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Cigars & Football – A Simple Blend

Week 9 Preview

Week 9
In the movie Return of the Jedi, Admiral Akbar said, “It’s a TRAP!” when he learned that the new and improved Death Star was, in fact, operational and was blowing his ships into oblivion. Luckily for him, Han Solo penetrated the protective grid and Luke Skywalker had the Emperor killed by Darth Vader. This weekend in College Football, we might be able to quote the old Admiral repeatedly. And Alabama gets to watch it all with a bye week.

541West “By Golly” Virginia vs Oklahoma State– WVU is undefeated and getting little to no respect, which is all they’ve earned to this point. They have played a couple of good teams that are having so-so years, TCU and K-State, but they played them in the hollows of the West Virginia mountains and few people, and fewer sportswriters, took notice. The advertised shootout against Texas Tech evolved into the Mountaineers beating the stuffing out of the Raiders, holding them to just 17 points. That’s right, West Virginia “held” an opponent to under 20 points, something they’ve done four times this season. They’re actually playing defense, a new trick they haven’t tried since Bobby Bowden was the head coach. Could the West Virginia Mountaineers be for real? Immaterial question, for this weekend feels like they have Admiral Akbar in their wheelhouse and he’s screaming, “It’s a TRAP!” Maybe its because Stillwater is notorious as a location for IED’s, or ambushes, for springing traps. Whatever the reason HC Dana Holgram had better have his players at the top of their game. WVU still has a love affair with passing often and primarily, but, as stated, they are actually playing some defense this season. They employ a bend-but-don’t-break strategy and that is a dangerous idea. Once you’ve bent so far, if you should break, the walls could come a’crumblin’ down. But the ‘Neers are perfectly capable of playing in a shootout, too, where the last team possessing the ball wins.
Oklahoma State has the offense to break WVU’s defensive dam. I thought Texas Tech had an offense to accomplish this, too, until last week. The IMG_7790difference is that these Cowpokes can run the ball. They’re not Alabama good, or LSU good, or even SEC-East good, but they can run. Should they sustain a balanced attack the Cowboys could overwhelm the WVU defense. But OSU has not been the most consistent team in the Big 12 that only has ten teams. That loss to Central Michigan is going to haunt them this entire season. They did play kind-of good against Baylor, but not real good. The last three games they’ve played better. The defense has been on the field way too many minutes, but to say they’ve held an opponent would be a stretch. Even the Kansas Jayhawks scored 20 points. That’s nearly as embarrassing as losing to Central Michigan. West “by Golly” Virginia probably won’t shut out the OSU offense, but neither will the Pokes blank WVU’s offense. OSU is going to wear down the Mountaineer defense, and look for Oklahoma State to pull away in the second half. Or the other way around.

231Michigan vs. Michigan State– We all remember what happened last year, Michigan, with the game in hand, playing at home, in the Big House, muffed the snap on a fourth down punt, fumbled the ball, and Spartan Jalen Watts-Jackson ran the ball back for the winning touchdown. MSU pulled off the most memorable finish in this rivalry in a lifetime. The Wolverines consider Michigan State an annoyance that must be dealt with before playing hated Ohio State. They’ve even called the Spartans their little brother. Until recently, MSU hasn’t been able to do much about it. The past few years they’ve whipped the Wolverines, and the 2015 game has provided a cherry to top off the Spartan’s Success Sundae. (insert evil laugh here) BUT, that was then and this is now. MSU hasn’t won a game since the second week of the season;- five straight games they’ve lost. Five! What has happened in East Lansing? It was just last year that they were in the College Football playoffs. That didn’t end well for them, but, heck, they were there, one of the Top Four teams in the world (Yes, I said, ‘the world’. Football is the number one sport in the world, in my not-so-humble opinion, and College Football is the crème de la crème). Now Sparta can’t run the ball, they can’t pass, and their special teams are atrocious. If there were some other aspect of this game, they’d mess that up, too. Actually, there is, coaching, and the sidelines haven’t been stellar, either. They beat Notre Dame, and that counts for something. So what does Michigan State need to be competitive with their “Big Brother”? First, defense, they have to get back to overpowering offensive lines. They’ve gotten away from being physical. Second, when nothing is going right, go back to the basics. They need to do what they can do and stop trying to be something they ain’t. Vince Lombardi, former assistant at Army, said he didn’t care if he only ran three of four plays, if his players executed their assignments, no one could stop them. And I’m sure Bear Bryant would have added, “and they better execute.” Sage advice. The Spartans need to be SPARTANS!
Michigan is, like West “By Golly” Virginia, undefeated. They’ve played six home games, and only one on the road, at Rutgers. WOW! What a 131powerhouse the Scarlet Knights are this year! The Wolverines have played two teams with a winning record, Colorado and Wisconsin, and only Wisconsin was ranked in the Top 25. This is the second easiest schedule in the nation;- Ohio State’s is the easiest. How anybody can rank Michigan second in the nation is due strictly to the press grabbing someone from the Great White North as a lifejacket when Notre Dame is having a lackluster year and the Buckeyes fell to Penn State. They’ve had one competitive contest, and they beat Wisconsin, 14-7. Now they come to Michigan State’s house with supreme confidence. All they have to do, in their mind, is suit up, go out the field, and the Spartans will be dazzled. Which leads me to my statement for the day, “IT’S A TRAP!” ( Admiral Akbar, once again). Ohio State regarded Penn State lightly, and we know what happened there. Nothing would make Michigan State’s season more than beating Michigan. NOTHING! Can it happen? Yes! Chances are slim, as in very thin, almost prosciutto thin. But rivalry games cause players to perform differently than they have all season. Michigan has everything going for them, they are Number One in the Great White North, OSU just lost and gave the Wolverines a chuckle. I’m not predicting a Michigan State victory, I’m sticking with the favorite, but it could happen. Stranger things have happened already this year, Central Michigan, the Chippewas, beat the Oklahoma State Cowboys. The Spartans could spear the Wolverines.

NebraskaNebraska vs Wisconsin– Pretty sure we should leave Admiral Akbar alone on this one. Nebraska knows they have a game on their hands. Wisconsin knows they have a game on their hands. Since the Bugeaters of the plains (Cornhuskers) entered the Great White North Conference, this game has developed into a rivalry. Wisconsin has usually come out on top. The Cornhuskers are another team with a creampuff schedule so far. Now the going gets tougher it’s gonna remain tough the rest of the season. Last week, against the Purdue Boilermakers, Nebraska struggled. It can be said that Purdue was fired up for their new interim head coach, or that the sun was in Big Red’s eyes most of the game. Whatever, the Huskers struggled, they shouldn’t have. QB Tommy Armstrong went back to his old habit of throwing Interceptions (2), and putting his team in a hole. When Armstrong is “Bad Tommy”, he makes it hard for Nebraska to win. But when he’s “Good Tommy”, he sparks his teammates to play a winning game. Last week was the first time we’ve seen “Bad Tommy” this year, but now that he’s resurfaced, who’s it going to be leading the Cornhuskers? Nebraska has a habit of folding like an origami bonsai tree in a windstorm when they face the GWN power brokers. They fall apart. They haven’t faced a defense in years like they will on Saturday. That’s when “Bad Tommy” tries to take the game into his own hands and win it without any help. It doesn’t work, but he hasn’t learned this lesson.
Wisconsin, believe it or not, is still ranked #11 in the nation. They’ve lost two games;- one to Michigan, the Nation’s Number 2 team, and one toWisconsin Ohio State, the Country’s Number 5, or 6, or 4, depending on whether you’re from Columbus, or Chicago, or Cleveland. They didn’t get blown out in either one, and could have won both, or either, but won neither. I know, I know, could have, would have, should have, – but didn’t. They’re still a very good football team. The Badgers beat Iowa last week, but they’re not satisfied with that. They know if they win out, they’ll get to play either Ohio State or Michigan (or, Heaven forbid, Maryland) in the Big Ten Championship game. First order of business is beating Nebraska, not an easy task. Well, it could be an easy task. Playing against Bad Tommy makes it easier. The Cornhuskers are ranked seventh, and this will make the fourth ranked team they will have to play. The Badgers don’t do anything special, they don’t have anyone that is special, but they are a team. The defense is relentless in their pursuit of the ball carrier. Their offense is balanced with minimal ego challenges. They aren’t flashy, they aren’t quick, they just move the ball forward. The “Script W’s” are going to overcome Nebraska, whichever Tommy shows up. They’re tougher, bigger and they’ve proven they can play with the big boys and they want to do it again.

098Florida vs Georgia– The “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party”! Call it what it is, and if your political correctness is offended, all that I can say is, “Bacon Sandwich” (Ed Note: I could say more – but I shan’t). The game is held in Jacksonville, as always, and one team will wear Blue jerseys and the other will wear Red. I ain’t telling you which is which. Florida has one conference loss. If they want to keep Tennessee from an all expense paid trip to the SEC championship game in Atlanta, the Gators have to make sure they keep winning. Florida has played very well, considering the issues they’ve had. They can’t keep a Quarterback, not in the last two years. They’re going to need Del Rio, or whoever else may start at QB, to be on his game. UGA has shown a weakness defending against the pass. Should Florida get their passing game going early, and run the Dawgs all over the field, it will open up their running game and wear the Georgia defenders out. However, the Gators’ defense is not without its own problems. They don’t adjust very well , and are slow to adapt to changing attacks. They’re going to have to be sharp on their reads and they have got to be disciplined. Roman soldier disciplined ( I would have said Spartan disciplined, but I’ve already covered them). They’ve had an extra week to prepare, an unexpected week, but welcome. Remember, they were supposed to play LSU, but there was Matthew, and Athletic Directors, and acrimony, and ke kwi? Something tells me to call on Admiral Akbar for his famous line, “It’s a TRAP!” Florida is the better team right now, they’ve played better, things have gone better for them, and they aren’t awed by Georgia all that much. The Gators better develop some respect for these Dawgs.
Georgia has been up and down, left and right, hot and cold, black and white. I know their mascot is a bulldog, but the way they’ve been playing,140 they’re like a young Boxer off his leash. If you’ve ever had a Boxer, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t had a Boxer yet, then shame, shame on you. The Dawgs lost at home to Vanderbilt. Let me say that again, They lost to VANDERBILT, at HOME! They beat South Carolina, despite Coach Boom and his great coaching ability (tongue in cheek). They were destroyed by Ole Miss, but in their wins they still make you scratch your head and wonder what they’re doing? We don’t know. They’re young, the QB is a true freshman who shows signs of future greatness, they may have the best running backs in the nation, and, yes, they’ve lost people to injuries, but who hasn’t? It happens, it’s part of the game. In Jacksonville would be the perfect time for them to prove their mettle. Right here is the place, right now is the time. They want to spring a trap, they’re ready to spring a trap, but it’s a matter of executing assignments. Unfortunately, young Boxers, and these Dawgs, don’t execute anything consistently.


202Clemson vs Florida State– If we need Admiral Akbar to yell “It’s a TRAP” for you in reference to this game, you haven’t been paying attention. Clemson should be setting the world on fire, but they’re not, by any metric. They’re barely keeping their heads above water. They’ve won all their games, true, but, come on, when are they going to be Clemson (Clemsonize?)? They beat FSU last year, and they think the Seminoles are down because they’ve lost a couple of games. Don’t bet your paycheck on that. Florida State is a crouching dragon, sleeping tiger, somnolent Seminole, and they would like nothing better than to ruin Clemson’s season. To knock off one of the top four teams in the nation would tickle FSU pink. After all, it is breast cancer month, and they’re supposed to wear pink. I’m picking the Noles, Admiral.

Washington vs. Utah– Cue the Admiral once again. The Huskies are the pride of the PAC-12, undefeated, playing great, looking good, and (hopefully) none of this is going to their heads. Utah has all they need to pull off the upset. It’s in Utah. The Utes are going to be a tough out. The Huskies have got to stick to their game, stay the course, not deviating from their track. If they try and get cute, pull something they’re not used to, it could cost them the PAC 12 crown, a spot in the Playoff, or at least the Rose Bowl. Beware the Jabberwocky!

Boise State vs Wyoming– By including this game as an upset alert for Boise State (cue the Admiral) you may think I’ve lost my crackers, spilled my Kool-Aide, and that I spend my days sorting crayons, and there may be some truth in this assumption. I do hate it when the crayons are out of order. But, the Wyoming Cowboys have been playing some good football this year. They are the best they’ve been in years and what better way to get their name on ESPN than to beat undefeated BSU? Remember, this coach Craig Bohl came over from North Dakota State where he developed a powerhouse that’s still going. If you don’t think he’s capable of doing it in Wyoming, you’re the one sorting crayons cause he’s doing it right now! Not saying they’ll win, necessarily, but the Broncos better pay heed to the Admiral. There ain’t never been a horse (Boise Bronco) that couldn’t be rode;- ain’t never been a Cowboy (Wyoming) that couldn’t be throwed. I think this’ll be a real rodeo.

Short Smokes:

These past weeks I’ve gone against Navy, not this week. Middies sink South Florida

Kentucky beats Missouri

Houston recovers and buries UCF

Duke over Georgia Tech

Louisville wins against Virginia and Lamar Jackson is the toast of the media.

K-State should be ready for Iowa State. Admiral Akbar might be at this game, though

Minnesota will Ski-U-Mah over Illinois – whatever that means.

Penn State wrecks Purdue’s train

North Carolina State gets back to winning against Boston College

Baylor beats Texas, maybe. It’ll be close. Save the Admiral a seat.

Army surprises everyone and beats Wake Forest. Won’t surprise me.

Miami’s turn to kick Notre Dame, and they will

TCU passes over Texas Tech, but this could turn into another shoot out

Northwestern is overmatched against Ohio State

Arizona State goes Duck Hunting in Oregon, and gets some ducks.

Auburn, who is now hot, gets to see if they can do it again, against Ole Miss. My faith in Ole Miss has been lost. To regain it, they need this game

Texas A&M will take out its frustration on New Mexico State. There’s just the miniscule doubt whispering in my ear;- watch out, Aggies! (They’re both Aggies)

Washington State stealthily destroys a Beaver at Oregon State

Stanford vs Arizona, at this point. who knows? I still pick Stanford.

North Alabama will be playing in Cleveland, Mississippi, against Delta State. We hate Delta State, hate them! So, come on Lions, jump on the Statesmen and maul them like no other. (Delta State is the big rival for North Alabama, so the hate is legit)


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