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Cigars & Football – A Simple Blend

Week 1 for real

Week 1

WHOOO-PEEE!!!! It’s College Football Opening Weekend, Labor Day Weekend, or, as I, and a bunch of good ole boys call it, Open Season!! Christmas is the most meaningful holiday, but this weekend is a close second. Real American football is back! The A&M Aggies will be back to their Mid-night yell, which everyone should attend at least once, along with doing a lot of other things the Aggies do. The state is Alabama is divided between “Roll Tide” and ‘War Eagle”, in Georgia the Dawgs are barking, and the Buckeyes and Wolverines resume hating each other. Actually, they never stop, but it takes on a whole new intensity in the fall. Out on the left coast they don’t really hate much of anything except Republicans, but they do field some teams worth watching. They have that going for them, and they very sorely need something in their favor.

ohio state logoOhio State vs. Indiana -First up, the Buckeyes meet the Hoosiers. This has been mentioned as a “trap” game for Ohio State, one where the favored team might be looking ahead to the next game (Oklahoma) and get surprised by the underdog. I’m not sure we at CigarSmokinFootball are buying that notion, but, what the heck let’s go with it. OSU did not finish well last season. After beating up on the Great White North conference, except for that Penn State anomaly, the Bucks made it into the playoffs while not even winning their conference. This is just wrong! They played Clemson in the semi’s and got hammered, 31-0! This season the offense will depend on how QB J.T. Barrett plays. If he lives up to his inflated hype, and supposed potential, he’ll lead the loaded Bucks to a National Championship! I mean, how can he not  if everything written about him is true? If he skates on his unearned reputation, OSU could still make a run for the GWN title, but it’ll be dicey. RB Mike Weber, who, as a redshirt freshman, amassed nine touchdowns and over 1,000 yards, again will lead the running. He needs to get off to a fast start, because the bigger boys are coming. The greatest question mark is the receiving corps. They have to replace two outstanding ball catchers who are now making a living in the NFL. Parris Campbell and Johnnie Dixon will get their chance to prove their mettle, but they unproven right now. Tight End is another problematic position since we’re not too sure who’s going to start. The defense is going to have a stellar group of linebackers returning to lower the boom on opposing offenses. The D-Line has two returning pass rushers, Tyquan Lewis, who came back for his senior year, and Sam Hubbard. The secondary has to be rebuilt as they lost their nucleus of D-Backs, who are also playing on Sundays.

Indiana- Head Coach Kevin Wilson had the Hoosiers moving in the right direction. They had been to two bowl games and appeared poised toIndiana continue their rise. Only, Wilson and the Athletic Director, Fred Glass, could not see eye to eye on the direction Hoosier football was moving. So, Wilson took his coaching talents to none other than Ohio State, as their new offensive coordinator. This just doesn’t seem fair to me. Tom Allen, who was the defensive coordinator under Wilson, takes over as Head Coach. His first test of the season is a doozy. Indiana has a habit of hanging tough with OSU for about the first half, before fading at the end. It could have to do with depth of personnel. New offensive coordinator Mike DeBord comes over from Tennessee. I’m not sure having a UT coach is a good thing, but that’s just me. The boys from Bloomington (read, Hickory, cause that movie never get old) have a history of good running backs. Camion Patrick was poised to carry on the tradition, but he sustained a torn ACL in the spring. He is projected to get a crack at playing, but it might just be too soon. Backups Mike Majette and Cole Gest better be prepared to carry the load. The O-line only lost one player from last year’s squad and will be team’s strength. If, and it’s kind-of a big, “IF”, they can hold OSU at bay and open up some running lanes, the offense could make a game of it. The defense allowed 27.2 points per game last year, a huge improvement from ’15 when they allowed 37.6. They’ll need to hang tough if they want to beat the Bucks. OSU is going to move the ball Thursday night, but, if the Indiana defense can somewhat contain OSU, and keep the scoring from soaring, they might trap Ohio State. It’ll be a miracle for the upset to happen, but, hey, if Houston can beat OU last year, why can’t the Hoosiers win this game? We’re picking Ohio State, we’d like to go the other way, but I’m not confident enough to pick Indiana.

ArmyFordham vs Army- Why are we writing about this game? Cause its freakin ARMY, that’s why! Last year, whenever CSF wrote about the Black Knights, they won. Mostly. We wrote about them against Temple, and the Cadets won. We wrote about them again and they won again. This constitutes a streak, and when a streak happens, don’t mess with it. Whether it’s wearing a rabbit’s foot, rubbing a rock, or whatever, don’t mess with a streak. If you doubt the veracity of this statement, please see the movie, Bull Durham, as Crash Davis explains this better than I ever could. Last year the Cadets surprised a lot of folks with a winning season, and then topped it off by beating Navy. Was that great, or, was that great? Everything’s better when you beat Navy. Did I mention that we here at CSF are biased? Well, we are. Army is going to run all over the Rams and start the season with a well-earned victory. Go Army!

131Michigan vs. Florida- Michigan fans are holding their breath. This will be Coach Jim Harbaugh’s third year at the helm, and a lot is expected of him. It could be his greatest test to date cause he lost 17 starters from a senior-heavy 2016 class. According to Harbaugh, every position is up for competition. The one position that was not open was quarterback. Wilton Speight came into his own last year as he threw for 2,538 yards with 18 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. So that’s one bright spot to hitch your hopes on. But, let’s face facts, no matter how good a QB might be, if his receivers can’t catch his passes, then it doesn’t matter. This will be a point of emphasis, as the young wideouts need to step up. Going up against the second best defense in the country last year might not be the best initiation for these young men, but that’s the cards they’ve been dealt. The offensive line has to be rebuilt, and, after last year, that might be a good thing. The Wolverine running game stalled out in their loses to Ohio State, Iowa, and Florida State. Mason Cole is the only returning starter in the line. Questions abound on how this front wall will perform. Hopefully, they’ll be good, but, as I hope we’ve learned, Hope is never a course of action. The defensive returns four players, two on the line and two at linebacker, while the secondary has to be completely rebuilt. Teams in the GWN don’t usually worry too much about playing defense early in the season, but this is not one of those times. If the defense can’t play up to SEC standards against the Gators, it’s going to be a very long game for Blue fans.

Flordia- On the other side of the coin, Jim McElwain enters his third year as head coach at Florida. Unlike Michigan, the Gators are deeper098 than they’ve ever been before. The quality of players has improved drastically from Mac’s first year. The biggest improvement must be the offensive line, where they are deep and loaded. In a league where defenses rules, having a strong O-line is a must for success. The greatest impediment to the Gators offense has been inconsistent play from their Quarterbacks. Del Rio started last year, and was mostly good, but not always. Redshirt freshman QB Feleipe Franks got most of the snaps in the spring as Del Rio was recovering from a shoulder injury. Coach Mc was very pleased with Franks progress, as he showed potential. Del Rio is still expected to start, however, and he’ll need to prove that he can be consistently good. He’ll have a good set of receivers with which to work. The running is going to be very important. Starting RB will be Jordan Scarlett, who had very good year in ’16, and signs point to him having a better year in ’17, mainly because of the offensive line. In the prior two years McElwain has had a stellar defense, and there is no reason why this one can’t be his best yet. They have to replace a couple on the line, and the secondary will be playing some true freshman, but the returning starters have proven themselves and show no indications of letting up. Michigan is relying on the personality of Coach Harbaugh to pull their young players together. Florida is leaning to its deep roster of players with experience for strength. It should be a good game, but expect Florida to pull out the win. Harbaugh will, of course, still provide us with an interesting post game press conference lambasting the SEC.

202Florida State vs Alabama- Welcome to the main event. Let’s get ready to Rummmmmbbbbble! Florida State has been on a two year hiatus from ruling the ACC, but the Seminoles never really went away. This year they are loaded in just about every position. QB Deondre Francois is very good at throwing the football, if he has time. When he was pressured last season, he would hold the ball too long and ended up on his back, with some big heavy defensive linemen sitting on top of him. Now he has a year’s experience under his belt, and he’s tired of being sat upon. The offensive line has three returning starters. In ’16, these guys could run block like no one’s business. They had Dalvin Cook, who made running the ball look easy. This took a lot of pressure off QB Francois. This year Jacques Patrick will get his chance to start. He managed 5.7 yards per carry before, but he only got to run the ball about five times per game. The Noles have a freshman in Cam Akers, who enrolled early, but it’s too early to see much on how he’ll produce. The receivers are the best skill positions they have. Coach Jimbo Fisher has a knack of recruiting top quality ball catchers. Auden Tate and Nyqwan Murray both had fantastic production last year, and it doesn’t look like they are going to slow down. Both are scoring machines and will give the Alabama secondary all they can handle. FSU could be relying on these receivers to pull them through, for if they get the passing game going, they’re going to be tough. Coach Jimbo Fisher is a disciple of St. Saban, which means he believes in a stout defense, one that incites respect in opposing teams. This year will be on different. Linebacker Matthew Thomas had 77 tackles with 11 of those for loss. Tackle Derrick Nnadi was an all-conference pick and Josh Sweat looks to add to his seven sacks. The secondary is stacked and has plenty of depth. They can cover the field and disrupt running plays, as well.

Alabama- The Crimson Tide was on a roll last year. They were undefeated coming into the national championship game. Led by a true freshman in Jalen Hurts, they were ready to present St. Saban one for the thumb. It didn’t end that way, thanks to an illegal pick play by the evil017 Clemson Tigers (I did mention that CSF is biased, so get over it). Alabama is poised to make a return to the playoffs, they are everyone’s number one pick, and this is for good reason. The strength of the Tide has always been and will always be the running game. There is no shortage talent. Bo Scabrough was running the ball like a beast at the end of the season, and not just any beast, he ran the ball like a giant from the Game of Throne series. If he hadn’t broken his leg in the National Championship game, Clemson wouldn’t have had the chance to run that illegal pick play. He is now willing and able to make a run at the Heisman Trophy. If he runs the brick like he did at the end of ’16, there’ll be no stopping him. He’ll have to stay healthy and that’s been a bit of a problem. Damien Harris is not as big as Bo, but he is quick and fast. The offensive line is going to be, well, massive, and mean. Agile, hostile, mobile, (I fergit the fourth) Last year they had little problem opening up holes for the backs, or in pass protecting, for that matter. This year there should be no drop off in that department. It’s the Process. The receiving corps has one of the best in the nation in Calvin Ridley, who’ll be complimented by Cam Sims and Robert Foster, who are both extremely good in their own rights. Any secondary will have a difficult time covering all three. The biggest question is going to be Jalen Hurts. As a freshman he did very well to begin with, but in the playoffs, SEC Championship game included, he was iffy at best passing the ball, and horrendous at worst. He took way too long with his progressions. If his primary receiver wasn’t wide open, he didn’t throw the ball to anyone else. He is very mobile, and he made some fabulous plays with his legs, but it cost the team. Now he has new Offensive Coordinator in Brain Daboll, who comes from the New England Patriots where he had this quarterback named Tom Brady, you might have heard of him If Daboll can take some of that Brady magic and plant it in Hurts, the Bama offense will be unstoppable. The defense, as usual, lost some major players to graduation. In the movie, the Wild Geese, when assessing their unit’s strength after losing some men, RSM Sandy sums it all up by saying, “I’d hate to go up against them, Sir.” The RSM could be talking about Bama’s defense;- they may have to replace a few parts, but, good gosh, have you seen what they have?! Look for Rashaan Evans to lead the Tidal wave. They know how to pressure opposing QB’s, while against the run, they take it as a personal affront if the enemy running back gains positive yards. This is gonna be a challenge for FSU’s running game. The secondary, which, in the past, has been a weakness, will be one of the top units in the nation. This will pit the offensive strength of FSU against Bama’s defense. Look for Cornerback/Safety/Rover Minkah Fitzpatrick to be the difference maker. If he has a big game, Bama wins.
For some unknow reason that cannot be explained by mere mortals, the athletic director of Florida State made the statement to the press that, “Florida State is going to beat Alabama really bad.” Why is he giving Alabama locker room material? Has no one ever explained to him that this is a huge No-No, especially when you’re playing against Alabama? The game could be close, and the lead could change a few times, but, for crying out loud, don’t give the Crimson Tide team extra motivation! Alabama wins. Roll Tide!

 

Short Smokes

Washington will visit Rutgers and the Huskies will win, not a big shock

Wisconsin looks to stop Utah State and they should

Clemson, the returning Champs, (illegal pick play but they still won) will not be tested much against Kent State

Texas will step on the Maryland Terps toes

Penn State zaps the Akron Zips

Oklahoma will prep for Ohio State by trouncing UTEP

NC State and South Carolina will be a fantastic game, Coach Boom notwithstanding. USC-South wins it

Auburn is going to be tested by Georgia Southern more than most people expect

BYU vs LSU is being played in New Orleans instead of Houston. No matter, LSU wins

Texas A&M will be on the west coast against UCLA. The Aggies will have a great midnight yell, but, in the game, it’s going to be tough for A&M to win. Rosen is relentless and seeking payback for last year. The daughter will not be happy.

West “By Golly” Virginia is going to have their hands full with Virginia Tech;- so full that the Hokies will win

Tennessee vs Georgia Tech, trap game right here, CSF is calling it. The top 25 team, he Vols, will get triple optioned to death as the Yellow Jackets ramble to victory

 

 

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