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Cigars & Football – A Simple Blend

Big Ten – East

We now turn our attention to the Big 10 conference, yet another league that refuses to change their name despite the fact that they now have 14 teams instead of 10. This reeks of snobbery, [the exact opposite of the Little Man Syndrome League, the Big 12 which has only 10 teams)]. So here at we refuse to call them the Big 10, they are The Great White North Conference. Because they are all northern (yankee) teams that play in the cold frozen north. Let’s give credit where credit is due, they did get rid of the ridiculous division names of the Legends and Leaders and they are now divided into East and West, logic at it’s best. The Eastern part of the division is up first. Ohio State has championship fever, had championship fever, they think, thought, they were ready to win it all! I’m sure they still are ready to win it all, but, … more on them later. Michigan State doesn’t share OSU’s vision and thinks they have arrived in the elite ranks. Michigan is trying to gain back its glory, Penn State wants to ruin everybody else’s season, Indiana wants its boys to play a football style of defense as opposed to the basketball defense mentality it’s had. Maryland and Rutgers enter the GWN conference and even they’re not real sure what to expect.


1.   First up, the Michigan State Spartans! Sparty won the GWN conference last year and until someone is man enough to knock them off,231 it’s going to be MSU again this year. Last season everyone was picking Ohio State, but not CSF, we called for Michigan State to upset and they delivered. (I sound a little bit like Phil Steele, don’t I?) Now they have to learn how to handle success. Coach Mark Dantonio is about as level-headed as they come and he seems to have a handle on all this success thing. He’s a blue-collar kind of a guy and there’s no reason to think that’s going to change. The Spartans owned the field in every game except the Notre Dame contest. Not sure what caused that loss, maybe they were all suffering from food poisoning, or a collective brain cramp, or something.  Then, once QB Connor Cook took over, the offense came together. Cook will be back again this year only now he and the rest of the squad have experience and they have experience at winning! The so-called skilled players are all back, the running backs, the receivers, tight ends, all of them. The hogs of the offensive line have five players with starting experience returning. Last year the O-Line allowed 17 sacks. That’s not great, but it still ranked 3rd lowest in the GWN. The offense should be in sync, it should have no problem moving the ball and scoring.
But the heart and soul of this team is Defense. Defense was the main reason Sparty was so tough last year, they had experience and a ton, maybe a few pounds more, maybe a few kilos less, of talent. They lost 6 starters. I’m no mathematician, but that’s more than half of eleven. It’s time to see if this will be a reloading year, or a rebuilding year. Defensive Coordinator Pat Narduzzi, who turned down head coaching jobs at other schools to stay in East Lansing, says, “We’ve got players.” He might believe this, for him sticking around is a good sign that he trusts what he’s preaching. The Defensive ends are set with Shilique Calhoun and Marcus Rush. This duo might be the most fearsome pair in all of college football. The Line appears to have a good mixture of underclassmen and seniors, the secondary is relatively settled, but the big question mark will be at linebacker. The lone returning backer, Taiwan Jones, is switching from outside to the middle, (I’m willing to bet he didn’t ask for this switch) and two underclassmen will fill out the corps. D-Coordinator will need to get his defense nasty and quick in a great big hurry because they will be tested in the second game of the season – against Oregon.
Toughest Games:
Oct 6thOregon– MSU invades the Northwest, if they come out of the hostile confines of Autzen with a win, then they might just make it to the final four.
Nov 8thOhio State– OSU is going to be tough this year, but the Spartans have them at home.
Nov 29thPenn State– The Nittany Lions are going to be tougher than expected

2.   Ohio State enters the season with the world expecting great things of them. They lost their last two games, don’t forget, as beat writers are ohio state logoso prone to do. How can Alabama lose it’s last two games and everyone calls it a bad year, yet OSU loses its last two games and everyone expects them to win it all this year? Let’s be honest, though;- Bama lost its last two games last season and I expect them to win it all this year. Urban Meyer can coach and he’s doing a fantastic job in Columbus, no argument there. He’s gonna have to. Braxton Miller returns, but only to practice long enough to reinjure his right shoulder and be sidelined for the year. JT Barrnett, his heir apparent, has talent, he’s got speed, but he’s got little supporting staff. He doesn’t have an experienced offensive line. It’s hard to showoff all your “dual-threat talent” if the line can’t hold off the pressure. Carlos Hyde, the battering ram of a running back, is gone and he’s going to be hard to replace. The top receiver for OSU departed and at this time who knows who their go-to guy is going to be? This doesn’t mean the Buckeyes are going to have a bad season, come on now, this is O-H-I-O State, they have no problem when it comes to recruiting. There are plenty of Yankees…ad-humm….Northerners, that are dying to wear the Scarlett and Grey. It’s just all these replacements on offense are unproven and will need to gel. OSU’s schedule is on the light side until the end of October, so they’ll have plenty of time to get things worked out. They probably  won’t be as effective as last year’s unit. Defensive Backs are solid, the entire defensive line returns, and one linebacker needs to be replaced. So, if Defense wins championships, OSU is off to a good start. That doesn’t mean that the “D” is infallible;- last year they were tested at the end of the year and found wanting. This unit will be relied upon to carry the team until the offense comes together.
Toughest Games:
Oct. 25thPenn State– Ohio State has a lot of time to get the offense going
Nov.  8thMichigan State– The Buckeyes will want revenge against the Spartans
Nov. 29thMichigan is rival game, anything can happen, just ask Auburn

Michigan3.   Michigan enters the season with Head Coach Hoke feeling heat whenever he sits down. The fans in Ann Arbor are not known for having patience. To help turn the heat down, Hoke went down south and hired Offensive Coordinator Doug Nussmeier, from Alabama. Could the Great White North Conference be taking a clue from the South? Maybe. It’ll be interesting to see if OC Nussmeier can turn a Yankee….hu-hum….Northern, team into a Southern powerhouse. They do have Devin Gardner returning at QB, but that may not be a blessing. Gardner has shown that he can play, but consistency, avoiding turnovers, has been a problem. He’s going to have to prove he can play an entire game at a consistent level and he hasn’t done that yet. The rest of the offense will be anchored by underclassmen. The line loses two seniors, but Hoke says he’s got talent to replace them. With the seniors this team ranked 102nd in rushing with a miserly 3.3 yards per rush. That’s not Michigan Football! The Alabama OC transfer has his work cut out for him. The defense did have moments of glory throughout last season, but isolated moments will not get them to the Championship game. The “D” suffered from injuries, which allowed underclassmen to gain valuable playing time. They’ll need that experience. The Wolverines are not even close to regaining their glory days, but a 7-6 record again will not keep Hoke his dream job.
Toughest Games:
Sept 6thNotre Dame– Michigan has a bad habit of dropping this game to the Irish
Oct 25thMichigan State– The Spartans are widening the gap.
Nov. 29thOhio State– Michigan’s going to need a miracle.

3864.   Penn State will be breaking in its third coach in what, 60 years, or something like that? Former Vanderbilt coach James Franklin makes his debut. Even though the Nittany Lions are still under NCAA sanctions, it doesn’t mean they don’t have a good foundation to build upon. Bill O’Brien left behind plenty of talent. Starting with Christian Heckenberg, the Quarterback who burst on the scene last year. He has shown that he has the skills, the talent, and the potential to become an elite signal-caller. He’ll have a good running game with senior Zach Zwinak returning. That’ll help, because the receivers are all wet behind the ears. The offensive front received a serious blow when senior guard Miles Dieffenbach tore his ACL in the spring. They have one returning tackle and after that it becomes anyone’s guess. I hope Heckenberg is tough, because he’ll be tested. The Defense will be a mixture of returning starters and raw talent. When PSU lost last year they lost big, the “D” will have to cut that margin down. For some reason CSF is thinking Penn State is going to be better than 7-5. If Franklin is able to do what he did at Vandy then the fans in Happy Valley will be….Happy!
Toughest Games:
Oct 11thMichigan– They beat the Wolverines last year, they might just do it agains
Oct 25thOhio State– The Lions cannot be blown out again
Nov. 29thMichigan State– They will be tested.

5.   Indiana is trying to take a page out of the Baylor playbook, offense scores lots of points, the hell with playing defense. The Hoosiers will have Juniors Nate Sudfeld, the pocket passer, and Tre Roberson, the running QB, returning. Both of them use their strengths to put up great numbers. Tevin Coleman will try and improve upon his 958 yards rushing and 12 TD’s. The entire offensive line returns and they have proven they buy into this system and they can block. The only question mark are the receivers;- they have Shane Wynn as the lone returning ball catcher. Last year this offense averaged 38.4 points per game. If they can improve upon that type of production they just might make it to a bowl game! There might be a little bit of problem getting to that bowl game, and that would be the Hoosier defense. This unit gave up 5.4 yards per rush, that’s just a little bit more than half the yards needed to get a first down. That’s not good! The D-line has three returning starters and the linebackers are all back as well. But, they just can’t give up that type of yardage. The secondary has three returning players, but they didn’t do much better than the line, allowing opposing QB’s to complete 60% of their passes. If they continue with this type of performance, the offense is going to need to score many, many, more touchdowns. So many that most games will be over and the Hoosiers will still need touchdowns!
Toughest Games:
Sept 20thMissouri– Taking on the SEC East champion will be a big test!
Oct. 11thIowa

Oct 18thMichigan State

Nov 1stMichigan

Nov. 8thPenn State

Nov. 22ndOhio State You get the picture

6.   Maryland finished its last year in the ACC going 7-6, but only winning 3 ACC games and losing to Marshall in the Military Bowl. Not theMaryland III best recommendation for the Great White North conference. But the Terps have 9 returning starters on each side of the ball. That might soften blow somewhat. C.J. Brown returns at QB, which is good news. He threw for over 2,000 yards, and he’ll need to repeat that  in ’14. He’ll have help, most of the receivers return, and Brandon Ross will line up as the main running back. The line only lost one starter and they have a Junior College transfer coming in to fill that hole. Defense has lots and lots of experience but it’s ACC experience and they didn’t dominate in that league. If Maryland was still in the ACC they STILL wouldn’t be ranked very high, but now they enter the GWN and it’s a step up in competition – perhaps notwithstanding producing last year’s National Champion, Florida State. The Terrapins have a weak non-conference schedule and that is where they need to win. When they enter Conference play, just hang with the big boys. Oh, wait, they should beat Rutgers, WhooHoo!
Toughest Games:
All Great White North conference games.

7.   Where Maryland is taking a step up in conferences, Rutgers is taking one great leap! But, hey, the GWN now has a TV presence in the New York/New England area. The Scarlet Knights do have 16 starters coming back, how well that will translate to Big Boy Conference play is yet to be determined. CSF is not thinking it’s going to measure up. QB Gary Nova will return and he’s got all five linemen returning, as well. Running Back Paul James could be a difference maker, which is great, because if Nova goes down, – well, actually if any starter goes down, Rutgers has no one with experience as a back-up. The defense was able to handle the AAC running game pretty well, but how are they going to do with bigger backs? Everyone at Rutgers is all excited about joining the GWN;- except the football team, they know they’re the ones that have to take the lumps and there’s going to be lumps…big ones.
Toughest Games:
All of them, except Howard.

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