Plenty at Stake Ahead of the 54th Labour Day Classic

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REGINA, SK - JULY 01: Matt Nichols #15 of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers looks to see if he reached the first down marker after scrambling in the game between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium on July 1, 2017 in Regina, Canada. (Photo by Brent Just/Getty Images)

While trash talk remains at a minimum—the biggest trash-talker, Duron Carter, is also absent—and the prairie rivalry has yet to heat up, the 54th annual Labour Day Classic between the visiting Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Saskatchewan Roughriders will be a high stakes game.

Teams moving in different directions

Both the Bombers (5-5) and the Roughriders (5-4) have five wins, but Saskatchewan sits ahead of Winnipeg due to the Bombers’ extra loss.

With a yearly home-and-home between these two clubs approaching, a sweep would be critical to the losing team’s chances at a home playoff game.

On one side, the Bombers are slumping, dropping their last two contests by 13-plus points. With the offence stalling, heavy criticism is coming down on quarterback Matt Nichols. As a result, fans are calling for the exciting rookie Chris Streveler behind centre.

After all, Nichols is having a very mediocre 2018 campaign.

Winnipeg’s franchise pivot has failed to have a 300-yard passing game through seven starts this season and is one interception away from tying his season total from last year (eight), which Nichols threw for in 17 starts. His statistics are okay overall, but the lack of meaningful scoring and the constant inaccuracy on deep balls is concerning.

But Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea has already cemented Nichols as the starter next Sunday in Regina.

On the other side, the Riders are riding a hot streak going into the Labour Day Classic.

Two weeks ago, the Roughriders sent the CFL a message by whopping the undefeated Calgary Stampeders 40-27. Then just last week, Saskatchewan travelled to B.C. and handed the Lions their first home loss of the season, winning 24-21.

Despite only sitting at 3-2 at home in 2018, Saskatchewan is a different, better team at home, feeding off their massive loud crowds.

Combine that with the Roughriders 35-18 record versus Winnipeg in the Labour Day Classic, and the Bombers chances do not look too good.

New faces, same teams

Many new faces will appear in their first Labour Day Classic on Sunday. Starting Riders quarterback Zach Collaros, who has found his groove as of late, is joining the rivalry, as well as star defensive players Charleston Hughes and Nick Marshall.

Collaros has been anticipating the first game of the home-and-home with Winnipeg for a few weeks now, saying it seems like a whole different animal, and the game-day atmosphere is going to be incredible in an interview with Regina Leader-Post’s Murray McCormick.

As for Winnipeg’s, and former Saskatchewan Roughrider, Nic Demski, he’s moved over to the visiting side. Demski will now be looking to spoil the party in Regina on Sunday afternoon.

Demski has already eclipsed his career season-high totals in receptions, yards, and touchdowns in just ten games with the Bombers.

On defence, former B.C. Lions, and now Bombers, Adam Bighill, Chandler Fenner, and Craig Roh will all look to have an impact in their first Labour Day Classic.

The last word

The Riders have won 12 of the last 13 Labour Day meetings in Regina, and are rolling going into Sunday. The Bombers are struggling on both offence and defence. All signs point to an easy Roughriders victory.

Last Labour Day, the Roughriders jumped out to a commanding 24-3 lead over Winnipeg after one quarter. A good start is crucial for the Bombers, and more importantly Matt Nichols.

Saskatchewan is beatable at home (ask the Alouettes), but it is going to take a major turnaround for Winnipeg if they want to leave Regina with a victory this weekend.

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