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Cigars & Football – A Simple Blend

1st PreSeason Article

1st Preview Article 2020

We’re perched here, a month and half before Labor Day weekend, and the kick-off of college football season, as it stands now, (and this status can change at a moment’s notice) the Great White North,  and the PAC-12 have already stated that they have chosen to bend the knee to the panic and wimp out on any and all out-of-conference games. Not sure what logic they are following, as no studies have shown that the Covid-19 virus is only carried and passed on by out of conference fans or foes. Which makes their decisions to be fearful cowards most curious. So far, the SEC , ACC, and the Big-12 that only has ten teams are the only ones that have held out. Gotta say it’s a bit of a surprise that the Big 12 that only has ten teams and the ACC, has shown some intestinal fortitude. Not surprising that the SEC has held out.

First things first, the USC Trojans should change their mascot to a wooden horse, as they are nothing but an empty vessel and their strength lies in the lies that surround them. Why am I so hard on USC? That is an excellent question, because The Daughter and I had tickets to this game and it would have been my first college football game since returning from the parched land of no REAL football, England, and, to be completely honest, one of the main reasons I did not extend my contract in the UK was because I needed to watch the games on American time in America. Now that the Trojans, whose mascot actually lost to the Greeks, – bunch of losers -, backed out, they have been resigned to the same category as John Parker Wilson, you remember, the former Alabama quarterback who fumbled on the one yard line against LSU, which means there is no chance of ever gaining redemption.

Since the SEC and Big-12 that only has ten teams, are holding out, there is talk, and it’s just talk at the moment, that they will replace their out-of-conference games with contests against each other. Capital idea! IF they do this, they will own college football for the entire 2020 season and many years after. If this does not happen, it is this writer’s opinion that there will be one school to blame and that would be Texas. AND it’s for the one simple reason, because if the SEC and the Big 12 that only have ten teams pair off, the entire state of Texas and the rest of the college football world will want, no, better yet, demand, that UT play Texas A&M. The burnt orange team has shown a lot of reluctance to ever renewing this rivalry. Should they do it, YES! Ok, sure, some schools will have to swallow some pride here and there, but, for the love of game, and all that’s holy, it’s a small price to pay.

The ACC, at this time is rumored to only want to keep one out of conference game per school. Why? Because some of their rivalry games are with teams in a different league. Oh, wow, mighty big of them. So what does this mean for Notre Dame? The Irish have always held out as an Independent, because you know, they’re so important, now, however they are in a bit of a pickle. if the other conferences choose to only play intraconference games, this will leave the self-appointed, all mighty Golden Domers out in the cold with no one to play. Oh, poor little ND, if you’d only joined a conference when you could have. 

During the month of June the College Football Preview Magazines came out, which has given us hope, but uncertainty hangs in the air. Everything that they’ve predicted is suspect at best, but it’s all we’ve got to go on. These people are all professionals, they get all the interviews and insider information, which means their average of correct predictions is on a par, or slightly lower than, with us fans here at CigarSmokinFootball. Just about everyone has Clemson ranked as the number one team in the nation. However, since they and the ACC appear to be leaning toward cowardice, they’re little kittens scared of their own shadow instead of Tigers. They lose points and must be dropped out of the number one slot. As it was, they only had one halfway decent game on their schedule, and that was against Notre Dame on Nov 7th, other than that, they have no team on their schedule who will even come close to giving them a serious game. Coach Dabo Swinney has done such a fantastic job of recruiting that they have left the rest of the teams in the conference so far behind it’s not even funny. Remember back when they used to play Florida State and that game actually meant something? Not anymore. Clemson is loaded, no doubt about that, but their entire self-worth hinges on QB Trevor Lawrence. If he suffers any sort of injury that takes him out a few games or the season, Clemson will not finish in the top spot.

Ohio State was to be number two, although they lost many players, mainly on defense. The Buckeyes suffer from the same problem as the ginger kittens of Clemson, all their hopes and dreams rely on their former back-up Georgia QB Justin Fields. If he has a setback in anyway, the vaunted Bucks are toast. Back in the far reaches of our memories there used to be a contest simply called, “The Game”. Was it Yale versus Harvard? Nah! My memory doesn’t go THAT far back! This was when Michigan and OSU would battle it out for superiority in the conference. Now, the Wolverines are the poster child of the Heimlich maneuver, because they can’t help but choke. But it is CSF opinion that OSU will not finish out the season in the conference’s number one position. That honor will go to Penn State! I can hear the gasp from here, but take a deep breath and hear this out. The Nittany Lions have improved vastly over the last couple of seasons. They now have stability at QB in Sean Clifford, and they have a bruising RB in Journey Brown. The offensive line has four returning starters, which should make them one of the best squads in the conference. However, their strength lies in their defense, which, in the past two years, has been ranked as one of the best in the country, and they are loaded with experience this year. The game against OSU is the only game where they will face any real competition. Having said all that, there is one team everyone should keep an eye on. That would be the Minnesota Gophers. No, they won’t win the conference, but they’re going to win games they normally wouldn’t. Head Coach P.J. Fleck is doing a wonderous work in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes. IF someone likes to watch one player do well while the rest of the team suffers, feel free to turn to Maryland. Little Brother of Tua, Taulia Tagovailoa, has taken his talents to the Terps, where he’ll more than likely put up very good numbers but the team still won’t win.

The Big 12, that only has ten teams, well, there is Oklahoma, and then…Oh, yes, Texas, who will have another go at their “wait until next year” mantra. OU has another Quarterback that, before all this Covid-19, was already been talked about as a Heisman candidate. This Spencer Rattler is supposed to be the whole package with a cannon of an arm. So, safe to say that the scourge of the conference will once again score a lot of points. Where the Sooners are weak is on the defensive side of the ball. But, seriously, does anyone put a lot of stock in any Big 12 that only has ten teams defense? Not really, no. Should they and the SEC pair up, the Big 12 that has only ten teams will get an education very quickly. However, I’d love to see it. If there is a dark horse, and that’s an IF, it would be Iowa State. These Cyclones who use a bird as their mascot are turning into serious players. They’re learning how to win and actually starting to believe they can and will. Another interesting team to keep an eye on is Kansas State. Head Coach Chris Kleiman is installing his North Dakota State mentality in them and it’s starting to bare fruit.

PAC-12. For the champagne and kale crowd, it is expected that the Oregon Ducks will win it all. They won’t go undefeated, as no one is that good out on the Left Coast but they’re supposed to win more than anyone else. They’ve got two potentials at Quarterback in Tyler Shough and Boston College transfer Anthony Brown. Has there even been a good QB from Boston College since Matt Ryan? The best thing for the Quackers, however, is not their offense, it’s those nine returning starters on defense, who, in all honesty, greatly improved last year. Let’s not get carried away here, they weren’t a hardcore SEC defense, but for the kale munching, white wine sipping league, is was pretty good. USC is picked to win the southern division, but that might be just because if they don’t, their Head Coach Clay Helton will be unemployed. Over the last couple of years, the talent level of the Wooden Horses of Troy has dropped considerably, they’re still pretty good but not near where they think they are. Since they chose not to open the season against Alabama, it’s pretty obvious they know they don’t have the team to compete. The best overall team just might be the Arizona State Sun Devils. Head Coach Herm Edwards isn’t messing around. He’s overhauled his coaching staff, he now has a promising Quarterback in Jayden Daniels, who performed very well last year, and the defense ranked third last year while allowing an average of 22 points per game. That’s high praise out on the West. The rest of the teams appear to be in flux, from coaching changes to losing talent. Doubtful anyone else will mount up much of a threat.

In the conference where it just means more, the SEC, is the master of college football once again and that’s not just because LSU whipped Clemson and won the Natty, which was, in all honesty, very nice to watch. On the Eastern side there are two teams that are heavily favored to win their division, that would be Florida and Georgia with the potential, just the potential, so don’t get carried away, of Tennessee actually making some noise.  Georgia might take a step back as they are in desperate need of a Quarterback, so much so they have accepted transfer Jamie Newmen from Wake Forest. He did rather well against weak conference opponents for the Demon Deacons, but nothing that would lead one to believe he can produce greatly against sturdier foes. In another switch, Head Coach Kirby Smart has brought in offensive coordinator Todd Monken, an “Air Raid” evangelist.  Can that work in the SEC? We’ll see. The Gators, however, enter this season in a position of strength. They found their QB in Kyle Trask, who only got the start because of an injury to Feleipe Franks. They still need to find their next RB, but the offensive line is solid, and on defense they have seven returning starters. Dan Mullen is known for taking over a team and, in the first couple of years, improving them, but he was never able to get them to that conference title level. Will this be the year? Possible, highly possible.

Out in the West, where the Titans of College football call home, there are more than a few interesting storylines. The State of Mississippi is in a state of mental overload with the hiring of Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss and Mike Leach at Mississippi State. Is it even possible for Leach to turn the Bulldogs into the Washington State Cougars? Or, will the lessons that Kiffin has learned at the feet of St Saban transfer into the kind-of success that UGA had when they hired another Saban disciple in Kirby Smart? In case anyone forgot, HC Smart led those Dawgs to the national championship game. The Magnolia residents aren’t the only ones wondering. Texas A&M has 18 returning starters, and has two years of highly regarded recruits making their presence known. There is talent everywhere, one would think the Aggie fans would be jubilate with anticipation, but they seem, at best, hesitant. For an Aggie, this is akin to having COVID19, the Spanish flu, and the Ebola virus all at once. This reluctance to be true screaming, foaming, Aggies, could be due to their lack of faith in QB Kellen Mond. He took a serious step back in his production last year, so much so, it was embarrassing, but Jimbo Fisher is determined to rest his, and the team’s fortunes, upon Mond’s shoulders. The Daughter is not optimistic. LSU, who won it all last year, is not anyone’s pick to even win the division, much less the conference. Seems kind-of harsh. But it’s not, the Bayou Bengals lost offensive coordinator Joe Brady to the NFL, defensive coordinator Dave Aranda went to Baylor, the offensive line and defensive took a shackling with all the people they lost either to graduation or early exits. On top of that, they lost Mr. LSU football himself in QB Joe Burrow. Cajun speaking Head Coach Ed Orgeron has never been in this type of situation before, so no one knows if he’s capable of replacing such losses. He has brought in Bo Pelini to run the defense and we all remember what a good job he did up in Nebraska. Wonder if he’s learned to wear a hat correctly? Probably not. The Tigers, Louisiana variety, will have talent, and they’ll win many games, but it’ll be very hard to climb to the top of the ladder again. Auburn is kind-of a ‘they should be good’, but no one is sure of that. They ended up 9-4 last year and they did beat Alabama, which kept Gus Malzahn employed, then they turned around and lost to Minnesota in the Outback bowl. QB Bo Nix has moments where he looks unstoppable, then he completely loses focus all within the span of the same game. The offensive line has one returning starter and the running backs are highly questionable. Kevin Steele has taken over the defensive and he has his work cut out for him. He has two returning linebackers to work with, and he says he likes the linemen he has. That’s good, but seems a bit iffy on being able to win it all.

Now what everyone has been waiting for, the Alabama Crimson Tide, what of them? Last year was not up to the standards of the Bama faithful, myself included. They didn’t make the playoffs for the first time since its inception, they lost to LSU and Auburn (truthfully, that hurts to write) and the defense was not even close to being up to par. Tau Tagovailoa took his talents to the NFL along with others. So why did Phil Steele pick Alabama to win it all this year. One, they will be entering this season with something to prove, and Bama has always done so much better when they’re not the preseason number one pick and they’re mad. Which they are this year. On top of that, they have a proven QB in Mac Jones who appears to be cut from the same cloth as past QB AJ McCarron, who just happen to have won two National Championships, in a row. Mac is a very good passer, and he has complete command of the offense. Then, there is freshman QB Bryce Young, who is touted as the next Tim Tebow. When Tebow was a freshman at Florida, he wasn’t the starter, but he was used as a devastating weapon to great efficiency.  Wide receiver Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith both return, along with running back Najee Harris. To top it all off, the offensive line returns mainly intact, with just the center needing to be replaced, which is something over the past years has not been the case. So, basically, the offensive is loaded. The defense, where the Tide was weak last year, will be back up to Alabama standards. Even though it was forbidden by the editor to use the injuries excuse last year, it was true that injuries hampered the defensive efforts. Now it appears that could be a blessing in disguise. Dylan Moses and Joshua McMillion will return from their injuries and their back-ups were the ones that were thrown into the fray last year. Now they have tons of experience (not actually 2000#, but a poor excuse for saying “a great deal”), and, let’s be honest, on other teams they’d be starting again this year. The Defensive line ended up playing freshman last fall, and it showed. Now, they are seasoned and have a year of St. Saban coaching. Also, to help improve the defense, St. Saban brought in former Texas and South Florida Head Coach Charlie Strong as a “Defensive consultant”. FYI, Charlie Strong made his way as a fantastic “D” coach. Should current Defensive Coordinator Pete Golding, formerly at University of Texas- San Antonio, not be able to read the handwriting on the wall, here it is, “Either bring Alabama Defense back to dominate or thy days are numbered (Mene, Mene, beat LSU and Auburn, Tekel, Upharsin!!).”

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