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CFL Preview - Saskatchewan (5-0) at Calgary (4-1)



From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Friday, August 9, 9:00 p.m. (et).

GAME NOTES: The top two teams in the CFL get together on Friday night in Calgary, as the Stampeders play host to the undefeated Saskatchewan Roughriders at McMahon Stadium.

Saskatchewan remains the only undefeated team in the league after five weeks of action and, because the teams met up last month, Calgary is not that far behind with a mark of 4-1 after taking care of everyone else on the schedule.

Sporting the top offense (36.6 ppg) and the stingiest defense (17.4 ppg), the Roughriders have managed to get the job done even with Drew Willy filling in for an injured Darian Durant at quarterback the last time out in a 32-20 triumph over Hamilton on the road on July 27.

Making just his third career start, Willy showed no signs of backing down as he threw three touchdown passes, all coming in the second quarter, and finished with 269 yards overall at Alumni Stadium in Guelph. Kory Sheets gave Willy plenty of reason to feel comfortable in the pocket as the running back raced for 140 yards on 25 attempts, which means he has now gained at least 130 yards in every game this season.

Durant is on the mend, but his full recovery will take some time, yet he is optimistic that he can step up and play against Calgary this week. However, should circumstances change for the signal-caller, who now needs just 422 passing yards to reach 20,000 for his CFL career, Willy is ready and willing to take over in the huddle.

Last season, Durant threw for close to 3,900 yards, tossed 20 TDs and was picked off 12 times, but so far this year he has yet to be intercepted on 107 attempts and continues to lead the league in passing majors with 12, which is why his efficiency rating after five games is off the charts (136.9).

As for the Stampeders, they too were without their regular starter at quarterback the last time out, instead relying on Bo Levi Mitchell to come in and save the day in their 37-24 victory against Winnipeg on the road on July 26. Mitchell, at the top of the depth chart over both Drew Tate and Kevin Glenn, used the opportunity to complete all but four of his 33 pass attempts, leading to 376 yards and three touchdowns, one each to Greg Carr, Anthony Parker and Marquay McDaniel.

Also having a strong game for the Stamps was running back Jon Cornish who not only produced a game-high 88 yards on 16 rushing attempts, he also caught six passes for another 87 yards, both of which were game highs as well.

Also earning high marks for Calgary yet again was kicker Rene Paredes who piled up 18 points on five successful field goals and three PATs. Not only did Paredes surpass the CFL record of 30 straight field goals, set by Paul McCallum just two seasons ago, his run now stands at 34 and counting heading into the team's sixth game of the season.

Needless to say, Paredes has been unflappable thus far in 2013 and for his efforts was named the CFL Special Teams Player of the Month for July. Also earning kudos for the month was Cornish who was named the top Canadian player based on his 501 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 77 attempts, as well as another 137 yards and a score on 14 catches coming out of the backfield.

While Paredes and Cornish will again be at the top of the depth chart for their respective positions entering this week, the same may not be said for Mitchell even though he was nearly perfect the last time out.

Recovering from a forearm injury, Tate has been given the green light to return as the starting quarterback, assuming all goes well during practices leading up to Friday's contest. An import from Iowa, Tate has completed 73.1 percent of his pass attempts in 2013, leading to five touchdowns and just one INT.

Also earning league-wide recognition for his early accomplishments with the Roughriders Sheets, named the CFL Offensive Player of the Month for July, is by far the most productive ball carrier in the league with his 712 yards, leading to four touchdowns, on 118 attempts. With such an impressive start to the campaign, many are wondering whether or not Sheets can keep up the pace and possibly challenge the single-season rushing record of 2,065 yards set by Mike Pringle back in 1998 with Montreal.

These clubs clashed during the second week of the season, with the Riders obviously getting the upper hand with a 36-21 decision at home. In that contest, the hosts scored in every quarter and at the same time shut out Calgary in the second half, en route to the comfortable victory.

Controlling the action for nearly 36 minutes, the Roughriders ran 20 more offensive plays as Durant hit 26-of-34 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns, while Sheets rumbled for 133 yards and a major on the ground for the victors.

While Saskatchewan was comfortable with running the ball 29 times in the meeting, the Stamps did so just 13 times, leading to just 58 yards. Tate and Glenn combined to hit 23-of-32 passes for 272 yards and a pair of scores, with each being sacked once and the latter tossing an interception.

Despite the loss in the first encounter of the season, Calgary still owns a 119-89-9 advantage in the all-time series, taking into consideration only regular-season bouts staged since 1945.

The teams are set to meet each other once more during the regular season on Oct. 26 back here in Calgary.

Regardless of whether or not the regular starters at quarterback will be able to make a go of it this week, both of these teams have shown that their respective backups are more than capable of getting the job done. With that being said, until the Riders are taken down they still have to be considered a favorite even when they are on the road.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saskatchewan 31, Calgary 24

08/07 10:37:41 ET

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