Blue Bombers host Stampeders in battle of CFL's lone remaining unbeaten teams

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Another week, another undefeated rival on the schedule for Zach Collaros and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Winnipeg (5-0) will host the Calgary Stampeders (4-0) at IG Field on Friday night. It's the second straight week the defending Grey Cup champions have squared off against an unbeaten West Division squad after dispatching the B.C. Lions 43-22 on Saturday night at B.C. Place Stadium.

"Well, we just had two undefeated teams meet and that was a joy to watch," said Stampeders receiver Reggie Begelton. "Winnipeg showed they're still on top and that just puts a chip on our shoulder where we have to come in and practise and be focused and understand this game is not going to be easy.

"If we want to prove we're here to stay, this is going to be a statement game for us."

The Bombers registered a complete win over B.C. as Collaros finished a tidy 23-of-30 passing for 288 yards and three touchdowns. Rookie Dalton Schoen registered eight catches for 117 yards and two TDs while Winnipeg also ran for 141 yards (4.9-yard average) and a touchdown.

Winnipeg's defence also got into the act, recording three interceptions, a fumble recovery and sack in the game.

What's more, the Bombers were coming off a short week. They edged Toronto 23-22 at BMO Field on July 4, returned home, then few out to Vancouver for yet another road contest.

Calgary is coming off an emphatic 49-6 home victory over the Edmonton Elks last week. Starter Bo Levi Mitchell finished 17-of-22 passing for 279 yards and two TDs while Ka'Deem Carey ran for 104 yards on 12 carries (8.7-yard average) and Malik Henry had six catches for 150 yard and a touchdown.

Canadian linebacker Cameron Judge led the way defensively with a team-high five tackles, sack and two fumble recoveries, returning one 63 yards for a TD.

Begelton said having the ability to study Winnipeg's game tape against B.C. will help the Stampeders.

"We get to watch and see what mistakes B.C. did that we can try to avoid," he said. "That's always a benefit when you get to see someone go in first and study and try not to make the same mistakes."

Trying to top Winnipeg, which has won the last two Grey Cups, is never an easy task, especially at home. But Begelton is looking forward to that challenge.

"That's just fun," he said. "I always enjoy actually going to other people's places just as much as playing in our place.

"That extra energy you get for being disliked helps fuel me."

Begelton said the key to playing Winnipeg tough is being disciplined at all times.

"Playing a complete game in all three phases," he said. "It's just one of those things that every time you play a team like Winnipeg, it's like a playoff game no matter what . . . .and you have to play it that way."

Mitchell has a career record of 12-3 versus Winnipeg (30 touchdowns, nine interceptions) and is 5-3 head-to-head versus Collaros. But Collaros is a stellar 10-0 at IG Field.

Pick: Winnipeg.


Edmonton Elks versus Montreal Alouettes (Thursday night)

At Montreal, the Alouettes (1-3) play for the first time since GM Danny Maciocia assumed the interim head-coaching duties after letting Khari Jones and defensive co-ordinator Barron Miles go. Maciocia brought in veteran CFL coach Noel Thorpe to handle the defence. The last five head coaches to take over during an in-season change have won their first game. Taylor Cornelius makes his first start of the year for Edmonton (1-4) with Canadian rookie Tre Ford injured. He becomes the Elks' third different starter in 2022.

Pick: Montreal.


Saskatchewan Roughriders versus Toronto Argonauts (Saturday afternoon)

At Wolfville, N.S., the CFL stages its first Touchdown Atlantic game since '19 and first-ever regular-season game in Nova Scotia. Saskatchewan (4-1) will be minus defensive linemen Garrett Marino and Pete Robertson. The CFL issued three suspensions totalling four games against Marino for his hit last week on Ottawa quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. Robertson (CFL-high seven sacks, three forced fumbles) suffered a foot injury in the same game. Toronto (1-2) comes off the bye having already won this year following a week off.

Pick: Saskatchewan.


Ottawa Redblacks versus Hamilton Tiger-Cats (Saturday night)

At Hamilton, something has to give in a contest featuring two winless East Division teams. With Masoli out, sophomore Caleb Evans is expected to start for Ottawa (0-4). He was two-of-six passing for 58 yards and an interception in relief of Masoli last week versus Saskatchewan. Earlier this week, the Redblacks acquired veteran Nick Arbuckle from Edmonton. Hamilton (0-4) hasn't played since a 29-25 home loss to Edmonton on July 1. Starter Dane Evans has thrown more interceptions (eight) than touchdowns (five) this season.

Pick: Hamilton.


Last week: 2-1

CP's overall record: 17-2.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 13, 2022.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

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