The Canadian Football League released its 2011 schedule today (for Saskatchewan times, make sure you have the Mountain Time Zone version).
As far as the Saskatchewan Roughriders go, they open the pre-season at home against the Edmonton Eskimos on June 17. They open the regular season at home against the Eskimos too on July 3. They follow that up with another home game against their arch nemesis the Montreal Alouettes on July 9 before hitting the road for games against the Hamilton Tiger Cats on July 16 and the Alouettes again on July 24.
With the CFL only an eight team league there isn’t a lot of variation in the schedule from year to year. But here’s a few things to keep in mind. Of their last seven games, the Riders play six against western division opponents (two home games against B.C. Lions, and two road games each against Calgary Stampeders and Edmonton Eskimos). That’s a lot of games with playoff implications to bunch in the final third of the season (which for the Riders ends with a Nov. 4 game in Edmonton).
The Riders meet their perennial rivals the Stampeders four times this year — playing two games at home, and two in Calgary. The Stamps have been hit hard by free agency, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Last year, after a horrendous 1-8 start the Lions finished the season on a tear and gave the Riders all they could handle in the West semi-final before falling 41-38 in OT. If the Leos continue their strong play, they could emerge as the main challenger to the Riders’ finishing first in the CFL West. If so, the Riders will benefit from playing two of the three games they play against the Leos this year at home.
One final note: the Atlantic Bowl in Moncton, which last year featured a game between the Eskimos and Toronto Argonauts, will this year be contested by the Calgary Stampeders and Hamilton Tiger Cats. It will count as a home game for Hamilton, and will be played on Sept. 25.
If we get our act together in time, prairie dog may apply to the Saskatchewan Roughriders for press credentials so we can actually attend home games and cover the team on a more indepth basis in 2011. So stay tuned.