It was an off-season of change for both teams, as each team poached from the other to get someone they wanted. The Riders snagged former Tiger-Cat defensive coordinator Corey Chamblin to be their new head coach, while Hamilton took one of Saskatchewan's best players when they signed receiver Andy Fantuz during free agency.
The Riders were a complete mess last season, with the firing of Greg Marshall midway through the season being their biggest blunder. They replaced him with former head coach Ken Miller and continued to do nothing en route to posting a league-worst 5-13 record. It was a season to forget on the Prairies. The team hopes that bringing in the 35-year-old Chamblin will jump start the rebuilding process, but the team looks a long way from contending. The Riders have plenty of good players, and added another one in the off-season when they dealt for 2011 co-sack leader Odell Willis, but they don't look like a legitimate threat right now. But out of all the good players they have, there was one very important player they weren't able to keep around.
Adding Andy Fantuz was just one of a slew of moves the team made in the off-season. A new coach, new quarterback and two new non-import receivers have brought high expectations for the Ti-Cats. It might take a while for them to come together, but that won't stop the catcalls from raining down should the team not perform to expectations early on. If the preseason is any indication, the offense will be a well-oiled unit before too long, but the defense will take a little longer.
On paper, the Ti-Cats have the advantage in pretty much every category, but as we all know, games aren't played on paper. Season openers are notorious for revealing things that no one ever thought about, and trying to pick who the best team is based on a month of camp and two preseason games is usually unwise.
Having said all that, the Ti-Cats are the superior team. While Saskatchewan looks to be on the right track, it is going to take them longer to come together than it will the Ti-Cats. Hamilton will be playing at home in the last home opener ever at Ivor Wynne Stadium and the fans are going to be amped up. It should be an electric atmosphere when the game kicks off at 7:00PM.