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Cigars & Football – A Simple Blend

Great White North East

There appears to be a trend in the conference divisions, at least, for those that have them, for one side to be vastly better than the other. (Big 12, that only has ten teams, you’re out) The Great White North is no expectation. The Eastern division is better than the Western, and the top four in the east are better than the bottom three. Does this mean the B1G is the best in college football? No. That would be the SEC. Does it mean they are the best division in college football? Again, no, that would be the SEC-West. But they are getting competitive.

231Michigan State- The Spartans are willing and able to defeat the juggernaut of Ohio State. Will they? I dunno. MSU has been the most consistent team in the conference for the past few years. They haven’t grabbed the headlines as others have, like, Ohio State and Michigan, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Big Green just might be the best in the conference. One of the reasons they’re overlooked is they actually do play a good team or two outside of the conference, (unlike some schools.*cough, cough*…Ohio State) and they haven’t been in the Championship discussion. That could all change in 2015. The second game of the season will be a telling moment, for if the Spartans can get past Oregon, -and the Ducks are primed for the contest with a new QB and all, – Katey bar the door! Michigan State is going to roll over everybody else, including OSU, in Columbus. MSU has Connor Cook returning and he’s only the most ready NFL QB in the league right now. He could have gone pro last year but came back for his senior year. He is efficient and doesn’t make mistakes. Reminds me of AJ McCarron from Alabama, who won a few championships. He also has learned not to get rattled. He led this team over Baylor in the Cotton Bowl when they were down in the fourth quarter by 21 points. The running game will be fine, even though they have to replace their starting RB. But the offensive line returns and they might be the best in the nation. Lead by Tackle Jack Conklin, who also passed up the NFL draft and was projected to be in the first round. With this offensive line, it’s not going to matter much who runs the ball. I could line up in the backfield and look like a superstar back. That is until one of those great big ole linebackers knocked me silly and I had to spend the rest of the season in traction. The defense lost its beloved coordinator in Pat Narduzzi, new Head Coach of Pitt (watch out for the Panthers!) but they promoted from within and expect no drop off what-so-ever. Since 2010 the Spartans have allowed just 18.3 points per game, that’s better than LSU, Florida State and my Alabama. (Bama’s defensive better get their act together! I’m tired of writing about other teams being better on Defense!) The D will be led by DE Shilique Calhoun, who also passed up the NFL draft. What’s going on with all these guys coming back for their senior year? CSF will tell you, they want to win the Championship. They might be a little focused this year. The Spartans can’t slip up;- if they do, Ohio State will win the division.


Ohio State- Here at we are not prone to ratting out people on their opinions or points of view…usually. But there hasohio state logo been some talk in the College Football circles that, now we must remind you that this is just hearsay, Ohio State possibly, might be, could be, the team to beat in the Great White North Conference and could make a run at another National Championship. Mind you that is what is being talked about around the water cooler.   And by looking at their schedule it’s no wonder why. They don’t play a serious opponent until November 21st. Sorry, Penn State but you’re just not quite there yet. The Buckeyes made a great run last year after losing their starting Quarterback before the start of the season, and then losing to Virginia Tech, and losing their starting Quarterback and then at the end of the season. They won the National Championship with their third string QB. Wow! To make matters worse, all three going to be back for 2015. Only, Braxton Miller has switched from QB to WR. Four out of the five Offensive Linemen return and Ezekiel Elliott returns to run the ball. Not looking for the running game to drop off at all. This might be hard to believe but the Bucks were ranked only 51st in the nation in passing. They did throw the ball, but not as much as one might think. When they did sling the pigskin it was for over 10 yards, every time. Look for the defense to dominate again against the teams they are playing most of the year. The Buckeyes return most of the front seven and look to put a lot of pressure on opposing QB’s. The secondary, which specializes in preventing big passes, which Bama’s didn’t in 2014 and early 2015, will return. They weren’t outstanding against short passes but very good at not allowing the long ball. Hmmm…wonder if anyone else realizes that? Probably not. Expect OSU to be in top form from the start of the season. They’re a lead-pipe cinch to dominate sports’ headlines, either by winning, or from questioning why they weren’t.

386Penn State– The Nittany Lions are at a cross roads, they can either get better and become the Penn State we all knew and loved, or they can sit there, suck their thumbs, and be go 7-6 every year. They did great last year against schools outside the conference, but when it came to playing in conference, they feel apart. Everyone is excited that PSU is off probation and at full scholarships;- great, happy for them. But that doesn’t change what they do on the field and they’ve got to block better. Christian Hackenberg is considered an NFL caliber quarterback but it’s hard for him to throw from his backside. He was sacked a lot, and, after running for his life, his decision-making started to suffer. So, why is PSU picked 3rd? It’s because most of the line returns and James Franklin is a darn good coach. They’re not going to win the Great White North Conference this year but they’re going to be better. The running game will be replacing their backs but they’ve got Akeel Lynch, who’s coming in at 220lbs, and who got good playing time in the last few games. The receivers are going to have to do WAY better, they had a bad case of the dropsies last year and it lasted all season long. Maybe they got a Hypnotist like in the movie, the Natural, to help them hang onto the oblate spheroid. “Dropping the ball is a disease…, as deadly as syphilis,….AH! But curable…” Defense-wise the Lions stopped the run, they were 3rd in the nation at keeping things bottled up. PSU has just about all their guys back plus they have this DE, Carl Nassib, who the coaches are crazy about. The secondary is always loaded and will be very hard to throw against. If the offense can get anywhere nearly as effective as the defense, the Nittany Lions will be a force to be reckoned with, for sure. Didn’t I say the same thing about Minnesota in the GWN-W article? The defense will keep them in plenty of games but the offense has got to step up.

Michigan – No school in the nation has generated more press then the Wolverines – except Ohio State. All because they hired this coach named 139Jim Harbaugh, maybe you’ve heard of him. Supposed to be a top-notch hire. Yes, we know he is good and CSF expects him to bring Michigan back to respectability. Unlike most of the press, we don’t believe it’s going to happen this year. When Coach Harbaugh took over at Stanford, the Cardinal was the laughing stock of the PAC-12. He turned them around, but it wasn’t in his first year or the second year. He went 4-8 in 2007 and 5-7 in 2008, but he did beat USC that first year. Pete Carrol still hasn’t forgiven him for that. What UM needs to succeed under Harbaugh is a smart efficient Quarterback and right now they don’t have one. At Stanford was this guy Andrew Luck;- at the 49’ers he had Kaepernick, smart QB’s. They’ve got some incoming freshman who may develop later on, and transfer QB Jake Rudock, from Iowa, but none seem to fit the mold right now. In the backfield the Wolverines haven’t determined who’s going to be the feature back, or if they’ll even have a featured back. Look for them to run by committee. The offensive line has four and five star recruits who haven’t lived up to their reputations. Expect them to live up to their reputations. The defensive held opponents to 117 yards per game in ‘14 but then they got torched in the passing game. One reason the numbers look so good against the run is because most teams didn’t run against them because the secondary was so woeful. Michigan will be better, they’re going to be tougher, and look for them to upset the apple cart somewhere down the road, like, against Ohio State. Would not put that past them at all. But they are going to need time. The turnaround is not going to happen in one year. Michigan has better talent than Stanford did, but the talent they do have has not developed. Culture change has arrived, and it’s usually a harsh reality when that happens.

Maryland IIIMaryland- there is a bit of a drop-off from Michigan to Maryland but the Terps are holding their own within the Great White North Conference. Last year they went 7-6 as a new member and even upset Penn State and Michigan. What they couldn’t do was play with consistency. One game they’d play great, next game they’d look like the keystone cops. Ok, maybe not that bad but it was a big difference. Maybe it was that bad. This year is going to be tougher. They have to break in their entire offensive backfield and the O-line is so green there is still sap behind the ears. They have some good recruits and some may get meanful playing time. The Defense is going through a big change as well. New DC Dudzinski was promoted from Linebacker coach to DC and he is switching to a 4-3, looking to be more aggresive. Why do all new DC’s say this? Did the departed DC look for the team to be LESS aggressive? Now the really sad part;- UM lost their entire front seven. That’s right, they have to replace everyone along the trenches. Wow! Not good. To say this is a rebuilding year would be an understatement. They have recruited well under Coach Edsall and they’ve got a workable schedule, so maybe they can make it respectable. A bowl would be nice.

Rutgers– The Scarlet Knights came out of the blocks in 2014 like they were on fire! They were 5-1 and had beaten Michigan (of course who didn’t Rutgerslast year) before they went on break. Then, after taking time off, they were in league play and they realized just how far they had to go before they caught up with the rest of the Great White North conference. To say they were not competitive against OSU, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Michigan State would be an understatement. This year they have to find a starting QB and at the end of spring training no one had emerged as the leader. Same story as Alabama, as a matter of fact, and Ole Miss, and Georgia, and LSU, and Florida. Not unique at all. They have WR Leonte Carroo, who had a breakout season last year and should continue to improve. Running was more like, “Eh”, for the Knights. It wasn’t horrible exept against the big boys and it wasn’t all that great against the others. Two starters come back on the offensive line, that was, well, “eh”. Offensive productivity will be very hard to come by. The defense was a serious problem, they couldn’t stop the run and they didn’t stop the pass. The returning starters did not do anything to impress. Look for Rutgers to take a big step back this year. Taking a step back means stepping off a precipice into oblivion. Remember Temple, when there was a Big East and they were in it and they got kicked out? Is the New York TV market so important to the B1G that they’ll tolerate mediocrity? Hmmmmm.

IndianaIndiana– is a study in contrasts. They had an offense that produced last year. They were third in the GWN and had a running back in Coleman who ran for over 2,000 yards. Coach Kevin Wilson loves his offense, loves it, loves it, loves it! He’ll have to replace his QB and running back but he’s confident that someone will step up and produce in his system. The O-Line will be solid with returning starters and a transfer or two. The problem is, when a coach takes the approach that nothing but offense is all they need, they have to score a lot of points and be able to do that consistently. The Hoosiers showed they could move the ball but they just couldn’t score enough. The defense was…well…shredded. They never really stopped anyone. They got in their way a lot, but that’s about it. It’s understandable that Indiana, like their basketball team, only wants to score points and they’re going to go with a totally offense mentally. But the defense has got to do something. Maybe, just, maybe, what this bunch needs is to watch the movie, “Hoosiers”. Is there a correlation between the movie and the team, Hoosiers – Hoosiers, defense, ….? They were ranked last in just about every category and the outlook does not look promising. Maybe they’ll turn it around. They did in the movie, and it was a good movie. Stranger things have happened. I wouldn’t bet a cigar on it, though, not even a Tabantilla.

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