1. Are the Lions once again the head of the class? On paper, you would have to say yes as they have the best team, but we all know you don't win games on paper. Wally Buono is no longer the coach, but I don't think Mike Benavides should have many problems considering he has been around the organization for years.
2. Is this the year the Ti-Cats break the door down? Hamilton has been right there for the last few years in the East, but they haven't been able to get to the Grey Cup. It reminds me of the Riders under Danny Barrett. Marcel Bellefeuille was let go and replaced by George Cortez. They picked up Henry Burris via trade, Andy Fantuz via free agency and patience has finally paid off as Sam Giguere comes back from the NFL. If Hamilton can't do it this year, they might not do it for a long time.
3. The balance of power The Western Division has been the stronger of the two divisions for years. Teams from the West have routinely crossed-over, but it could be the other way around this year. We know the CFL is a quarterback league and that your teams fortunes depend largely on the play on the QB. Ricky Ray and Henry Burris have changed conferences and one could now argue the East teams collectively have better QB's than the Western teams.
4. Drew Tate The Stampeders decided it was time to part ways with Henry Burris so he was sent to Hamilton. Is Drew Tate ready? He played well enough in the regular season last year to get Burris benched, but the last time I saw Calgary, Burris replaced an ineffective Tate in a playoff game. The Stamps rolled the dice big-time when they made this move. Will it pay off or blow up in their face.
5. Ricky Ray It was perhaps the most discussed move of the off-season. Ricky Ray has the task of making the Argos a good football team and one that can possibly compete for the 100th Grey Cup on their own turf in November. Ray certainly doesn't have the pass-catching talent he had in Edmonton and he isn't getting any younger either. I thought trading Burris to Toronto would have made more sense, but Burris is much older than Ray so throw that theory out the window. Good luck Ricky!
6. New blood Corey Chamblin may be the youngest head coach in the CFL at the age of 35, but he isn't alone when it comes to being a first time coach. Chamblin is joined by Mike Benavides in BC, George Cortez in Hamilton and Scott Milanovich in Toronto. What one of these four has the most success?By the way, when you consider that Paul Lapolice is only in his 3rd year in Winnipeg and that Kavis Reed goes into his 2nd in Edmonton, I think its great that there are so many new guys in charge of their team.
7. Officiating CFL fans are always upset over the state of officiating and well they should be as we seemingly see one boondoggle after another in the league on a week-to-week basis. The CFL is a great product that seems to get watered down by the performance of the stripes. The league needs better and we as fans deserve better.
8. Rising and Falling Who makes the biggest leap and who takes the biggest fall? Did anyone see BC doing what they did last season? Did anyone see the Riders implosion? I would have to say the team that will rise the most is the Riders as they will get back to being a playoff team and a team that I think will finish 2nd in the West. I just can't see Edmonton being strong with Steven Jyles at the helm so I have them falling the most.
9. New Stars What players will quickly become household names? Who grabs that spotlight a la Weston Dressler in 2008 and Chris Williams last season? A lot of talk centers around Hamilton receiver Sam Giguere, but I think you have to add the Riders Kory Sheets into that equation as well. Every team has brand new starters looking to make an impact. It may take a couple of weeks to see what rookies are shining and what ones are ordinary or struggling.
10. The 100th Grey Cup The Argos would love nothing more than to play in the big game at Rogers Centre. The games in 89 and 07 in that facility were great for the Rider Nation. In the end, I see Montreal knocking off BC and then seeing Anthony Calvillo ride off into the sunset. The final standings will see Montreal, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Toronto in the East with BC, Sask, Calgary and Edmonton rounding out the west.
Strap that chinstrap on tight. Its time for kickoff!