. As an additional side note, Kennedy is four touchdown passes shy of breaking the OUA career record currently held by former Ottawa Gee-Gees quarterback Josh Sacobie.
The Lancers will also have to find a way to control Western's Will Finch-led offence. Despite being banged up, Finch still managed to throw for 258 yards, three touchdowns, and rushed for 61 yards against one of the best defences in the league, in Western's road loss to Guelph last weekend.
Guelph (6-1) @ Laurier (4-3)
The Gryphons semi-upset win against Western has locked the team into the second seed and a first-round playoff bye. However, the Golden Hawks situation, is not as secure.
For Laurier it's simple: win and you're in.
It's a job easier said than done of course, especially playing against a top-5 team in the country, but don't count the Golden Hawks out. The offence boasts one of the country's most prolific running backs in Dillon Campbell, who currently leads CIS with 1,255 rushing yards – 396 yards more than Mount Allison's Chris Reid, the nation's second leading rusher.
Guelph's win against Western may have also been a blessing for the Golden Hawks. With no possibility for upwards or downwards movement in the standings, it wouldn't be surprising to see Guelph rest some key starters at certain points of the game – with a first-round bye to let the bumps and bruises heal, though, it's not a guarantee.
As it stands now, Laurier will have to prepare a game plan for Guelph quarterback Jazz Lindsey, the star of last week's win when he threw for a school record and career high 513 yards against one of the best defences in the nation.
Coming off a 1-7 season, 2014 has been a marked improvement for the Golden Hawks. Now in his second year as Laurier's head coach, Michael Faulds has to be excited with the position his squad is in, but after taking so many steps forward in 2014, sitting at home come playoff time would be a huge disappointment at this point for Laurier.
Queen's (2-5) @ Carleton (4-3)
The Ravens did themselves a huge favour last week when they picked up a crucial 21-18 win at home against the Windsor Lancers.
Like their avian rivals, the Ravens are in a similar situation as the Golden Hawks. Coming off a 0-8 season in 2013 – the school's first season after it cancelled its football program in 1998 – 2014 has been a huge step forward for Carleton, and a playoff appearance would be another huge jump in building a successful and respected football program.
Unlike Laurier, though, Carleton needs some help making the playoffs even if they win Saturday. Should Laurier, Windsor and Ottawa all win, the Ravens will be on the outside looking in at the OUA playoff picture. However, if Western beats Windsor, the Ravens, through the process of a tiebreaking procedure over Ottawa and Laurier, would secure a playoff berth.
Running back Jahvari Bennett has emerged as one of OUA's best for Carleton. He's averaging 96 yards per game, ranking him fourth in the conference. The team also boasts a dynamic group of receivers, led by Panda Game hero Nathaniel Behar.
This will be the final game in the illustrious OUA career of Queen's quarterback Billy McPhee. With the Gaels eliminated from the playoffs, sending off McPhee with a victory may be the primary motivator for Queen's in this game. The fifth-year quarterback also has a shot to lead the league in passing yards and touchdown passes. He's currently tied for the league lead with 15 touchdowns and trails the idle Varsity Blues quarterback Simon Nassar by 210 passing yards.
McMaster (7-0) @ Ottawa Gee-Gees (4-3)
McMaster will receive a bye to the OUA semi-finals and has already secured home-field advantage throughout the entire playoffs. Should McMaster win its semi-finals matchup, the Yates Cup would be played at Ron Joyce Stadium in Hamilton for the second time in three seasons.
For the Gee-Gees to make the playoffs, they will need a win and a little bit of help. If Laurier, Western, and Carleton all win, even if they upset McMaster, the Gee-Gees would be eliminated. Fortunately for Ottawa, that is the only scenario in which they would win and be eliminated – a victory, combined with any other combination of outcomes will have Ottawa making a second straight playoff appearance.
The Gee-Gees offence, led by quarterback Derek Wendel, stacks up with the premier teams in the conference averaging 35.3 points per game. By comparison, McMaster is averaging 39 points per game this season.
Defensively, Ottawa will have to find a way to contain a dynamic McMaster offence. The Gee-Gees rank sixth in the conference allowing 26.6 points per game and will need to find a way to get some stops. McMaster boasts the league's top-ranked defence in terms of points allowed; the Marauders are giving up just 14.9 per game.
Waterloo (0-7) @ York (0-7)
There has not been a lot of pleasant memories to come out of 2014 for the York Lions and Waterloo Warriors, but come Saturday evening at least one will get to taste victory this season.
It is clear each side has some work to do in the offseason and in the years moving forward, but expect a competitive game between two sides eager to put at least one mark in the win column. After all, no matter how many games a team wins or loses, it always feels nice heading into the offseason with a victory.
Be sure to tune in Saturday afternoon at 1:00pm to OUA.tv for these great football matchups and all the other action from around the conference!