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Which B.C. Lions will show up against the Edmonton Eskimos Saturday night?

Andrew Bucholtz
55 Yard Line

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Will Travis Lulay(14), Andrew Harris (33) and the Lions have reason to celebrate Saturday?

An overall look at the B.C. Lions suggests they're a very average team so far. Through two games, the Lions are 1-1, have scored 56 points while allowing 60 and sit near the middle of the pack in most offensive and defensive categories. On the surface, they don't seem anywhere near the dominant team projected as preseason favourites to win the Grey Cup, but they also don't seem too close to some of the CFL's struggling franchises. Rather than being consistently mediocre, though, the Lions have turned in one remarkable performance (last week's 24-16 home win over Toronto) and one appalling one (Week One's 44-32 road loss to Calgary). They've shown an ability both to be at the top of this league and an ability to be in its basement. Thus, the key question ahead of Saturday's game in Edmonton against the Eskimos (9:30 p.m. Eastern, TSN/ESPN2) is if we'll get the dominant Lions or the underachieving ones.

The two games B.C. has played so far have been different in a lot of crucial ways. Defence? In their first contest against the Stampeders, the Lions gave up 44 points, 200 rushing yards and 237 passing yards. Against the Argonauts last week, they conceded just 16 points, 34 rushing yards and 215 passing yards. Ground game? Star tailback Andrew Harris collected 103 rushing yards on 15 carries last week (and added six catches for 49 more yards), but only had 20 rushing yards on five carries and 20 receiving yards on three catches in Week One. Even the whole tenor of the game was vastly different, as the Stampeders' game was a wide-open high-scoring affair, while the clash against the Argonauts was more of a defensive duel. It's clear though that while Week One wasn't all bad and Week Two wasn't perfect, the former represented the lows these Lions can sink to and the latter suggested the heights they can reach.

What will the Lions have to do to come out with a victory Saturday night? Well, most importantly, they'll need their rushing defence from Week Two instead of Week One. The Argos' Chad Kackert and the Stampeders' Jon Cornish are both incredibly talented backs (and Kackert bested Cornish in last year's Grey Cup), but B.C. held Kackert to just 20 yards on eight carries (an average of 2.5 yards per carry), while Cornish ran over them for 172 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries (7.2 yards per carry). It's no secret the Eskimos are going to run a lot: they firmly believe in tailback Hugh Charles, and he carried them to victory in last weekend's downpour in Guelph, collecting 119 yards on just 11 carries (a 10.8 yards per carry average). If the good Lions' rushing defence shows up, they may be able to contain Charles; if it's the bad one, they may get trampled.

Beyond that, though, the B.C. passing defence will have to do well to hold former teammate Mike Reilly in check, while the offensive line will have to clear the way for Harris and give Travis Lulay enough time to find his receivers. All of those elements were present to a greater or lesser degree in last week's win over Toronto, though, and while there were still quibbles with the Lions' showing there (their return game was far from good, the rest of their special teams units weren't as strong as they have been and their passing game wasn't dominant), it at least looked like the Lions we expected to see this year, especially considering the way they out-and-out stymied an explosive Argonauts' offence. By contrast, the team that showed up in Calgary looked like a squad any CFL side could thump soundly. While the Eskimos will have their own part to play Saturday night, which one of those B.C. sides we get in Edmonton may go a long ways towards determining the outcome of this one.

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