LIVESTREAM PPV: CFL Season opener – Toronto Argonauts @Saskatchewan Roughriders June 15, 7p (9p EST, 3a CEST June 16)

The taste of bitter defeat from November still lingers for Riders players and fans alike after a devastating loss at the hands of the Double Blue. Saskatchewan was less than three minutes away from a Grey Cup berth when future hall of famer Ricky Ray worked his magic, orchestrating a late touchdown drive that pulled the Argos ahead.

The rest is history as the Toronto went on the stun the Calgary Stampeders in the 105th Grey Cup presented by Shaw to claim their 17th CFL title.

But the past is in the past. Rather than resting on their laurels, the Argos are looking forward to what is ahead.

“Obviously when you win you are enjoying it for a few weeks after the Grey Cup and into the holidays,” Ray told Argonauts.ca. “But once the new year roles around you’re getting focused on what you need to do to get ready for the upcoming year.”

The Argos run to the Grey Cup was considered unlikely by most after a disastrous 2016 season campaign and tumultuous off-season. Head coach Scott Milanovich left the team for an NFL opportunity a few months before training camp was set to start, and general manager Jim Barker was fired.

Enter Marc Trestman and Jim Popp.

In just one season, they turned the Double Blue from worst to first in the CFL. The Argos are considered by many as the top team in the East heading into the 2018 season.

Trestman says that while his methods haven’t changed, there is more familiarity heading into his second season with the team.

“We just had a different plan last year because we were on a shorter stick in terms of getting ourselves ready,” said Trestman . “The obvious things are you do have relationships with the players that you coach. You are able to have a little more fun with them…we just know each other better and that just makes it more fun.”

The Argos’ core group from their 2017 championship squad is intact. Ray will lead the charge on offence, flanked by last year’s Most Outstanding Rookie James Wilder Jr. at running back, and the seemingly ageless S.J. Green as a top target.

The Argos bolstered their already-strong defence with some new additions. T.J. Heath is back with the Boatmen after the team traded him two seasons ago to Winnipeg, while ex-BC Lion Ronnie Yell will be making his Double Blue debut at cornerback on Friday.

Yell says that the secondary will be in tough against a potent Riders offence.

“You’ve got names like Duron Carter, [Naaman] Roosevelt, [Caleb] Holley over there,” said Yell. “A couple of new additions. They’re exciting and always make big plays so our job is to stop them, contain them and win the game.”

Abdul Kanneh, after being acquired by the Argos in a trade with Hamilton on Sunday, is on the one-game injured list and will have to wait to make his Argos debut. The team could also be without Bear Woods and Taylor Reed for a while, and will lean on Terrance Plummer at middle linebacker.

The biggest question heading into Week 1 for the Riders is at quarterback. Will it be Zach Collaros or Brandon Bridge under centre against the Argos?

While Collaros is listed as the starter on the team’s depth chart, there is still no definitive answer.

“We’ll see, we’ll see,” responded Jones on Thursday when asked if Collaros would take the first snap of Week 1.

“They both work extremely hard and our offensive staff has done a nice job with them. They know what their roles are and exactly how things are going to work out.”

It’s expected that Collaros will make his first start as a Rider. The veteran pivot, who’s back to wearing his old number 17, is looking to bounce back after a pair of disappointing seasons in Hamilton. The 29-year-old suffered a devastating knee injury back in 2015 while on pace to be named Most Outstanding Player, and is trying to get back to that level.

A fresh start in Riderville may just do the trick.

“I’m just really excited to play football,” Collaros told Riderville.com. “I’m really excited about the group that we have here. It’s a great locker room of guys who really care about each other and love the game and that’s all you can really ask for.”

Collaros will have two of the top receivers in the league with Carter and Roosevelt at his disposal. While Saskatchewan’s offence is a force to reckoned with, Riderville was shocked by the release of three veteran receivers last week.

Rob BaggBakari Grant, and Chad Owens were sent packing just days before the start of the season. Bagg was a favourite in Riderville and a mainstay on the Green and White for almost a decade. Grant was coming off of a plus 1000-yard season. Owens brought a wealth of knowledge to the locker room.

The move shows that the Riders mean business.

“It’s a young man’s game unfortunately,” said Jones. “We had a couple of young guys that preformed really over the course of the entire camp.”

The Riders also released offensive guard Travis Bond. Jarvis Harrison, another international, beat him out for the starting job, leaving Bond, one of the team’s big off-season additions, out of the plans. The Riders’ O-line will be under the microscope on Friday after being called out by Jones following the pre-season finale.

Despite some tough cuts on offence, the Riders appear stronger on both sides of the ball thanks to two new additions  Jerome Messam will look to make a statement in his return to Saskatchewan, who he previously played for in 2014 and 2015. The 33-year-old running back is coming off of his third 1000-yard season and shows no signs of slowing down.

On defence, the Riders have added last year’s sack leader and four-time CFL All-Star Charleston Hughes. The one-two punch of Hughes and Willie Jefferson on opposite sides of the defensive line could cause nightmares for opposing quarterbacks, starting with Ricky Ray, who’s not exactly known for his foot speed.

Crunchin’ Numbers:

4 – Number of game last season that then-rookie James Wilder Jr. recorded 100-plus yards.

10 – Touchdown passes needed by Ricky Ray to surpass the legendary Ron Lancaster for fourth all-time.

11 – League leading sacks by Charleston Hughes last season.

12 – Straight starts for Zach Collaros without a win, tied for a league-worst record.

It’s a coin toss when it comes to who will prevail under the Friday night lights.

Our experts are split right down the middle.

Will the Argos pick up right where they left off, or will the Riders take their season opener in front of their always ruckus home town crowd?

– With files from Argonauts.ca/Riderville.com

AFI, Yare Media and the CFL

American Football International is collaborating with Yare Media and the Canadian Football League to present 2017 CFL games live. This is more than a livestream. This is a stream of the top flight TSN network television broadcast.

LIVE STREAM: CFL Season opener – Toronto Argonauts @Saskatchewan Roughriders June 15, 7p (9p EST, 3a CEST June 16)

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