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Cigars & Football – A Simple Blend

PAC-12 South

PAC-12 South
The PAC-12 North has two solid leaders, Oregon and Stanford, while the Southern part of the conference is in chaos. Who knows which team will win the division? Nearly all have improved from last year, but no one has separated himself from the “peleton”. USC used to be the only team on the west coast that could be counted on to win, not any more. USC is just another team now. UCLA has returned to the national spot-light, but still can’t beat the top teams. Arizona State can beat the top teams, and they do, but they also lose to inferior teams. The 2013 Arizona team looked like it was going to be a mediocre player, then they beat the tar and feathers off the Oregon Ducks. Utah lost to all the PAC-12 teams, except Stanford!! The Cardinal was conference champs, but Utah, the Mighty Utes, whipped ‘em. Colorado, for the last few years, couldn’t beat their way out of a wet paper bag, but in ’13 they might, just might, have improved enough to come off the respirator. Who knows what is going to happen in the wonderful, wacky, wild South!
1.   Every sportswriter, blogger, sportscaster, sideline reporter, and sports professional is picking UCLA to win the PAC-12 southern division. They all expect Brett Hundley to be in the running for the Heisman trophy and for Jim Mora to win coach of the year. However, CigarSmokinFootball is not sold on the Bruins winning it, nor are we shining up the Heisman for Hundley. The problem is CSF can’t see 033anyone else winning it, either, so we’ll go with UCLA. However, I wish to insert a disclaimer:- CSF had this article delivered and to the editor BEFORE the UCLANS played Virginia. Had you read this before, had my editor not sat on it, I’d have looked a lot better. As stated, the Baby Blue bears have Hundley back for his red shirt junior season. He’s a good QB but watching him last year in big games he looked confused when he was supposed to throw the ball. To compensate, he would drop back, take quick look, and run. He was so good at it that he led the Bruins in rushing yards in last year’s campaign. CSF will admit that he’s a good QB but he’s got to prove himself to be great and this would be a good year for him to do just that! He’ll have plenty of good receivers to throw too, (if he doesn’t run with it). Leading ball catcher Shaq Evans left for the NFL but all the others are back and they all have experience and are proven commodities. Running backs Jordon James and Paul Perkins will both be in the backfield but they weren’t stellar last season. Some lack of production can be blamed on the offensive linemen getting hurt. Maybe, but that excuse won’t work twice. The Offensive line is healthy, in shape, and stronger, so no excuses for the offense. If they can’t produce enough to win, too bad. Defense is going to have to replace pass-rusher Anthony Barr who was known to blow by blockers, to the tune of 23 sacks in the past two seasons. That’s more sacks than the entire Alabama defense got in two seasons. The Bruins don’t have anyone that driven this year, but they do have Myles Jack who will be returning at Linebacker. He had a great year in ’13, was voted the PAC-12 defensive player of the year, and he was only a freshman! What’s he going to do as sophomore? Hopefully, more. In the pass-happy west, it’s essential to have a good defensive secondary. UCLA should have just that! The Bruins have some weakness, they don’t play very well when they are intimidated, or against hurry-up teams. Stanford intimidates them, Oregon and Arizona State out-quick them, and the Bruins don’t keep up.
Toughest Games:
Sept. 25th – Arizona State- Its hard to run that hard, for that long, in the desert.
Oct. 11th – Oregon- Hopefully UCLA will have caught their breath by this time, they’ll need it.
Nov. 1st- Arizona- Another fast-paced team that will be much better than last year
Nov. 28th- Stanford- The Bruins don’t like to get hit by the Cardinal, and the Cardinal is going to hit them
2.   Ok, who wants to be number two? Arizonia State or Arizona? Its pretty much a tie. So we’ll flip a coin and……it’s heads! Arizona State. 577The Sun Devils come into the season with the most productive offense west of the Rocky Mountains. Taylor Kelly had a total of 3,635 yards passing and 37 touchdown tosses. CSF considers that to be good. Kelly doesn’t have the strongest arm in the world, but he does have vision, and accuracy. He sees the field, knows his reads, and delivers the ball exactly where it’s supposed to be. He does need to play better against tougher teams. Jaelen Strong has been likened to a clone of Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona Cardinals). He is a freak at catching the ball and has breakaway speed to match. He’s just too good not to demand double coverage. Aside from Strong, ASU has no proven receivers. Eric Lauderdale, good at the Jr. college level, maybe he’ll take some pressure off Strong. The running game has junior D.J. Foster taking over the leading role. He likes to run. The offensive line lost only two starters and has Christian Westerman, an Auburn transfer (well, at least he’s from the SEC even if it is Auburn) to fill one of those slots. With this offense, why are they not in first place? Easy, defense. Last year’s crew was pretty good, they did have some guys that were NFL talent worthy and are there now. But, as a unit, they didn’t stop anyone. They might delay opponent offenses for a while, and they might slow them down, but not one person in the entire US said, “Wow! Those Sun Devils know Defense.” It just didn’t happen. This year they have to replace nine starters, which means they have two players returning. Basically they’ve got a whole new defense, which will be made up of junior college transfers, freshmen and sophomores. It’s kinda like throw the baby in the water and see if it sinks. They get three games to figure I all out, cause by the end of September it’s, “Whoa, Nelly!” time.
Toughest Games:
Sept 25th- UCLA
Oct 4th – at USC
Oct 18th – Stanford
Nov. 8th – Notre Dame
Nov. 28th – Arizona
Middle of the season has a tough stretch, a two-week break, and then it’s back into the fire.
3.   Arizona Wildcats come in at number three. Yes, I know other college writers are enthralled with USC, and coach Sarkisian, but CSF isn’t. I’ll explain later, right now it’s Wildcat time. Rich Rod has started to produce results. UA didn’t look like it was going to be a world-beater, and, then, when no one was paying attention, they took the Oregon Ducks out behind the woodshed and gave them what for! They whupped th(sic) the Ducks, 42-16, crushing any chance they had of going to the Rose Bowl or any other BCS bowl. We did enjoy their visit in San Antonio for the Alamo Bowl. That’s not where the Ducks wanted to be, even with all that Texas hospitality. Everything looked good until the Wildcats were manhandled by Arizona State the next week. Looker closer at their losses, UA was in their games all the way, they just came up short. Only Washington and ASU beat them by more than seven points, the rest were all seven points or less. Quarterbacking duties will change hands for the third straight year. USC transfer Jess Scroggins will take over the position. Hopefully, he can throw the ball well because he’s got a plethora of receivers to choose from. Six ball catchers will be rotated in and out of the games and all six are proven. Two of them, transfers, DaVonte Neal, from Notre Dame, and Cayleb Jones, from Texas, add to the receiving corps. Running backs, the Cats are going with four different backs, no, not at the same time, but in rotation. Why use so many? Because none of them have ever carried the rock in a college game. The coaching staff should have foreseen that one, geez. The Offensive line returns most of their horses and that’s a major plus. Maybe they can manhandle other teams like they did Oregon last year. Expect the Wildcats to score a lot of points, don’t expect them to keep the other teams from scoring, as well. Defensively they are paper-thin. They’ve got two good ends in Dan Pettinato and Reggie Gilbert, but no proven interior lineman. Jordan Allen, an LSU transfer (that’s now 4 transfers), joined the team after spring training and he can play at nose guard or end but he is expected to start somewhere. Only one linebacker has experience. They have their returning secondary but none of them are lock down backs. Come to think of it, defense is going to be an afterthought in the desert this year.
Toughest Games:
Oct. 2nd- at Oregon- the Ducks want revenge.
Nov. 1st – UCLA- they’ll need to keep the pressure on them all game long
Nov. 28th – Arizona State- Rivalry games are often so much FUN!
4.   USC is always a darling in the college sports world, and this year is no exception. To read his press, one would think Steve Sarkisian was the second-coming of, what, Bear Bryant? To be objective, Sarkisian didn’t establish his reputation at Washington. Maybe the talent level is USCdifferent at Southern Cal, true, but they’re still smarting from scholarship reductions. Last year ended in a turmoil. Sark’s bringing his hurry up offense to a school that pretty much worships at the altar of the Power-I. They may have talent, but is it the talent that’s needed for this offense? Anyone remember Rich Rod in Michigan? There’s no reason not to believe the Trojans won’t win games, but can they win enough? It’ll be interesting to see. Cody Kessler is presumed to be the quarterback position and he is good. In the spirit of being honesty, he was less than average in the big games, like Notre Dame and UCLA. Rushing isn’t emphasized in the hurry up, but they do have two proven ball carriers in Javorius Allen and Tre Madden. Nelson Agholor is rated as one of the nation’s best receivers. One of the biggest problems they face is in the offensive line, where they have to replace the right side with unproven talent. The Defense will have a strong front with Leonard Williams, who is projected as a top pick in next year’s NFL draft. But linebacker is their strenghth. The leader of the “D” will be Hayes Pullard, a four-year starter. Against the run the Trojans will be formidable, against the pass they be weak. The secondary will be sporting some nice young kids in a league where passing is the way of life. On top of that, the defense is breaking in a third defensive coordinator in three years. USC always has talent and they recruit well, but right now there are too many questions. New coaches seldom produce national champions in their first year. Yes, I know Auburn almost did it last year (thank you, Florida State) but that’s more of an oddity than a standard.
Toughest Games:
Sept 6th- Stanford- second game of the season will determine the course of their season
Oct. 4th – Arizona State- Last year they couldn’t stop the Sun Devils and it cost them a coach
Oct. 11th – Arizona – They barely got by the Wildcats last year and ‘Zona will be better in ‘14
Nov. 22nd – UCLA- they need to break the 2 year streak of losing, might not happen
Nov. 29th- Notre Dame- These games are always close
5.  Utah’s outlook is a bit bleak. They’re coming off a 5-7 record and improvement looks to be far away. They upset Stanford, but after that everything went straight downhill. QB Travis Wilson is the bright light of the team. Without him, the Utes don’t move. With him having a Utahfreak injury with his intracranial artery, whatever that is, it wasn’t a good thing. He was cleared to play in the spring, but no contact, like they hit the QB in the spring anyway. They have a running game but it’s not one that strikes fear in the hearts of people. They have a new Offensive Coordinator who used to coach Wyoming. Utah will rely upon the passing game but it’s going to tough. Defense is expected to be physical, but replacing DE Trevor Reilly is a tall order, and they just don’t appear to have the personnel. They produce sacks, but turning that into pressure on the quarterbacks didn’t help in the interception department. Their secondary needs help, and a lot of help, at that. The original BCS busters have fallen on hard times since they joined the PAC-12. League play has been unkind to the Utes, except against Stanford. They seem to have this down pat.
Toughest Games:
Sept 6th – Fresno State- This game will be tough and every game afterwards
6.   Colorado thought they were ready for PAC-12 play when they joined the league, turns out, they were wrong. It hasn’t been much of a life since they joined. They haven’t averaged 26 points a game since 2007, which is the last time they made it to a bowl game. 2014 isn’t going to be the year they break this streak. QB Sefo Liufau took over mid-season and was able to provide a spark, not wins, just a spark. Should he be able to up his game that spark might produce a flame under the Buffs. A thunder and lighting combination will be in the backfield. Christian Powell will be the thunder and Michael Adkins will be the lighting. Running the ball will rely upon the offensive line where they need to replace two starters. They ran pretty well when they were in the middle of the field but red zone blocking proved their undoing. If they’re able to improve in this area their average score should improve. The line has one returning starter that we know of, Josh Tupou, who could be all-conference. They should have two more stars in Justin Solis and Samson Kafovalu, but both were suspended due to academic issues. Should they make it back for the season, it’ll help. The secondary is loaded, they have proven talent and depth, which will be great in the PAC-12. Mike MacIntyre is an amazing coach, he turned San Jose State around and made them winners. CSF believes he’ll do the same at Colorado, only it’ll be next year before we see the fruit of his labor. This year the Buffaloes will be more competitive and will not be the pushover they’ve been in the past.
Toughest Games:
All of them, except Massachusetts. Maybe the Minutemen won’t be that tough. Then, again, maybe they will be.

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