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Cigars & Football – A Simple Blend

ACC-Atlantic Preview

Next up is the ACC. This conference is tough to predict cause, let’s be honest, no one is sure how they are going to do. Take a look at Duke;- who would have ever thought they’d become a semi-powerhouse a couple of years ago? I have to admit I surely didn’t. Usually, Florida State is a shoe-in for winning the conference, however, this year….not so sure.

2651. Clemson– This is Clemson’s year to win the Division. Yes, they have question marks, but they have talent, and if the stars line up in the proper order, it’s their time to win it. The offense will be breaking in a new coordinator who’s biggest concern will be to improve their red zone proficiency. They were tied for 110th in the nation last year. My Daddy always taught me that if you’re ranked 110th in the nation out of 128 teams, then there’s a problem. So how are they going to fix this? 1st , QB Deshaun Watson needs to stay healthy! He’s coming off an ACL tear and is reported healthy and ready to go. If he goes down again, or doesn’t return to form, we gots a problem. Last year he did very well against Carolina teams, putting up 1,125 yards passing and 13 TD’s. 2nd, will be the running game where RB Wayne Gallman will be coming off a fast freshman start where he ran for 769 yards and 4 TD’s. Should he improve, he’ll be a formable force. 3rd, the Tigers have the best offensive line they’ve had in…well, let’s see here, they had a great line back in the 80’s, so that’s….carry the two….30 something years! With four seniors anchoring the trenches who have a combined 89 games together, they should be great. They also have four highly-recruited freshman who will get some playing time as well. The Tiger offense is going to be hard to stop. Defensive Coordinator Brent Venbles came over from Oklahoma three years ago, in what appeared to be a great steal for Coach Dabo Swinney. Last year the purple, or orange, or white, or whatever color they happen to be wearing, Tiger’s ranked as the nation’s overall top defense allowing 260 yard per game and giving up 16.7 points per game. Now, he’s got his work cut out for him as he loses just about his entire defensive line and the star linebacker. Well, this is why he gets paid the big bucks. The secondary is in great shape and if the opposing line can’t get to the QB, they’re going to score points this year. They’ll have three games in Sept to work out the kinks before they face Notre Dame Oct 3rd. Should the defense even come close to what they were last year, the Tigers will be just fine. Remember, Clemson has that nasty habit of Clemsonizing in at least one game per year.

2. Florida State– Two things have become prevalent with the Seminoles;- a) they have talented players, and, b) they have players that are, and202 are going to be, in some sort of legal trouble. How the second effects the first is going to affect this year. Winning 29 straight games before facing Oregon in the playoffs is a high standard, they have plenty of talent to make another run, but this year they need to develop that talent if they’re going to win the ACC and make another national championship run. The often-in-trouble but talented Jameis Winston has left to test his mettle in the NFL so the Seminoles will be breaking in a QB in the form of Sean Macamp. He did well in his lone start last year against Clemson;- ok, ok, yes, he got sacked five times and threw two interceptions and the game had to be won in overtime, but still he did alright. But the targets in the passing game, Wide Receiver Rashad Greene and the tough running tight end Nick O’Leary have left.There is hope in Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane who had impressive numbers as freshman. The strength of FSU is going to rest on the shoulders of tailback Dalvin Cook who rushed for over 1,000 yards last year. The biggest question mark will be the offensive line, where they have two junior college transfers coming in to try and provide the anchors. If the line gels, FSU should be alright. The biggest factor will be defense, for, as a team, they lost 12 starters to the NFL with most of those losses coming from the defense. Second year coordinator Charles Kelly will be looking for major improvement from the young ones if they are to keep their regular season winning streak intact. Improvement needs to come from the secondary where the losses were damaging. With more and more teams going to no huddle and quick passing attacks, this looks to be their major weakness. But, let’s be honest and talk about the elephant sitting right in the middle of the room, e.g., Jimbo Fisher’s handling of the team. It has been atrocious. If he doesn’t take command very quickly, the team is going to slip right through his fingers and the inmates will end up running the asylum. No team can win when that happens, no matter how much talent they have. Because of the personalities involved, don’t expect FSU to win it.

3. North Carolina State– Some people might scoff at the idea of the Wolfpack being picked third, but, before y’all laugh, I wouldn’t be shocked at all if NC State wins the Atlantic division, much less the conference championship. This is a team that went from 3-9 in 2013 to 8-5 in 2014. QB Jacoby Brissett was dynamic, he does have to work on being more consistent, but with another year under his belt, look for the consistency to show through. The running game averaged 204 yards per game, its best production in over twenty years. That’s not bad. The Offensive line has three starters returning and must replace both tackles, but with four games in Sept before they get some serious competition, they should get it all together. Last year the defense tried to play more out of their base and not blitz too much, and that didn’t really work. Then the Defensive coordinator opened it up and let the dogs loose which resulted in their best performances of the season. All the backups on the line got plenty of playing time in ‘14 and they know what is expected of them. A drop off in ‘15 is not expected. Not to mention that in the era of wide open offensives, the entire secondary returns. The Wolfpack is better-equipped and more stable to make a run for the title than anyone else. It’s just a question of whether or not they’ll be able to get over the hump. Should they be undefeated by the time they play Clemson, look out, because after the Tigers NC State has Florida State and the Wolves don’t fear the Seminoles.

4. Louisville – The Cardinals went 9-4 last year and their biggest strength was the defense. Who knew that Head Coach Bobby Petrino would likeLouisville defensive play? Go figure. This year, who knows where their strength is going to be? On the Offensive side there are four QB’s battling it out for the starting role, and after the way things went last year they may all get to play, again. No one separated themselves from the pack in the spring. The running game is going to be asked to carry the load, with Brandon Radcliff, who had three games , Notre Dame, Kentucky, and Georgia, where he played very well. He’ll have to keep it up and show that he can be the stud they need him to be. The top three receives all left but they do have James Quick, who was a highly-touted five star recruit out of high school, but he had the “droppsies” last year plus some off the field issues, so he needs to grow up. Other than that they’ve got two transfers who are expected to contribute from the start. The O-line has to replace three starters, this might not be the best year to start the season off with Auburn and Clemson. The defense wasn’t the best in the ACC but they were darn good and they liked to tackle. The front seven should be very good, the entire D-line is coming back and the linebackers were at their top of the game most of the season. They did have a letdown in the last two games of the season, but they swear they’ve learned their lesson and promise not to do that again. The secondary has no one returning, so when you go to the game, buy a program so you’ll be able to look up who’s playing where. Did I mention that in their first three games they play Auburn and Clemson? By golly, this appears to be a bad start.

thQBPYVKB25. Boston College– Let’s see here, the Eagles had some surprise victories last year, as they beat Southern Cal and NC State, they finished 7-6, ending with a loss to Penn State. But this is 2015 and one of the great things about college football is that things change. Maybe not too good for BC. They have to replace their QB and the entire offensive line, but they’ve got plenty of running backs and a receiver or two. Oh, and they’re breaking in a new OC. Fortunately, they don’t start off with Auburn and Clemson. It’s expected that Darius Wade will pick up the reins and be the QB. He’s thrown a total of eight (8) college passes, but he’s got speed and is expected to be a dual threat. The running backs have enough talent to rotate in and out and stay fresh all game long. That’ll come in handy as the offensive line will be entirely new, so much so that there’s not really anyone to mention who got enough playing time last year to be a factor. I hope the running backs are tough cause it’s going to be a very difficult year. On the Defensive side the Eagle look strong, they ranked second to Michigan State in allowing rushing yards per game, as in only 94.5 yards per game. This was the highlight of the team. The defense has plenty of players returning and will be very hard to play against, that is, early on. As the season progresses this unit will be tired because of the lack of offensive output. It’s going to be very difficult for the Eagles to match last year’s record.

6. Wake Forest– The Demon Deacons are going to be better. They’re going to be the youngest team in the nation, again, but look for them to IMG_7871improve. Now, they’re not going to make a run for the conference title, the division title, or even the state title, for that matter. They shouldn’t beat Army this year (that’s because the Cadets are going to be FAR better than last year) but they will be better. WF was overmatched in just about all their games, but they have just about everyone coming back. The offensive line returns and they did show some signs of improvement. This year they’ll improve even more. QB John Wolford got sacked 48 times in ’14, and he never threw a pass over 20 yards, mainly because he couldn’t wait for receivers to get that far down field before he was running for his life. He’s a tough ole cob. With the Offensive line improving, look for his productivity to improve with it. Running the ball, averaging 3.4 yards per carry, they ranked last in the nation. SO, there is no way to go but up! All the backs come back for another year. Don’t know what to say about the receivers , but they did have a problem holding on to the ball last year. I’m sure that in the offseason they worked on catching the ball. The Defense was not near as bad the team’s record. They finished in the middle of the pack in the ACC. They also have plenty of talent returning, so if they can improve, the team will get better. The other reason for thinking the Demon Deacons will improve is because Head Coach Dave Clawson knew what he was getting into when he accepted this job and he’s proven he can turn a program around. CSF believes he’s going to do it again. Then, again, the ACC is not the MAC.

th1BBLDMCJ7. Syracuse– Things are not well in upstate New York. QB Terrel Hunt was a scrambling QB last year that relied on his feet more than his arm, and that kind-of worked until he broke his leg midway through the season. Now, with a new OC, he is working on becoming more of a passer. The running game lost their star backs and has to find replacements. Going to a difficult situation because the offensive line is completely untested. They should be better if they can avoid the injury bug that hit them last year. The Orange played 10 lineman last year. Hard to get things together when the line is in a constant state of flux. Out of 11 players on defense, Syracuse has to replace 8. That comes to one returning player on the line, one at linebacker and one in the secondary. Not what is needed after a 3-9 campaign. Athletic Director Daryl Gross has left after the NCAA handed down sanctions in March due to its basketball program. Head Coach Scott Shafer might be coaching for his job this season. So, what’s new?

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