With a playoff spot already in hand, the U of M Bisons football team has a chance to improve its place in the standings with a ten-point win Saturday, when they host the 4-3 UBC Thunderbirds at IGF.
However, the herd will need some help from the University of Saskatchewan Huskies if they want to avoid the University of Calgary Dinos in the first round.
UBC enters the weekend holding second-place in Canada West with a 4-3 record, while the Bisons sit fourth at 3-4. The Thunderbirds beat Manitoba 30-20 in the first game of the season on Sep. 1.
The herd returns to the post-season after back-to-back seasons finishing outside playoff contention. Last season the Bisons finished dead-last in the conference at 2-6, after finishing second-last the year prior at 3-5.
The last time Manitoba saw the post-season, the club bowed out in the first round of the 2015 Hardy Cup playoffs with a sound 52-10 defeat from the UBC Thunderbirds.
That same UBC Thunderbirds program holds Manitoba’s next playoff matchup in their hands. A loss to the Thunderbirds Saturday will cement Manitoba into fourth and set the club up to face the 7-0 University of Calgary Dinos in the playoffs.
If the herd comes away with a win Saturday the Thunderbirds will drop to 4-4 and the outcome of the 4-3 University of Saskatchewan Huskies’ final game will be brought into account.
UBC owns the tiebreaker with the Huskies — beating them in the lone contest between the two — so a Saskatchewan loss to Regina despite a Manitoba win would keep the standings as is.
The Huskies have the tiebreaker over Manitoba — sweeping the season series — so if all three teams finish at 4-4, the positions will be unchanged.
If Manitoba and Saskatchewan both win this weekend, the season series between Manitoba and UBC will be tied, bringing in the second tie-breaker: point differential.
With the 30-20 win in the first meeting, UBC has a ten-point edge on the herd. If Manitoba wins by ten points or more and Saskatchewan beats Regina in any fashion, the herd moves to third in the conference and Saskatchewan to second.
This result would set up a Manitoba-Saskatchewan game in the first round of the playoffs.
If this matchup comes to fruition, history may be on Manitoba’s side.
The last time the Bisons won the Hardy Cup — during the 2014 season — the club went 4-4, faced a powerful 6-2 Huskies squad in the first round, and edged out a dominant 6-2 Dinos team in the final.
The Bisons eventually lost to Montreal in the Vanier Cup semifinal.
The Bisons will take on the Thunderbirds on Saturday, Oct. 27 at IGF. Kickoff is 2 p.m. CDT.