The OUA men’s football schedule was announced at 2:00 pm on January 18, 2017. Let’s break down the most important games per week, and the biggest week of games of the season, as the Quest for the Cup begins on August 25, 2017.
Game of the Week:
Carleton vs. Queen’s – Saturday August 25, 2017
The first game of the OUA season will be the one to watch that week as the Carleton Ravens travel to Richardson Stadium in Kingston to take on the Queen’s Gaels. While Queen’s did not make the playoff last year, they have a core nucleus of players who have a number of seasons as starters in the OUA. I expect this game to be a tight battle from start to finish.
Other Games in Week 1:
Ottawa vs. Guelph – Sunday August 26, 2017
This game should be exciting as well. It will be interesting to follow how Ottawa responds with the departure of Derek Wendel. Guelph returns a number of starters and players who have won a championship. Add on that Guelph is at home, I think the Gee-Gees will have a tough time.
Waterloo vs. Windsor – Sunday August 26, 2017
Toronto vs. Laurier – Sunday August 26, 2017
Western vs. York – Sunday August 26, 2017
Game of the Week:
McMaster vs. Carleton – Monday September 4, 2017
It wil be tough sledding for the Carleton Ravens as they begin play in 2017. They will show what type of team they will be, after losing a number of players as they head into Year 5 of the rebirth of their program. The Marauders get an extended training camp with their week one bye, and they will come out looking to prove they are a top team in the OUA. Again, another tight battle that Carleton will have to deal with, and if they can escape with a win in their first two games of 2017, they will be a dangerous program all season long.
Other Games in Week 2:
Guelph vs. Western – Monday September 4, 2017
This contest always brings some heat. While last season Western blew out the Gryphons at Guelph’s homecoming on national television, I think this has the makings to be an interesting matchup for the first three quarters. If James Roberts can play to his potential, this game will be wire-to-wire.
York vs. Waterloo – Monday September 4, 2017
Queen’s vs. Ottawa – Monday September 4, 2017
Windsor vs. Toronto – Monday September 4, 2017
Game of the Week:
Western vs. McMaster – Saturday September 9, 2017
Both teams come into this one after facing tough opponents in Week 2. While McMaster has their bye in Week 1, Western has York so don’t expect Greg Marshall to schedule a preseason game either. McMaster will be looking to avenge their 19-18 loss that kept them out of a first round bye, forcing them to be saved by a late Guelph drive in the quarter-finals by now-Ottawa Redblack, Keldyn Ahlstetd. McMaster travelled to Laurier and their season came to an end literally by an inch, all because they couldn’t finish the job against Western. The Marauders will be out for blood and will look to return back to the top of the OUA and knock off Western.
Other Games in Week 3:
Carleton vs. Laurier – Saturday September 9, 2017
Pick your poison this week. The top four teams from 2016 square off on the same day and the same time in Week 3 of 2017. The Ravens have easily the toughest schedule to date, while the defending champions are hot off the Varsity Blues and their bye. Also add the fact that Laurier will be at home and you have the making for a tremendous football game. When they played in 2016 the Hawks won 17-16, and that taste is going to sit bitterly in the Ravens’ mouths, especially considering they saw the Hawks holding the Yates Cup at the end of the year. Expect much of the same from last season’s contest, but let’s hope the weather holds off and we get to see the ball flying around the field.
Ottawa vs. York – Saturday September 9, 2017
Toronto vs. Waterloo – Saturday September 9, 2017
Windsor vs. Guelph – Saturday September 9, 2017
Game of the Week:
Laurier vs. Queen’s – Saturday September 16, 2017
These two teams met in Week 1 of 2016 and the Gaels looked better for the first half of the game. Laurier came back to win by 21 in the fourth quarter (where have we heard that before?) and the Hawks return most of their players from last season. It’ll be the Golden Hawks’ first game at new Richardson Stadium in Kingston. While I think these teams will be on opposite sides of the playoff picture this season, expect the Gaels to come out firing on all cylinders in this one.
Other Games in Week 4:
Waterloo vs. Carleton – Saturday September 16, 2017
Western vs. Windsor – Saturday September 16, 2017
Guelph vs. Toronto – Saturday September 16, 2017
Ottawa vs. McMaster – Saturday September 16, 2017
Week 5 – THE WEEK OF THE SEASON
While Week 4 will be less than heart-stopping, Week 5 will have HUGE playoff implications. On top of that, add the battle for the Argo Cup, this week has the makings to be the most fun of the season until playoff time.
Game of the Week:
McMaster vs. Guelph – Saturday September 23, 2017
This has more of a chance to be Game of the Week then Queen’s vs. Western. If McMaster struggles early with games against Carleton and Western, this could be an early breaking point for Marauder football. Guelph, with a victory over McMaster, could easily be 3-1. Both schools are coming for this game full throttle, expect a physical defensive matchup, much like we saw in the 2016 OUA Quarter-Final.
Other Games in Week 5:
Toronto vs. York – Saturday, September 23, 2017
Toronto has been able to mask their problems well with playmakers that are able to get the job done. Now that a lot of those play makers are gone, especially at the quarterback position, Toronto will be looking more to their coaching for the answers. On the other side of the ball, York has a pretty strong recruiting class. Look for the Hunchak connection to be in full effect in this year’s battle for the Argo Cup. I think York turns some heads with their athleticism, and can knock off Toronto in 2017.
Queen’s vs. Western – Saturday September 23, 2017
The rivalry is stronger than ever, but the Mustangs are just too good to consider this a Game of the Week. Western embarrassed the Gaels at the celebration of new Richardson Stadium, on national television last season. While there is talk about tradition when it comes to Queen’s and its football program, they haven’t won anything since 2009. The freshmen who were coming in saw their team win a national title and do nothing since. In 2013 they made it back to the Yates Cup, only to get thrashed by the Mustangs. While this rivalry was once the backbone of OUA football, that time has long passed and Queen’s needs to look for answers fast.
Windsor vs. Ottawa – Saturday September 23, 2017
Ottawa will either be a borderline playoff team as per usual, or an absolute disaster without a proven quarterback. There were games last season where Derek Wendel couldn’t fix the problems facing the Gee-Gees. Windsor is the top of the bottom tier in the OUA, though I still believe they need to do a better job of recruiting outside of the Essex Region to consider themselves a competitive team. These two programs will look at this game as pivotal if either one hopes to make any sort of playoff push.
Laurier vs. Waterloo – Saturday September 23, 2017
The only thing that creates any hype around this game is the fact that the two schools are located on the same street. Laurier draws the benefit of this being an away game, but don’t expect most starters to stay in the game for longer than the first half. In the past three seasons, Waterloo has only scored 7 points on the Hawks, while Laurier has totalled 154 points. Lots of experience to be had for players on both rosters, but that’s all this one will be good for: experience.
Game of the Week
Western vs. Laurier – Saturday September 30, 2017
No bias intended, but this is going to be a better matchup than the Panda Game. Laurier Homecoming, against Western is begging for the rowdiest crowd of the season. Every school that isn’t Western hates Western, but more so at Laurier because the two institutions share the same primary colour. The “Our Purple is Better” chants and posts will be alive and well from both sides all week. The strong returning players from Laurier will look to prove why they were crowned OUA Champions in 2016, while the Mustangs will be out for revenge following their 21-point collapse in the Yates Cup. If you are interested in this game, I would suggest getting your tickets as soon as they go on sale because this will be a no love lost contest between two top-end OUA programs.
Other Games in Week 6:
Carleton vs. Ottawa – Saturday September 30, 2017
“This should be the game of the week.” “They’ll sell out TD Stadium again.” Both valid points as the battle for Pedro Panda continues. However, Ottawa won’t be as good as they were last year, and Carleton blew them out. Carleton has seen immediate success since the program’s resurrection back in 2013. However, often times when teams see that kind of success, they will see the drop-off come just as fast. Hopefully for the Ravens they can stay competitive atop the OUA for many years to come. The reason this game isn’t the Game of the Week is this: Western and Laurier are at the peak of their dominance, and Carleton and Ottawa just aren’t there yet. This does not mean that the game itself will not be great, but I expect a strong decline from Ottawa in 2017, and a slight decline from Carleton from where they were in 2016.
York vs. McMaster – Saturday September 30, 2017
Queen’s vs. Windsor – Saturday September 30, 2017
Guelph vs. Waterloo – Saturday September 30, 2017
Game of the Week:
Carleton vs. Western – Friday October 6, 2017
Thanksgiving weekend will finish with the Ravens not thanking the OUA schedule makers as they have a six-hour trip down the 401 to London to take on the Western Mustangs. Last season Carleton shocked the OUA with their early 38-31 victory over the Mustangs, however Western replied with a 51-24 dominating performance over the Ravens in the OUA semifinals. Both teams will know all eyes are on them as the only other games this week happen on the Thursday. This could be a pivotal playoff-positioning matchup late in the season.
Other Games in Week 7:
Waterloo vs. Queen’s – Thursday October 5, 2017
Laurier vs. York – Thursday October 5, 2017
McMaster vs. Toronto – Thursday October 5, 2017
Byes:Ottawa, Guelph, Windsor
Game of the Week
Laurier vs. Guelph – Saturday October 14, 2017
These two programs have matched up well over the last three seasons, and in that time they have combined for three Yates Cup appearances and two Yates Cup Championships. Laurier came away with a narrow victory last season, with the win coming on a Friday morning in front of a huge crowd of elementary school kids from across the Waterloo Region. With Western on a bye, and no other games looking like they will be close, this game should bring us some incredible moments. It will be an interesting matchup that could help or hurt either team in their respective final playoff pushes.
Other Games in Week 8
York vs. Queen’s – Saturday October 14, 2017
Windsor vs. McMaster – Saturday October 14, 2017
Waterloo vs. Ottawa – Saturday October 14, 2017
Toronto vs. Carleton – Saturday October 14, 2017
Game of the Week
McMaster vs. Laurier – October 21, 2017
A rematch of the OUA semifinals from last season where McMaster’s year literally ended by an inch. The Hawks are holding down home field advantage in this one as well, it should be interesting as playoff positioning may rely solely on this game.
While the Hawks haven’t lost in the playoffs to the Marauders since the 2003 Yates Cup, they have not beaten the Marauders in a regular season game since 2009. So while Laurier holds the post season edge, McMaster has proven to be the team to fear in the regular season.
Other Games in Week 9:
Guelph vs. Carleton – October 21, 2017
Ottawa vs. Western – October 21, 2017
York vs. Windsor – October 21, 2017
Queen’s vs. Toronto – October 21, 2017
Laurier Golden Hawks: 8-0
The champions are the champions until they are dethroned. I wish there was such a record as 7.5-0.5 because that is how close I believe that Laurier matches up against Western. The only major loss to this team will be Kwaku Boateng, and potentially Nakas Onyeka. Other than that, the best rushing offence is still intact. Even though they lose Eric Guiltanan, we all know Levondre Gordon is capable of being a number one running back in the OUA. Another advantage I give the Hawks is their ability to win close games, and comeback when they find themselves down. This is a no-quit team who came back to defeat Queen’s, Carleton, and Western when trailing in the fourth quarter last season. Until proven otherwise, Laurier is be the best team in the OUA.
Western Mustangs: 7-1
I have a huge respect for Western and their program. They have built a juggernaut that everyone in the conference strives to be. Since 2007 Western has been in 8-of-10 Yates Cup championship games, winning 4 of them. While recent struggles in the big game have been the dark cloud over the program, they normally roll through the regular season. But with a Western grad at the helm of Laurier, I see this being a huge rivalry for years to come. Like I said above, I wish I could put a record of 7.5-0.5 because that’s how I believe these teams matchup together. It was a great move by Coach Marshall adding Steve Snyder to take over the offence. Western could have just as easily been my #1 team, but I’m sticking with the champs.
McMaster Marauders: 6-2
Questions about the program surround the 2017 McMaster Marauders. They suffered a few key losses, but nothing overly drastic on the defensive side of the ball. One of the best defences in the country will be back at it again next year. The question now comes on the offence. McMaster’s offensive line is always big, tough and well-coached and I don’t see that changing in 2017. However, when you lose your starting quarterback, running back, and your best wide receiver, there will always be questions about your offence. Kyle Quinlan and Tom Flaxman will be at the wheel of the Marauder offence this season after the departure of Coach Behie. I think McMaster could fall either way this season, but what I like about them is their schedule. They play York, Toronto, and Windsor in the three weeks leading up to their showdown with the Golden Hawks. They should be well rested and ready to go against an OUA top dog to finish off their schedule.
Carleton Ravens: 5-3
If there was a year that Carleton was going to win a Yates Cup, most thought it would have been last season. From their win over Western in the early stages of their schedule, and only a one-point loss to Laurier, Carleton seemed primed for a strong year. However they were routed 40-10 in Week 1 by McMaster and it was their Achilles’ heel when it came to playoff seeding at the end of the season. Now without a proven quarterback, Carleton will need to find answers, and fast. They don’t need an all-time great quarterback, they just need a game manager. Someone who can make the easy throws and control the clock. If they can find that, I think they remain serious contenders in 2017.
Queen’s Gaels: 5-3
2016 was a disappointment for the Gaels. Not making the playoffs and not looking like a traditional Queen’s program in the process. Queen’s rise and fall has always come with their quarterback and Nate Hobbs enters his fourth year with the program, with a ton of pressure on his shoulders. He has a few weapons to work with offensively but how they stack up with the big dogs is yet to be determined. They will probably start the season 1-3, as expected, but Gaels fans don’t rush into a panic. They finish the season with Windsor, Waterloo, York at homecoming, and Toronto. Their biggest game of the season will be against Ottawa in Week 2; a win there and Queen’s should be set up just fine for the playoffs.
Guelph Gryphons: 4-4
Guelph is my dark horse. They could easily be ranked higher, but again, they need to prove it. They have a solid quarterback but now their receivers need to show a bit more. The defence was spotty in 2016 without John Rush, which was as expected, but the loss to Windsor really put a dent in their season. A strong showing against McMaster in the OUA quarter-final could be the sign of a different team in 2017, but again I need to see it to believe it
Ottawa Gee-Gees: 3-5
I’m not a huge fan of what Ottawa has going on in the nation’s capital. Not an overly strong recruiting-school and their play has been mediocre at best over the last two seasons. A lot of people were blinded by the brilliance of Derek Wendel, which is granted. I thought Wendel should have been the OUA MVP in 2015 as well. But like I said earlier, they could not win with Wendel, so it will be tough convincing me that you will win without him. I think without the best player in the OUA, Ottawa’s true colours will be shown and you will not see them when we narrow it down to a final six.
York Lions: 3-5
Questions always surround York. I have no doubt that they will have a high-flying offence in 2017. I believe the Hunchak brothers will be on their A-game all season, but they don’t quite stack up against the elite defences of the OUA. Retention is my biggest question for York as they have one of the highest drop-off rates from non-senior starters from year-to-year. If York has a shot at making the playoffs it will be because of shootouts where the final score is something like 49-42. The Lions defence isn’t great, but they are very athletic which can cause some problems for opposing teams. I think their offence can turn some heads but it likely won’t be enough for a playoff berth.
Windsor Lancers: 2-6
Well Lancer fans, get excited for the start of the season. You get Toronto and Waterloo to play to start the year off, so odds are you’ll be 2-0 after Week 2. But then you play the real teams and your Lancers just don’t stack up with the playoff-contending teams in the OUA. I do think they have the ability to beat mediocre teams like they have in the past two seasons (Guelph 2016, Laurier 2015). Both upsets they had came against teams who ended up finishing sixth overall in the conference. Don’t be surprised if this team pulls off an upset, but realistically, they need to do a much better job of recruiting outside of the Windsor area in order to compete in the next few years.
Toronto Varsity Blues: 1-7
I have had my doubts about Toronto for the past number of years. I believe they have talent that masks their issues off the field. Coach Greg Gary and his philosophy on recruiting has not been proven to have worked as the idea that “the kids will come to us” isn’t how recruits want to be treated in this era of football. The University sells itself, but the program doesn’t. Now with no offence, defence, or recruiting coordinator at the end of January, expect the Blues to have one of the worst recruiting classes in the country, which will be evident on game day come August. I think this is the season where Toronto’s problems reveal themselves and we will not see too many positives coming from the Varsity Blues in 2017.
Waterloo Warriors: 0-8
Chris Bertoia is one of the best head coaches in the OUA. Period. It isn’t easy recruiting kids to play for a program who shut themselves down in 2010 after a massive team-wide steroid bust, and hasn’t reclaimed success since. Bertoia experienced winning while playing for the Warriors and wants his players to experience it too. But it’s a tough sell to a football player to move to a city where the school that gets all the football glamour and attention is across the street. Bertoia will do a great job at developing players and the program will need to give him a LONG time to rebuild it. I don’t think Waterloo wins in 2017, but I think they can start competing in the coming years.
While these predictions are long in advance, this is how the teams have set themselves up in my eyes. Western is a powerhouse, but like the saying goes, “it takes one to know one” and Michael Faulds, who is committed to Laurier through 2023, will look to create the same identity for the Golden Hawks for the next number of years. Many teams can contend and the regular season is a great gauge to see who are contenders and who are pretenders. But when the lights come on on October 28, 2017 for the OUA quarter-finals, we will truly see who is for real.