QB Index: A big week for Jeremiah Masoli & MBT

The QB Index is a weekly power ranking of quarterbacks across the CFL. The ranking reflects recent performance, historical value, statistical indicators, team success and overall on-field evaluation.

TORONTO — It’s fitting that arguably the biggest game on the regular-season schedule lands on a classic CFL rivalry and involves two quarterbacks with a strong relationship.

Jeremiah Masoli and McLeod Bethel-Thompson are two San Francisco-area QBs that managed to make that long, unlikely trek from the west coast all the way to southern Ontario. It’s certainly not the path that either would have envisioned as kids or even college players, but they’re loving where the journey has taken them. On Friday, they get to do battle in Toronto to try to settle who the top team in the East Division is.

They know each other well and celebrate each other’s successes, but find themselves trending in different directions in terms of how their seasons are going. Masoli battled through injury and has only gotten back on the field in the last five games, where his Ticats team is 3-2 in that stretch. His play has been consistent and has helped the reigning East Division champs start to look like their old selves, stacking up wins with a potent and varied offence.

Bethel-Thompson fought his way into the starting job, with the Argos trading Nick Arbuckle to Edmonton on Oct. 26. While the Argos have the best record in the East and are undefeated at home this year, the last few wins have been squeakers, the most recent a come-from-behind win over last-place Ottawa on Saturday. Bethel-Thompson threw three interceptions in that game. Of the 10 he’s thrown this year, eight have come in his last three outings. Still, the Argos have won two of those and they’ll have the comforts of BMO Field for Friday’s showdown.

Friday should have the feel of a playoff game between two rival teams and a pair of friends leading each squad into battle. It’s the kind of games they’d tell you they live for and it should give a glimpse into what a playoff encounter between them might look like in a few weeks’ time. It should also reflect on them here, in next week’s rankings.

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There’s been plenty of reason to celebrate in Winnipeg this year and Zach Collaros has been in the middle of it all (Photo: The Canadian Press)

ZACH COLLAROS WPG
THIS WEEK: 1 | LAST WEEK: 1

Collaros has been the most even QB in the league this year and showed it again against an Alouettes team that gave them a good fight at IG Field. His 280 yards on 21-33 passing came with two touchdowns and zero interceptions, pushing him to 20 TDs to just six INTs on the year. After the Bombers won their ninth in a row, Collaros said with a stoicism that would make the most veteran of NHL players swell with pride that that they were just happy to get the win, they’d celebrate it and move on to the next game. Asked by TSN’s Sara Orlesky how much he’d like to play in the final two games on the schedule, he only said, “Whatever O’Sh decides.”

MICHAEL REILLY BC
THIS WEEK: 2 | LAST WEEK: 2

With the Lions’ season increasingly being on the line, you can’t say Reilly didn’t leave it all out there in Friday’s loss to the Ticats. He was 33-43 for 330 yards,  but had no touchdowns along with one interception. He pointed to headset issues limiting what the team could do throughout the game at Tim Hortons Field. Whatever the circumstances, the Lions now fully have their backs against the wall this week, with no room for error. The good news for the Lions is that their path to the playoffs isn’t that far-fetched, despite their record. Wins against Calgary this week and Edmonton next, coupled with Winnipeg downing Calgary next week would get them in. 

JEREMIAH MASOLI HAM
THIS WEEK: 3 | LAST WEEK: 4

We’ve been waiting and watching as Masoli has returned from injury, going 3-2 in the process and leading his team on a three-game win streak. He’s been consistent and overall has been productive, throwing for a total of 1,519 yards in that stretch with eight TDs and zero interceptions. This week’s game against Toronto will be a great test for him, but Masoli seems like he’s up to the challenge and the Ticats look like they’re getting into a good place as the postseason nears. 

BO LEVI MITCHELL CGY
THIS WEEK: 4 | LAST WEEK: 3

Mitchell could be heading into something of a playoff atmosphere in BC this week, where the Lions’ season is on the line. There’s lots at stake for Calgary too, who needs a win to clinch a playoff spot and could in theory still host the Western Semi-Final with some help from their rivals one province to the east of them. With the return of Reggie Begelton, Calgary’s offence has gained depth and a familiar face. That could provide the late-season boost the Stamps are looking for.

CODY FAJARDO SSK
THIS WEEK: 5 | LAST WEEK: 5

Riders coach Craig Dickenson thinks his team’s offence is really close to putting it together and he might be right. Shaq Evans (51 yards) and Duke Williams (62 yards) played a bigger part in the passing attack against Edmonton. Williams is finding a place on special teams too, having pulled in an onside kick attempt from the opposition three times in three games. Facing the Elks at Mosaic Stadium this week, Fajardo will get another chance to build chemistry with his new targets. A big offensive game might set some nervous Riders fans at ease as the playoffs approach.

TREVOR HARRIS MTL
THIS WEEK: 6 | LAST WEEK: 6

Like pretty well every quarterback in the league this year, Harris ran into a wall against Winnipeg’s defence, going 14-25 for 177 yards with a pair of touchdowns against a pair of interceptions. As the Bombers’ Zach Collaros can attest, it’s an uphill climb for a QB that gets dealt late in the season and has to learn a new offence and teammates while readying for the playoffs. Harris gets to face that Bombers’ defence in his new home in Montreal this week. Maybe this baptism by fire is a good thing in the long run for Harris, who could be playoff ready after two games against the league’s best.

MCLEOD BETHEL-THOMPSON TOR
THIS WEEK: 7 | LAST WEEK: 7

The main thing for the Argos was that they found a way to pull a win from the REDBLACKS last week to keep their hold of first in the East Division. The troubling thing for them and for Bethel-Thompson is that his interception numbers are starting to climb. The three he had in Ottawa bring him to eight in his last three games. That’s something that the Ticats’ defence should be salivating as they prep to face him this week. Just like for Masoli, Friday is a big night for Bethel-Thompson, who will be tested as the team’s starter in a playoff-like game.

TAYLOR CORNELIUS EDM
THIS WEEK: 8 | LAST WEEK: 9

Playing in the Elks’ home finale last week, Cornelius gave the fans something to cheer about, even if it wasn’t a win. The 26-year-old had his best game yet for Edmonton, putting together a fourth quarter that was full of spark, as the Elks tried to pull the rug out from under the visiting Riders. He had a slightly better statistical game in Week 9 against Ottawa, but took much better care of the ball, with zero interceptions on the night (he had two against the REDBLACKS that game). Nick Arbuckle is the presumed starter in Edmonton in 2022, but if Cornelius can continue to show growth through this grind of a finish for the Elks, fans can feel better about their QB depth when camp opens next spring.

DEVLIN HODGES OTT
THIS WEEK: 9| LAST WEEK: –

Hodges wet his feet in the waters of the CFL last week with less-than-great totals of a 36.4 per cent completion rate and just 90 yards passing and no touchdowns. The positive: He didn’t turn the ball over, which rookie QBs are prone to when they get into the CFL game. He’ll get the bye week and assuming he gets the start for the REDBLACKS’ season finale in Montreal, should have ample time to study up on his next opponent.

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