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Cigars & Football – A Simple Blend

Saturday Bowl Games!!

New Orleans Bowl
Nevada (7-5) vs. Louisiana- Lafayette (8-4)

ULL stays in very familiar territory, southern Louisiana, specifically, New Orleans, which isn’t that far from their home in Lafayette, a two-hour drive. One I’ve made many times when I was a student in Lafayette, but those stories are for another time. This will be fourth time the Ragin’ Cajuns have made this trip at the end of the season. They’ve won the previous three times.

UL-LafayetteThe Cajuns come in with an 8-4 record. They lost their two money-making games, to Ole Miss, 56-15 and then to Boise State, 34-9. One of their other two losses was to Louisiana Tech, 48-20, before they went on a 6-game winning streak, defeating the likes of Texas State, Arkansas State, and UL Monroe. They were playing great and loving it! Then they hosted Appalachian State and lost, 35-16, but, not to worry, they closed the regular season on a high note, downing Troy, 42-23. The Cajuns’ team runs the ball. Nothing works unless the running is working. They have two good backs, Elijah is the main work horse, 1,165 yards for the season while the other back, Alonzo Harris, has 737 yards for the season. Even QB Terrance Broadway is a major running threat, and has rushed for 646 yards. Louisiana-Lafayette can pass the ball but they’d rather not, as they rank 102nd , averaging 188.9 yards per game. That being said, last year, in this same venue, Broadway passed for 316 yards with one TD, so they can pass, they just don’t like to pass. Head Coach Mark Hudspeth has turned ULL around and made them into winners. Get a good look at Hudspeth now before one of the power five schools recruits him to be the head coach of their team.

University of Nevada visits the Big Easy with a record of 7-5. The Wolfpack has had an up and down season. They beat Washington State and thBYU, which is up. In the down games, they weren’t down by much and that’s saying a lot, because they lost to Arizona, Boise State, Air Force and Colorado State, by 7 measly points apiece. Against Fresno State they lost by 10. The Wolfpack is a lot like ULL in that they are a run-heavy team, ranking 32nd in the nation and averaging 215 yards per game. They rely on the QB to run more than the other members of their backfield, as Cody QB Fajardo has 997 yds and running back Don Jackson has 932 yds. The Nevada needed a spectacular game against UNLV to close out the season on a winning note since they had dropped the previous two. Nevada’s Wolfpack hasn’t had a lot of luck in Bowl games, going 1-7 in their last eight bowl appearances. They lost to Arizona in the 2012 New Mexico Bowl, 49-48. The Wolfpack makes a living on turnovers. They have forced 26 this year, with 13 interceptions and three being run back for TD’s. Interceptions could be in short supply in this one since neither team likes to pass.

It’s going to come down to whose defense shows up to play. Nevada’s “D” is ranked 79th in the nation, giving up an average of 28.2 points per games. Lafayette’s defense is better as they are ranked 78th and giving up an average 27.9 points per game. I didn’t say they were much better, I just said better. On this split-hair difference, is picking the Ragin’ Cajuns to win.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl

Utah State (9-4) vs. UTEP (7-5)

thUniversity of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) has not won a bowl game since 1967, which is longer than I’ve been alive. So, with the team adapting the slogan of “Make History” at the start of the season, they weren’t kidding. If they’re able to win this game, it will most definitely be making history. The Miners rely on their open offense attack, which features everyone running the ball, just not at the same time. They’re pretty good as they average 212 rushing yds per game. They lost big to K-State, Rice, and Louisiana Tech, but they were close against Texas Tech and Western Kentucky. My editor thinks they should have won that Texas Tech game. For them to win this one, however, they are going to depend on their defense stopping the Utah State attack. Not good, as the Miners give up 28.7 points per game.

Utah State is looking to win their third straight Bowl Game, which is a big turnaround for them. Two years ago they were 1-6 in Bowls. This Utah styear’s Aggies had dreams of winning their division and possibly the Mountain West Conference. In their last game, with the division title on the line, they lost to Boise State, 50-19. Not quite what they had in mind. Now the question is whether they are motivated for this bowl game after being humiliated in their title game? Case in point, as some of you may recall (ME!), Alabama was embarrassed by an 109-yard Kicksix last year and the Tide wasn’t motivated to play Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl in any form, shape, or fashion. Utah State Head Coach Wells will tell anyone that the team is hungry and wants to make up for how it played against Boise. One of the reasons the Aggies have had a disappointing season is that they keep losing QB’s to injury. The injury bug has claimed three, so they will enter the game with Kent Myers calling signals, a freshman who has completed 69.1 % of his passes, and was listed on the four-deep chart, but only just. He ran for 135 yards in the last two games, but, let’s be honest, he was running for his life.


Neither school boasts a dominant defense. Look for both teams to rely on the run, but Utah State is better at playing pitch and catch with the ball, which is why CSF is picking them to win. Maybe. You can’t tell about this scrappy bunch from the Franklin Mountains.

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl

(22) Utah 8-4 vs. Colorado State 10-2

CSUColorado State has made the headlines since they ended their regular season losing to Air Force, 27-24, not because of the team, but because of losing their head coach to Florida. Former Alabama Offensive Coordinator and Colorado State Head Coach Jim McElwain turned the Rams’ program around in just three years. Running his type of offense, CSU has flourished. QB Grayson is the MWC Offensive Player of the year with 32 TD’s and only 6 INTs. He destroyed all the previous records of former CSU QB’s. To say he can pass the ball is a bit of an understatement. Overseeing the Rams in the Las Vegas Bowl will be OC Dave Baldwin, so don’t except a lot of drop off, he knows the system. For a couple of weeks in the season the Rams were actually ranked in the top 25, and might be yet, but they didn’t play one ranked team the entire season. To make matters worse, the Rams have lost their last 15 games against top 25 teams.

Utah has had an interesting season, and that’s putting it mildly. They have three games that went into overtime. Oregon State and Stanford Utahwent into double OT’s, but the Utes got the “W”. Against Arizona State, they lost in one OT. They also lost to Washington State after opening the season 3-0. They’ve had tight games all season long, except against Oregon, and that one didn’t turn out well. In most of their games, it was either a back and forth game, or they’d simply fall behind and mount a great 2nd half comeback. Facing Colorado State, Utah’s going to rely on their pass defense. They love to sack the QB, they lead the nation with 52. They usually keep offenses limited to a ground attack – except against the Ducks. Since 1999 the Utes have gone 10-1 in the post season. They’ve had a two-year break, but they are back. They’ve played a tougher schedule then CSU, they have a better post-season record, and they still have their coach (he actually turned down the Tennessee job a couple of years ago, can you believe he didn’t want to coach in the SEC? what type of mentality is that?). None of that matters! Colorado State has had a great season and they’re going to top it off with a Bowl Victory! Rams Win!

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Western Michigan (8-4) vs. Air Force (9-3)

This could be called the “Feel Good” Bowl, since both of these teams were at the bottom of their conferences last year with dismal records. The Falcons were 2-10 and lost every single conference game they had. The Broncos ended 2013 at 1-11, pretty bad. Both teams have turned things around and will now meet each other in a bowl. Air Force will be making its 25th bowl appearance and Western Michigan will be making its 6th. The Falcons are 10-12-1 in post season;- the Broncos are 0-5.

air forceAir Force, like the other Academies, runs the Triple Option, but it’s more of a wishbone offense. AF has three backs who are credible threats led by Jacobi Owens who accumulated 1,082 yards for the season. He’s followed by Shayne Davern (419), and Devin Rushing (336). QB Pearson can actually pass and threw for 1,513 yards with 14 td’s while only attempting about 15 passes per game. The biggest improvement for Air Force is their run defense, in which they gave up only 140.3 rushing yards per game. That was the key to their turnaround. They will need that defense to step up against Western Michigan.

The Broncos turned their fortunes around by relying on a passing attack and a defense that learned how to tackle. QB Zach Terrell ranks third inth college QB’s behind Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, and Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson. That’s not bad company! Terrell has thrown for 3,146 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 10 int’s. WMU also has two receivers that have proven their mettle, in Corey Davis and Daniel Braverman. Davis led the MAC with 12 TD’s for the season. Now the Bronco defense needs to be able to stop the run. Western Michigan has the third best freshmen running back in the nation in Jarvion Franklin, who ran for 1,525 yards and 24 TD’s, so they’re not a One-Trick-Pony.
Air Force has improved with their run defense, but, guarding against the pass, eh…not so much. They were the second worst in the Mountain West, giving up 256 yard per game. Air Force runs the wishbone very well, and they are going to score points, but they are facing a more balanced team in Western Michigan, who can pass as well as run. Air Force might be able to stop one but not both. Western Michigan Wins!

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
South Alabama (6-6) vs. Bowling Green (7-6)

thFive seasons ago the Jaguars started their football program in the FCS, where they spent three years. Two years in the big leagues and they are now in their first ever bowl game. This year they defeated the likes of Kent State, Idaho, and Troy. They hung (hanged ?) tough with SEC East South Carolina for a while and then, against Navy, they scored two touchdowns within six minutes but still lost by two points. But the Jags did not finish well, going 1-4. They faltered against Louisiana-Lafayette, giving up 13 points in the second half to lose. The brightest spot for the Jaguars may be their quarterback, Brandon Bridge, who is the prototypical pro-style QB. He stands 6-foot-5 and tips the scales at 235lbs. He has good athletic abilities but he struggles with passing accuracy, completing only 51.9% of his passes. He’s thrown for 1,648 yards with 14 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Now the team must play for its spot in history.

Bowling Green started the season going 5-2, which included their two worst defeats, one to Wisconsin, 68-17, and the other to Western BGKentucky, 59-31. Their best victory was against Indiana, 45-42, in which they scored the winning touchdown with only nine seconds left on the clock. In the back half of the season they went 2-4 with three straight losses closing it out. Roger Lewis has been the highlight of the offense, grabbing 69 catches for 956 yards and five touchdowns. Coach Dino Baber’s career at Bowling Green did not start well as they ran into a buzzsaw against West Kentucky. He is a proven winner, though. As the Head Coach at Eastern Illinois he took them to the playoffs both years he was there. Now they get to prove their worth against the Jaguars.

Bowling Green has been to bowl games before, and they have a coach who has been in pressure games. South Alabama has paid its dues and now it’s time to cash in their chips. These two teams are very evenly matched and this game should be a toss up, but CSF is going with Bowling Green.

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