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Cigars & Football – A Simple Blend

Preview of Week 1


Preview of Week 1 2013


Hot-Diggity-Dog! The first week of college football is here! Just four days until the 2013 Football Season is under way. The long, cold, lonely, days of the off season are over. Now, in this first week, big teams usually tune up with so-called powder puffs, but there are a few big teams that are taking on other big boys. Get your cigars in the humidor, sharpen your cutters, fill your lighters with fluid and get ready;- it’s time to smoke cigars and watch the greatest sport on earth, conceived by man, and blessed by the Lord above.

First up is our Thursday night game, South Carolina vs. North Carolina. These two UNCstates have a long history of not getting along with each other. Some of the biggest battles of the Revolutionary War were fought between the people that actually lived right down the street from each other. Not too long after that a little scrap, some people call it the Civil War, where they actually agreed in principle but the Tar Heels still didn’t like the Gamecocks, and vice versa [a break for history trivia USC (south)’s mascot is not a fighting roster, they’re actually called after Thomas Sumter who was a huge thorn in Lord Cornwallis’s side who referred to Sumter as the “Gamecock”]. In 2013 they face off against each other to open the season. North Carolina has head coach Larry Fedora in his second year at the helm. In the first year, UNC was ineligible for the post season. (South Carolina fans snicker here). Last year, however, the Sky Blue team actually improved. They achieved an 8-4 mark, their best since 2009. Had they been eligible, they might have gone to their first ACC Championship game. The offense went from being ranked 56th in the nation to eighth. Not bad for a team recovering from sanctions. Giovani Bernard was the back for a high-powered offense rushing for 122.8 yards per game. However, he didn’t stick around for another year and made the jump to the NFL. A.J. Blue and Romar Morris will battle it out for the starting job. Quarterback Bryn Renner was on fire last year with 28 touchdown passes, and he improved over the summer. You hope, if you’re a Tar Heel fan. Renner has two receivers in Quinshad Davis and Sean Tapley. On the O-Line, the Heels lost three starters who need to be replaced. The only high spot is James Hurst, the left tackle, who is one back to teach the newbies what to do. The Defense is the biggest question mark on the team. The secondary has all its starters back, but they lost the heart and soul of the “D” in Kevin Reddick, who led the team in tackles for loss. This Defense gave up 30 or more points a game several times last year and were known to give up the big plays. Should they tighten things up they might be able to hold the line. Against South Carolina they’re going to need that stop, because the Gamecocks know how to play Defense. After all, they’re in the SEC.

USC-South enters the season as one of the top choices to be in “Hot-lanta” representing the SEC East.  Of course, Florida and Georgia are also top choices. Last year the Southern Carolina school finished 11-2 and had Jadeveon Clowney producing the South Carolinabiggest “Hit” of the year in the Outback Bowl. For anyone that has not seen “The Hit”, where in the world have you been?! Either you’re a 6 year-old boy just starting to watch football, or you’ve been living in a cave, it was only the best hit in years! Now on to the rest of the team;- Offensively USC is starting off the season with a “Quarterback Controversy,” between Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson. Shaw had to sit out spring practice because of foot surgery, but is expected to be ready to go this week. Dylan Thompson threw for more than 300 yards in his two starts in 2012, and he threw the winning touchdown pass in the Outback Bowl. The running back position is also up in the air, between Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds. Wilds has shown to be more of an every down back with Davis in relief. The Old-Ball Couch, Steve Spurrier, has a history of molding an offensive into a fierce force. Defensively, they have Jadeveon Clowney, nuff said. Actually its not, no one man makes a team. The linebackers need to be replaced, which will be Lorenzo Ward’s biggest challenge. Secondary should be fine with returning starters. The Line did not have a good showing in the spring due to injuries. But they do have Clowney! This defense is going to be tested against UNC. If they’re not able to stop the offense they’ll have a shootout and that’s not the Gamecocks’ strength.

Overall USC(S) comes into this season with an edge based on last year’s performance and with high expectations this year. According to my editor (Dad), the Tar Heels are expected to be the surprise team of the ACC. A win against a favorite in the SEC would go a long way in proving my Dad right.

Next up, Alabama vs. Virginia Tech. A few years ago the Tide took on VA Tech in the first game of the season and went on to win the National Championship. Everyone is crimson_tidewondering if Bama can repeat that feat this year. They enter the season Number One, but don’t call them a Dynasty. St. Nick Saban would not approve of such talk. The Crimson Tide has to replace three out of five on their starting offensive line. Which, of course, was only the biggest and baddest O-line in recent history. But, fear not, everyone who’s projected to start this year got playing time last year. So its not like they’re starting from scratch. The running game will be led by T.J. Yeldon, who had one of heck of a freshman season, just ask LSU. There are a few guys in the wings that are just itching to have their shot carrying the ball. The passing game should be much better. Amari Cooper, who broke a few records last year, is poised to have another great year, along with Kenny Bell, DeAndre White and Chris Black. On top of that they have this guy playing Quarterback name AJ McCarron, who, in this writer’s opinion, should have won the Heisman last year. Not to worry, he’s a top contender this year.  It’ll be interesting to see how this offense runs in the first game of the season.
Defensively the Crimson “D” also has to replace a few players. They have to replace the nose guard, and some tackles, but no one is really worried about a drop off. Brandon Ivory, and LaMichael Fanning are looking forward to proving their worth. Linebacker-wise, they will be led by C.J. Mosley, 2012’s leader in tackles and he wasn’t even a full time starter. The rest of the nation is cringing at this notion. The one thing Alabama needs is a pass rusher, Someone who’s unstoppable getting to the opposing QB. It’ll be interesting to see if someone steps up. Secondary-wise, there is a mixture of veterans and promising rookies. Secondary was a bit of a weakness in last year’s Championship Season. Even with these question marks they’re still projected to be the Number One defense in the nation. Virginia Tech will be a good test to start the season.

The Hokies entered last year with a tremendous about of promise. QB Logan Thomas had high hopes and Heisman talk, but that didn’t pan out. He threw for 18 touchdowns, but counterbalanced by 16 interceptions. Not a stunning resume. The rest of the team Virginia Techdidn’t stand out either. After a 7-6 record, Head Coach Frank Beamer made some changes in the coaching staff, mainly on the offensive side. The line had struggled, which led to the running game being far less productive than VaTech fans are used to. Line Coach Jeff Grimes will have his work cut out for him this year. Two  tackles and a guard need to be replaced. The passing game will be a huge question mark after losing its top three receivers. The only one coming back will be D.J. Coles, and he had a knee injury.
The Defense came into its own in the second half of the season. In the first half they didn’t do much to write home about. The D-Line appears to be well anchored with Derrick Hopkins and Luther Maddy at tackles. At linebacker, Jack Tyler had 119 tackles and he’s returning. He’ll be joined by Tariq Edwards, who returned from a knee injury to have a great second half. Secondary….hmmm….not much to instill a sense of confidence. Their top corner back tore his ACL in a pickup game of basketball in January, which should teach everyone to stay away from sub-par sports. The rest of the backs need to step up. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. Against Alabama they’re going to need everyone to play at the top of their game.  
Alabama is the Number One team in the nation, they start their quest for a third straight National Championship and fourth in five years. Not sure if St. Nick will approve but calling this team a juggernaut is not out of the question. Will they fulfill these predictions? It’ll rely on any given Saturday. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING! Will thrill Hokie fans more than beating the defending Champions. CigarSmokinFootball predicts the Tide will Roll, but if they overlook the team from VA Tech plotting revenge against the Aggies they’ll lose. Every team has to form its own identity, Saturday will be good start.

Next up, Georgia vs. Clemson. Let’s just say these two teams don’t like each other, not at all. They’re so close they can about see each other on a clear day. Okay, not really, but they are close, and sticking with what seems to be common for schools from South ClemsonCarolina, they don’t like anybody very much, especially next-door neighbors. Clemson comes into this season after ending last year with a victory over LSU (SEC). They would love nothing better than to start this season with a win over Georgia (SEC). The Tiger fans would spend the rest of the year listening to all the talk about how dominate the SEC is and they’d say, ‘So, we beat ‘em like a drum!” Tajh Boyd returns at QB and he still has his favorite go-to guy in Sammy Watkins. Boyd did improve last year, Watkins actually took a dip in productivity. Even though Boyd did better there were still games that made you scratch you head, look around and wonder “What in the world was he doing?” Nobody knows, even he doesn’t know what he was doing. The Offensive line is returning four starters, a major plus. They need to work on their run blocking because that part of the game has fallen off a bit. Roderick McDowell will be the lead back coming off a 450 yard 2012 year. There are backs that run for that many yards in two games, much less a year. So run blocking is not the Tigers’ strength. Passing the ball better be, because the third option is punting. Besides Watkins, Clemson needs a receiver to step up and become a threat on the other side of the field. Should that happen, this Orange and Purple and White and Blue and….whatever uniform combination they’re wearing that day, can and will put up some serious points.
Defense, is where there are question marks. They lost five seniors from what would, be described as a middle-of-the-road defense. No one was scared of the Tigers’ claws last year. This year is pretty much the same. Now they did better in the second half of the season, only allowing two teams to score 27 points or more. NC State shredded this “D” for 48 points, and USC (South) beat them with 27. Remember, Clemson beat LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, (Good Job!) but the score was 25-24. If this year’s team wants to win it all, the Defense must that step up and shut people down. The first game against Georgia will show what the Tigers can do.
There is another, subtle, factor that must be considered whenever talking about Clemson. That is, for the last 10 years Clemson has been the most, mind-numbing, inconsistent, whack-a-doodle team on the face of the earth, and it usually shows up in big games. The Psychiatry department at CU could become the best faculty in the world if they were able to figure out what drives this team to just be bone heads at times. It’s not always a whole game, they’ve been known to lose their minds for just a quarter. CSF thinks it’s got to be the purple and orange combination, purple being royal and orange being evil, it’s just not a good mix.

Now Georgia, Steve Spurrier, ever since his Florida, days said the best time to play UGA is at the start of the season because they’re always going to have a few players suspended. Bulldog fans don’t like him. That may not matter this year. Coach Mark GeorgiaBulldogsRicht is not on the hot seat, and just about every starter from last year’s offense is back. You know the one that came within a fingertip from winning the SEC and then going to the BCS Championship, and winning that. Yes, I said winning, because there is not an argument in the world that a notre dame fan can come up with that’s even slightly credible about them beating Georgia last year. ND was a fraud. Aaron Murray, should hold all the SEC passing records e’er the end of this season, is coming back and he came back for one reason and one reason only, he wants a Championship. It doesn’t hurt that he’s got the two best running backs in the league behind him, who were both freshman last year! Yeah I’m sure that didn’t factor into his decision to come back for another year….Yeah, Right! On top of that every single offensive lineman returns. The Dawgs put up points and a lot of them. They did have one really bad outing last year, against South Carolina. Not sure what happened, but, hopefully, that curse, or spell, or alien abduction is a thing of the past. The good news is this offense is set. Now the bad news…………
The Defense for the Dwags is not settled, not even a little. At the end of spring only four positions out of eleven are set. They lost a lot of people either to graduation or early departures. The remaining positions are up for grabs, and in the SEC, that’s not good! If the SEC has taught us anything, anything at all, it’s that Defenses RULE! No Defense, no Championship, it’s just that simple. Against a high scoring offense like Clemson, this D is going to be tested and tested hard. They’ve got talent, Coach Richt and company recruited very well, now it will be interesting to see if that raw talent can turn itself into an immoveable wall of Red. This won’t be the Dawgs’ last exposure to Palmetto State football. They’ll be tested again against USC (South). Maybe shootouts will be the way to go this year.
Overall, this should be one of the better games of opening weekend. Lots of questions, high-powered offenses, scoring galore, and whoever’s defense shows up, wins. A coin flip is needed to pick a winner, so here we go, coin flipped, caught, oh look, its heads……….(Big, Hairy, Bulldogs!)

Next up it’s the battle of Purple, LSU against TCU. It could have been Kansas State, or Northwestern, and still been Purple, but it’s TCU. This game pits the Big 12, that only has 10 teams, against the SEC. Normally, this would be billed as big, bad, LSU beating up on little bitty TCU. Not this year. TCU has the potential to win the Big 12, that only LSUhas 10 teams, championship, and LSU has to replace a ton of people. This will be a measuring stick for both teams. Which Purple team is going to win?
LSU has Zach Mettenberger back for a second year.  He didn’t set the world on fire, even though he was supposed to, last year. He did have one heck of a game against Alabama, (he would have a great game against my Crimson Tide). Now he has Cam Cameron as the offensive coordinator, so Zach’s learning a new system, which may work out well for him. Or, it may not. Head Coach Les Miles suspended their number one running back, Jeremy Hill, in the spring. Of course the Mad Hatter coach has stirred up a bunch of trouble by showing no backbone and allowing Hill back on the team. Tells CSF that he’s worried about this game. The receiving corps (pronounced “Core” not “Corpus”) will be led by Juniors Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Neither started last year but they did see playing time. The line appears to be in pretty good shape, but that remains to be seen. With a new O-coordinator changing the way LSU plays, they’re going to need to gel quickly, as in the first quarter of this first game, and not late in the first quarter.
Defensively, they’re hurting, at least as much as a typical LSU team can hurt on defense. They lost a bunch of players and replacing them is going to take a lot of work. They have talent to replace their losses but it’s raw and untested. All four starters from the line need to be replaced, along with their leading tackling linebacker in Kevin Minter. The only bright spot is that Tahj Jones will be resuming his role as the strong side linebacker. The bright side on defense is that the secondary has some returning starters. Jalen Mills was pressed into service when Les Miles actually showed backbone and kicked Tyrann Mathieu off the team last year. Too bad he couldn’t keep it up. LSU needs this defense to be as good as it can possibly get.
TCU entered the Big 12, that only has 10 teams, last year. They should have always been in this conference but they’re there now. They didn’t have the year they wanted, finishing 4-5 in league play. They did make it to a bowl game but they want more. Last year they had a few demons to exorcise in their quarterback Casey Pachall. Before TCUPachall went on his drinking and driving episode they were playing well. Now he’s back and it appears he’s better than ever. He’s in a battle for the starting job, but is there anyone that actually believes he’s not going to be starting? Yeah, we don’t either. Not only that, but running back Waymon James is returning after suffering an season-ending knee injury in 2012. Now the TCU backfield has its star players back. Whohoo! The rest of the offense is intact and ready to fire off the ball.
Defensively, the Horn Frogs think they should be in the SEC. They love Defense, they are physical and they base their entire reputation on this side of the ball. Last year they led the Big 12, that only has 10 teams, in total defense and rushing defense. Head Coach Gary Patterson did show backbone and suspended their star Defensive end, Devonte Fields, for this game, and he has yet to back down from that decision, just saying. This team wants LSU, they’ve been looking forward to this game all summer. If they’re able beat up on the Bayou Bengals, it’ll start the season off with a huge bang.
LSU needs to gel in a hurry. Breaking in a new offense, replacing just about their entire defense, and taking on TCU is not the way they wanted to start the season. TCU believes they are better than the world thinks they are and they want to prove it. This game is the perfect storm for the Horn Frogs. Come Saturday, they’re going to get their chance. Buckle up your chinstraps, tighten your shoelaces, especially if Clowney’s around, get a grip on your remote, and let’s get ready for KICKOFF, 2013!!!!!   

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