Kicking off: Friday 7:30 p.m. CT, IG Field, Winnipeg
The forecast: Courtesy Environment Canada: Sunny with a high of 26°C, cloudy overnight with a low of 15°C.
TV: TSN; ESPN+
Radio: 680 CJOB; https://www.siriusxm.ca/live-sports/cfl/
House/Street: The Blue Bombers were 7-0 at IG Field last season, 8-0 including the Western Final win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Winnipeg is 19-1 in their last 20 at IG Field – their best home stretch since 1983-86. Read more about Home Rule here. Ottawa was 2-5 on the road in 2021.
BetRegal.net odds: The Blue Bombers are favored at 9.5.
Pre-Season Records: Winnipeg 1-1; Ottawa: 1-1.
Remarkable: The Blue Bombers and RedBlacks have not met since July 19, 2019 and a 31-1 win in Winnipeg at IG Field. The Bombers are 6-1 in their last seven against Ottawa.
Your attention please: The Blue Bombers will unveil their 2021 Gray Cup Championship banner on Friday night and fans are encouraged to arrive early and take their seats for the unveiling, which is scheduled to take place at 7:30pm before kick-off.
- Ottawa will start veteran Jeremiah Masoli after signing him to free agency last winter. He is 27-24 in career starts.
- Winnipeg put Zach Collaros behind Center, the reigning CFL’s most outstanding player and All-Star QB. He is 17-2 in his games as a starter in Winnipeg, including playoffs and two Gray Cup wins.
Winnipeg: Mike O’Shea: 67-55. O’Shea’s 67 victories as Blue Bombers head coach ranks third on the club’s all-time list, behind only Bud Grant (102) and Cal Murphy (86).
Ottawa: Paul LaPolice: 19-39, with 16 of those wins coming during his tenure as Blue Bombers head coach from 2010-12, including an East Division crown and a Gray Cup berth in 2011.
Blue Roster Shuffle
The Bombers depth chart features a notable absence as DE Jackson Jeffcoat doesn’t dress. The CFL All-Star was restricted in training camp and placed on the one-game injured list. He is replaced by rookie LB Mack III, with Cedric Wilcots II also listed on the depth chart.
“The philosophy doesn’t change — if we have the right number of bodies out there, the fresh idea is best,” said head coach Mike O’Shea.
Also injured in a game are OL Liam Dobson and WR Kelvin McKnight, while safes Brandon Alexander and Noah Hallett, Mercy Maston and OL Drew Richmond retire.
BLUE BOMBER HEADLIGHTS: DELB Mack III
Mack III joins the Blue Bombers straight from the University of Rhode Island, where he finished his collegiate career second in tackles for a loss and fourth in sacks.
Mack is at 6-0, 235 and using his quickness off the edge to get into the backfield.
“I’ve only considered myself an outsider my whole life,” he said after Thursday’s walk-through practice session. “I’m from New York and every time I had a tackle I was like, ‘Okay, we’ve got this little guy. I’ll show him.” My mentality was yes, I’m small but you have to beat me every single game and that’s something a lot of people couldn’t do.
“I’m very proud of that. I’ve always been a size independent guy and I’m ready to prove it to everyone. I’m just willing to work.”
Mack III found out about a day ago that he was going to win the bid, and his excitement is admittedly growing by the hour.
“I’ll shake a little, I can’t lie,” he said with a smile. “I’ve been in my feelings for the last 24-48 hours but in a positive way. I’m just making sure I have my blessings in front of me and the opportunity in front of me. I just want to make the most of this opportunity and be a bomber for a while.”
- Ottawa is 5-1-1 in the season opener since 2014 and the return of the CFL with nine teams. That’s the best season-opening record, with Winnipeg at 5-2.
- A won Friday would be the 10thth Home game in a row for the Blue Bombers. The club had previously had 10 home winning streaks at home but this would be the first for a period from 13 August 1993 to 24 August 1994. The franchise record for consecutive home wins stands at 16 and was set over a period from October 23 October 1983 to October 6, 1985.
LB Adam Bighill needs 22 more tackles to overtake former Blue Bombers LB Greg Battle and move up to eighth on the all-time CFL list. Bighill is at 745, Battle has retired with 766 career tackles.
HELLO OLD FRIEND
In addition to Paul LaPolice, who is returning to Winnipeg, receiver Darvin Adams, who signed in Ottawa as a free agency, is also returning. Adams joined the Blue Bombers in 2015 and collected 322 passes for 4,667 yards and 37 TDs over six years. He is in 10th placeth in Blue Bombers history in receiving yards and tied for 14th on the all-time TD list.
“He sure has some sandpaper with him, which the boys liked. It was fun being with him. He had so much energy in training that at certain times he could help push the training forward by getting the guys running,” O’Shea said this week.
“That doesn’t even speak to his speed and ability as a receiver. He was obviously a damn good receiver. The things he did with the boys off the field – he loved cooking for them – are things you don’t necessarily hear about, but it means a lot to the boys.”
“Last year is last year. We got our Gray Cup rings a few weeks ago. We’ll unveil the banner on Friday and then we’ll leave it at that. This is a brand new year. It’s not 2021 or 2019. We just have to pile brick after brick on top of each other every day.” — Blue Bombers cornerback Winston Rose.