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Former Heisman Trophy winner Manziel back under centre for Alouettes


Johnny Football is back as a CFL starter.

Johnny Manziel will be under centre — again — Friday night when the Montreal Alouettes visit the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Manziel hasn't played since suffering a concussion in his second start for the Als, a 24-17 loss to the Ottawa Redblacks on Aug. 11.

The 25-year-old former Heisman Trophy winner returned to practice last week after battling the flu and made headlines when he wondered publicly if Montreal (3-9) had lost faith in him. Manziel continued by saying he was healthy enough to play the previous two weeks.

But Antonio Pipkin drew his fourth straight start in Montreal's 32-14 home loss to B.C. After leading the Alouettes to consecutive victories, Pipkin struggled mightily against the Lions, completing 11 of 22 passes for 95 yards and four interceptions — with two being returned for fourth-quarter touchdowns.

Manziel completed 27 of 46 passes in his previous two starts with Montreal for 272 yards and four interceptions. The picks all came in his debut, a 50-11 loss to Hamilton, the team that dealt Manziel to the Alouettes in July.

Winnipeg (5-7) has dropped four straight but head coach Mike O'Shea is sticking with starting quarterback Matt Nichols. The veteran sports a 61.4 per cent completion average but has thrown more interceptions (12) than touchdowns (11).

The Bombers still boast the CFL's top rushing attack (135 yards per game). Winnipeg native Andrew Harris has dropped to No. 2 in league rushing with 984 yards, 10 behind Ottawa's William Powell.

But Harris is still averaging a solid six yards per carry and has run for six TDs.

Manziel resumes control of a Montreal offence that's last overall in offensive scoring (15.5 points per game), net yards (263.8), passing TDs (six) and sacks allowed (43). And he'll face a Winnipeg defence that, despite the club's recent struggles, remains tied for second with Saskatchewan in most turnovers forced (31).

Winnipeg is 4-2 this season versus the East while the Als counter with a 1-6 mark against Western clubs.

Prediction: Winnipeg

 

Edmonton Eskimos versus Ottawa Redblacks (Saturday afternoon)

At Ottawa, this has the potential to be a passing shootout. Trevor Harris led the Redblacks (7-5) to a 30-25 win over Saskatchewan last week with 334 yards through the air with two TDs while Powell also ran for 148 yards and two touchdowns. Mike Reilly of Edmonton (7-5) is the CFL's passing leader with 3,943 yards and second overall in touchdown passes (26).

Prediction: Edmonton.

 

Saskatchewan Roughriders versus Toronto Argonauts (Saturday night)

At Toronto, the Riders (7-5) chase a fifth victory in six games after having their four-game win streak snapped last week by Ottawa. Quarterback Zach Collaros (10-of-27 passing, 162 yards, one TD, two interceptions) must be better. Duron Carter faces his former team for the first time since joining the Argos (3-8), who've dropped two straight and are 2-5 against the West.

Prediction: Saskatchewan.

 

Hamilton Tiger-Cats versus B.C. Lions (Saturday night)

At Vancouver, Jonathon Jennings starts for the Lions (5-6) after veteran Travis Lulay suffered a shoulder injury last week versus Montreal. B.C. has won two straight and its defence has been stellar. That's not good for Hamilton (6-6). Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was 23-of-37 passing in last week's 43-28 loss to Calgary but only for 210 yards with two interceptions.

Prediction: B.C.

 

Last week: 2-1

Overall: 33-20.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

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