The undefeated featured today at Griffiths
Or are they informative? Or wrong-headed? Or a nice boost to the ego?
University of Manitoba Bisons head coach Brian Dobie sees all those extremes from his own coaching staff when it comes to the love ’em or hate ’em rankings.
“Most of my assistant coaches, even other coaches on campus, sometimes they just don’t believe them,” says Dobie, whose fourth-ranked Bisons play the second-ranked Saskatchewan Huskies today at 3:30 p.m. at Griffiths Stadium. “They go ‘Oh, the rankings. Whatever.’ Maybe it’s just me, but I disagree with that. The rankings are very important for other reasons.”
He says those other reasons include public perception of the program. Dobie made a recruiting trip to B.C. last week when the Bisons had a bye. A lot of people he talked to knew about Manitoba’s No. 4 ranking and if they didn’t, Dobie reminded them.
Fifteen media members set the rankings in a weekly national poll. Huskies head coach Brian Towriss, whose team is a perennial top-10 unit, says he doesn’t give much weight to who’s ranked where.
“Only at the end of the year,” Towriss said. “That’s for media people. It’s a reflection of how well you’ve done during the year, but (where you’re ranked) doesn’t make any difference. It’s not like if you’re ranked second and you get beat you go to the nextbest bowl game. That’s not the way it works here.”
Dobie also downplays the whole No. 2 vs. No. 4 angle in the game today. He says the most important aspect of the clash is a chance to take the inside track on first place and home-field advantage in the playoffs. Saskatchewan is 5-0, Manitoba 4-0. “There’s been a lot of media hype here (in Winnipeg),” Dobie said. “I addressed the players. I said ‘Hype’s great — football’s exciting and you want to be involved in this kind of environment. You guys earned it. If we were 0-4, there’d be no hype. But that’s not at all what this game’s about.’
“This game is about first place and first place counts for something. It’s not about the rankings or national TV. It’s about two teams duking it out for first place, with 60 per cent of the season done and over.”
The Huskies are enjoying a strong surge by first-year quarterback Bret Thompson, who shook off a slow start to record big numbers the last couple of weeks. Thompson, in his last four quarters, has completed 32 of 40 passes for 506 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions.
“I knew I could play in this league,” said Thompson, a former junior star with the Saskatoon Hilltops. “It was a matter of time before everything started clicking. I see the field a hundred times better than I did at the start and I’m making better and better reads. I definitely feel comfortable with the offence now.”
Dobie, meanwhile, savours the chance to measure his program against the Huskies, who played in — and lost — three of the last four national finals.
“The program I respect most in the country is Saskatchewan,” Dobie said. “How can you not? Heck, you think with the (10 starters) they lost, they’d be given up for dead. But here they are, undefeated, ranked second in the country. It’s amazing and they deserve it.
“But we’re coming there to win. We’re not apologizing for our successes, either. I told our guys this is what you build and play for.You play to be the best and you play to play against the best. And that’s who we’re going to play on Saturday is the best.”
Bisons (4-0) at Huskies (5-0) 3:30 p.m. Griffiths Stadium, The Score, CK750