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Cigars & Football – A Simple Blend


SEC- East

The SEC-East hasn’t claimed the SEC title since Florida had Tim Tebow on the field, and they were good. Is 2014 the year that they reclaim their dominance? No, but one of them just might win the title. South Carolina still the Ol’ Ball Coach and they enter the season as the favorites, in most circles. Georgia has had a few hiccups in the past but this just might be the year of the Bulldogs. Florida comes in with a coach on the hottest seat in all of footballdom. Missouri had the best second year run of any school, Ever! Can they repeat? Vanderbilt lost their coach but they appear to have gotten a good one from Stanford. Ken-tuc-y ( the way Hawkeye in the Last of Mohicans pronounces it) has been showing improvement, will it continue? Enough of the prelims, Let’s get it on!
1. Georgia is going to win the East. Now, most highly paid sportswriters will say that South Carolina is going to be the winner, but what do 071they know? is going out on a limb and predicting UGA. Granted, it’s not much of a limb but it is against the tide. That’s a small “t”, as opposed to a big “T” which indicates Alabama. Georgia is on a mission, last year they lost to Clemson by three, lost to Auburn on a miracle last second play, and then had all their starters get hurt in the same game against Tennessee. After that triage game, the Dawgs never recovered and dropped a few more, including one to Vanderbilt! Now Georgia is healthy and they want to prove last year was a fluke! Hutson Mason is leading the Dwags, and although this is his first year as the true starter, he got plenty of experience filling in for the injured Aaron Murray in 2013. He knows the offense and is a proven commodity. But the focal point will be Running Backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, probably the best tandem of backs in the entire nation. If Gurley stays healthy he’ll be a favorite in the Heisman race. The receivers are top notch, but, like everyone else last year, they fell prey to injuries, mostly in the UT game. The offensive line has been a question mark for the last four years, a mix of high talent and potential that never materialized. Defense has been a problem, they recruit good players but they keep getting suspended and then they don’t produce as expected. New Defensive Coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, from Florida State, has arrived and he has shown he can bring a D unit together. He learned under St. Nick Saban and then showed what he could do at FSU. He’s got the talent playing for him, he just needs to mold it into a viable force. The defensive line was their greatest strength last year, they will be again. Senior-laden corps of Linebackers return and they are mean.
After the first game- any doubts about UGA being on a mission were erased. Gurley was unleashed on the Tigers. He ran like Forrest Gump, He, just, kept, RUN-ning! And the Defense! Wow! They overwhelmed Clemson, ok, ok, it took them until the second half to get it all together, but once they did, it was over. CSF is sticking with its prediction that Georgia will win the East.

2. South Carolina- comes in second, again. They are used to this as they have a death grip on this position. The Gamecocks don’t have South CarolinaJadeveon Clowney nor do they have Connor Shaw, but they do have Dylan Thompson, who split time with Shaw at QB as Shaw had a hard time staying healthy. Thompson doesn’t have the running ability of Shaw but he has the better arm and is known for throwing the deep ball. Which works out perfectly, because Damiere Byrd and Shaq Roland can run deep. They’re also pretty darn good at catching the ball. RB Mike Davis will be leaned upon to provide stability in the ground game. If he can be the work horse they need him to be, and the line can block, the Gamecocks will be able to score plenty. The line just might be the best that Coach Spurrier has ever had. Since he’s been at USC-South, he’s had one All-SEC lineman, this year they could have three! With these potential All-Stars leading the way, the O-line will be a force to be reckoned with. It must be nice to run behind a line like that. Losing Clowney creates a huge hole on the Defensive line, to make the hole even bigger they lose Kelcy Quarles, who was over-shadowed by Jadeveon. Returning starter Sharrod Gollghtly, the only veteran, has to be the leader. The anchors of the defense, Linebackers and the Secondary, have the talent and potential, but they have to deliver. USC-South looks loaded, but for some reason, they are not known deleivering. If they can overcome this tendency, it’ll be a great year and Spurrier will have another SEC title.
After the first game- Either USC-South has a lot to work on, or they’re not very good. Texas A&M came into town and crushed the Gamecocks. Nothing went right, they couldn’t run against A&M and they only completed a couple of long passes. Defense wasn’t even close to being what was expected. The Secondary got torched. If they’re going to win the East, there needs to be a lot of improvement. They might even lose their grip on second place as they fall.

3. My editor is convinced that Florida is going to return to relevance in ’14. He makes good arguments with sound reasoning. Of course, on any subject in which we disagree, he has solid reasoning, which can be really frustrating. I’m unconvinced. Missouri comes in at number 3. (I Missouri-Tigersmight be wrong on this one and I’ll hear about it for years) Last year Missouri ran all the way to the SEC championship game, they could do it again. In ’13 they were loaded with upper classman, but in ’14, they need their young guys to step up, beginning with QB Maty Mauk, who was the starter off and on as James Franklin was hurt a lot. CSF always felt that Mauk was the better passer. Having standout receiver Dorial Green-Beckham dismissed from the team was rough, but necessary. Jimmie Hunt and Bud Sasser are top notch receivers, but a notch below the talent level of Green. However an experienced line and depth at running back will be the keystone of the Tigers. The defense will be even better. Markus Golden, their leading pass rusher is back along with Kentrell Brother, who was the second leading tackler. The secondary is expected to be solid, but unspectacular. This could be their Achilles heel.
After the first game- The South Dakota State Jackrabbits proved to be more test than exected. The Tigers won, 38-18, but surrendering 18 points to the Jackrabbits does not bode well for our confidence in Mizzou.

4. Florida- If I’m going to go down it’s only going to be by one spot. The last time the Gators brought in a coach from Duke, Steve Spurrier, it Floridaworked out pretty well. Will Muschamp is hoping that lightning will strike twice as he has brought in Kurt Roper who steered Duke’s offense last year. He is installing the no-huddle, hurry-up offense that the Blue Devils ran pretty well. Jeff Driskel will be back at QB and he should do pretty well if he can stay healthy. Actually, if the entire UF team can stay healthy they should do better than 4-8. Coach Muschamp is hoping so because his job is on the line. The running game has got to improve, last year they ranked last in all rushing categories within the SEC, but there is hope. Kelvin Taylor emerged as the feature back in the second half of the season. The other aspect of an improved running game is that it will take pressure off the passing. Last year, because the running game was absent, the Gators relied exclusively on the pass, which they did poorly. But, hope abounds! With a talented group of receivers and Driskel back at QB, Florida will be better. Defense was dreadful against the run. We refer our readers to the Georgia Southern game, where the Eagles beat the Gators without ever attempting a pass. The D-line lacked depth and by the second half, they were gassed. This led to the linebackers being overtaxed. Without improvement, it’s going to be a long season. Defensively, there’s potential, but relying on potential has never been a sound strategy. Muschamp has taken over the duties of running the defense. If the UF doesn’t improve and get to a major bowl, Muschamp’s tenure will be at an end. The schedule is not kind, with games at Alabama, LSU, George and Florida State. That’s tough.
After the first game- Nobody has any idea what to expect from Florida as a thunderstorm interfered and the game against Idaho was canceled.

5. Ken-tuck-y- Coach Stoops, Mark Stoops, has the Wildcats on an upward mobility track. People say, “Well yeah, because they couldn’t go much lower.” And that is true. UK has performed great in the SEC, as long as they are playing basketball. But Wildcat football has been terrible. The school is making an effort to change that status. They are building new football facilities and have started a campaign with the 416slogan, “Why Not?” meaning, why not Kentucky Football, why can’t they succeed? It’s a good step, and CSF thinks there is no reason they can’t succeed. They once had a coach there by the name of Bryant, the Bear, that is, but they didn’t treat him very well, so he left. That’s history. The UK offense needs to come together and for that they need a star QB. They might have a good one in Drew Barker. He’s a true freshman but he enrolled last January and participated in spring practice, where he out shined everyone else. Expect him to start. UK will go with the trending Air Raid, no-huddle offense where they throw the ball 6,000 times a game. Fortunately, the leading receivers from last year are back, that will help out the frosh QB. But running the ball is a must, you gotta give the QB’s arm a break. Jojo Kemp who came on the scene last year and did quite well, leads the charge, and he’ll have help in transfer RB Braylon Heard, from Nebraska (he couldn’t take Bo and the hat anymore), and Josh Clemons, another youngster who is recovering from an Achilles tear in ’13. Kentucky Defense has been a running joke within the SEC. Coach Stoops, Mark, that is, knew that when he arrived and has made a concentrated effort to build up that side of the ball and add some depth. It appears he is on the right track. He’s got returning vets but now he has talented freshman and sophomores that he can rotate in and out. This will pay off big-time late in the games and as it gets late in the season. CSF isn’t saying the ‘Cats are ready to fight for the SEC-East title, but they will surprise somebody and pull off an upset or two.
After the first game- the ‘Cats blew apart U. of Tennessee-Martin, 59-14. Which was great, because UTM uniforms were exactly like Auburns’, and we like the Red Elephants. Does this mean Kentucky is improved? You bet it does. They haven’t won an opening game since the Reagan years! Ok, it hasn’t been that long, but it’s been a while.

6. Tennessee – readers of CSF will accuse me of having UT at 6th due to my “great love” of the school, (Sarcasm, definitely, definately, University of Tennesseedefiant Sarcasm). But the real reason they are ranked so low is because they are the only school in the entire NCAA Division I that lost its entire offensive line and defensive line in the same year! It won’t matter if they had Peyton Manning as QB again, if the lines aren’t good, the team is going nowhere. For 46 of the 95 players this was the first spring training under Coach Butch Jones. That means 48% of the team is brand spanking new. Either Coach Jones is a great coach and will direct the Vols to the SEC championship, or Volunteer fans can expect another rebuilding year. They need to replace their QB, although they might have a good one in Worley. He mustn’t break his thumb again. UT has talent, a lot of talent, but it’s going to take some time and some lumps before that talent is able to produce a consistently high level winning team. That’s a tall order but this is the SEC. UT’s biggest problem will be the schedule. They start off with two smaller schools, Utah St. and Arkansas St. (The Wolves might prove to be tougher than they thought), then they travel to Oklahoma, not good, at Georgia, really not good, Florida, at Ole Miss, Alabama, at USC-south, Ken-tuck-y, Missouri, and Vandy. If this team goes 6-6, I will get off the fence about Coach Jones and declare that he is a great coach.
After the first game- UT came out of the gates and destroyed Utah St. Fans where screaming Rocky Top, there was so much Orange it was almost blinding. The Vols actually played well. The Defense was disciplined and stayed with their assignment. Offense was able to move the ball and score. This game was over midway through the third quarter. They get one more game, Ark St. before reality set in.

7. Vanderbilt- Vandy had three years of success under James Franklin, but he’s now at Penn State and he may have left the cupboard bare. Coach Derek Mason comes all the way from the left coast to take over the reins of the smart school in the SEC. It looks like a good coaching hire, he knows how to recruit academic smarty pants who play some football. No one is going to say those boys at Stanford can’t play. But this is Vandy, and the first thing he needs is a lot of talent. They will be replacing their QB, and up until the first game of the season, the contest was on-going. They have some running backs who they can lean on as the season progresses. Defense is going to be a bit of a problem as Coach Mason is switching them from a 4-3 to a 3-4. His hope is that they will be able to slow down the up temp offenses of the SEC-East. He might, … next year. They need to replace their D-line and their entire secondary. Wow! That is a lot of replacing with a new coach. Vanderbilt is not going to fall into the joke of the SEC again, but it’s going to take a little while before they are back where Franklin had them.
After the first game- Vandy did not do themselves any favors as they lost to Temple, 37-7. Temple! Who loses to Temple? They Commodores had plenty of mistakes, misreads, dropped balls, wrong calls, tripping over grass and not figuring out what those bold white lines on the field were. It’s going to be a very long year for Mason and Vandy fans. Was this a joke – again?

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