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Cigars & Football – A Simple Blend

Week 4 Preview

Week 4 

After three weeks of play, it looks like all the usual suspects have shown one commonality;- vulnerability. While I’ll freely admit that I am more than happy to see the Crimson Tide engulf every foe in a tsunami, it has been kinda interesting to see the Buckeyes fall, Climpson falter,  LSU choke, and even the “Process” hang on for dear life in the Swamp, hasn’t it? I predict more of the same this week, maybe even more instances of the usual suspects stumbling. Do you remember when Dabo had to choke on his words and have to explain multiple losses in a single ACC year, or the Big 12 (Now, that’s a hoot. They have ten teams currently, they are losing two, gaining four – or more, yet no one has proposed changing their name to the Big Fizzle) being completely left out of the CFP this year, and the Great White North are not assured the usual Ohio State spot in the CFP. Right now, it is feasible that Coastal Carolina, BYU, Bama, and Georgia could comprise the Final Four. But, there is a lot of football to be played between now and then, there’s a lot to be played this weekend, and we haven’t even started October yet, so let’s get with it.  

Notre Dame vs Wisconsin – The game is being played at Solider Field in Chicago, which is, what?, five minutes from the South Bend campus, yet Wisconsin is listed as the home team….yeah, right, anybody actually believing that? Didn’t think so. The Irish are 3-0, but their competition – Florida State, who is 0-3, Toledo, who is Toledo, and Purdue, who was great when Jack Dempsey was the heavyweight boxing champion of the world – have required heroics to eke out a victory in all three instances. Nevertheless, the legion of media sportscasters who fawn over the Irish and bend the knee before the Notre Dame PR department are all happy with the results. ND has not had an easy win yet. Current Irish QB Jack Coan used to be the Quarterback for Wisconsin, but he lost his starting job because of a foot injury that kept him from playing in 2020, so he picked up his marbles and transferred. So far, he’s thrown two INT’s and even admitted that his timing has been off and he needs to improve his accuracy. The rest of the Irish offense needs to improve as well if they want to fulfil the accolades of the Press department. But their defense is an even greater concern than their faltering offense. This is a defense that couldn’t stop Toledo on the Irish home turf, didn’t not stop winless FSU from mounting a comeback, and didn’t scare the Boilermakers into submission. They’ve had the good fortune of not facing anything better than mediocre, or worse, offenses. No one is going to mistake Wisconsin for having an elite offense, but they are a step up from the three stooges the Irish managed to schedule this year. No offense (Wisconsin) versus no defense (notre). Should be a real barnburner. 

Wisconsin was the preseason favorite to finally knock Ohio State off their usual perch atop the Great White North, but that was before the Badgers played their first game. Not so much now. Wisconsin been able to move the ball pretty well between the 20’s but when they get into the red-zone, something happens. Something not so good. It’s like they enter into a twilight zone that thickens to the point that they lose sight of the endzone.  This makes it hard to score, so they don’t. Their traditional running attack loses its footing and doesn’t save them. The defense, however, has been much better. Their D-Line disrupts offenses, big, corn-fed, angry Nordics chase ball carriers down, and they like to show up en mas. But, as good as they are, they still need help from their offense to win, and that has not been forthcoming. Last weekend the Badgers had an early open date, so maybe they straightened out some offensive kinks. I doubt it, but, maybe.  

What to expect – Florida State was able to mount their comeback against Notre Dame because they stuck to the running game, and the Irish couldn’t stop it. This, of course, fits right into Wisconsin’s Badger hole, as the more they run and don’t depend on QB Mertz to throw the ball, the better. Notre Dame is going to be encounter a defense they haven’t faced so far this season. Wisconsin’s pass defense is as leaky as a sieve, so the passrushers can’t give Coan time to set his formerly injured feet and pick the secondary apart. Defense will win the day, despite how many pass interference calls the zebras call against Wisconsin. I predict they’ll call six, at least.  

Texas A&M vs Arkansas – These teams have met 77 times, going back to 1903. Most of those times were when they were both members of the Southwest Conference. When Arkansas left for the SEC, where they’ve always belonged, they had to wait until the Aggies also joined, where they should have been along, before they played again. Since then, A&M has gone 9-0, but it doesn’t mean that it has been easy, because it hasn’t been. Three times they’ve gone into overtime, the Razorbacks have lost a fourth quarter lead twice, and the Aggies have blown leads but escaped in the last minute. So, saying this contest has a history of thrills would be superfluous. The Hogs got a huge bump in confidence when they put a whooping on Texas, then they did the same thing against over-matched Georgia Southern. Arkansas has been on the low rung of the ladder in the SEC West for the last few years, but Coach Sam Pittman has trotted out a different breed of Hogs this season. They’re not routinely turning the ball over, well, not routinely, anyway. The lines are performing the way lines should. But the best part for the Hogs has been their running game, where they gained 333 yards against Texas. The Defense has also proven to be a great strength and was able to shut down the Horns as well as Georgia Southern. Could this be the year?  

Texas A&M – This was supposed to be the year the Aggies were going to finally take that step and win it all, and they still might, but when QB Haynes King went down with an injury, it appeared to hurt their chances. Back-up QB Zach Calzada had a devil of a time against Colorado, but he improved against New Mexico, who hasn’t won a game in, well…lets just say its been a while. The Aggies, have their own way of doing things, and they don’t care what the rest of the world has to say about it. They are relying heavily on the run game to control the clock and wear down the opposition, but that only works if their defense can take advantage of it, and there-in lies the question. Can the Aggie defense corral the Hogs? A&M gave up far more yards than expected against Kent State, but few noticed because they won the game, 41-10. Against Colorado, they did a pretty good job, but the Buffs shot themselves in their own foot repeatedly. The Aggies are lacking explosiveness on offense, so they rely on a ground game to grid away, and then a defense to take advantage of the situation.  

What to expect –  The Aggies often have a terrible time against the Hogs, but they somehow wind up with the win. TAMU does get into the red zone, they just don’t take advantage of many of their opportunities. The last two games between these foes were shoot outs. If the Daughter wants to remain happy, then the Aggies cannot, must not, let this game develop into a shoot-out. As a matter of fact, A&M they can’t let Arkansas even get the lead. Texas did, and they paid for it. The smart bet is to go with Texas A&M, who, as mentioned, has won nine in a row, and CSF is going to, but it’s only because of loyalty to The Daughter. These Razorbacks believe they can play, and they want to be the Texas State Champions. 

Kansas State vs Oklahoma State – K-State doesn’t do anything that is flashy, nor do they want to. All they do is run the ball and only when it is completely necessary they throw it.  It’s not like they don’t know how to throw, and pass plays are there when they are needed, but when the ground game is as good as the Wildcats, then why not use what is working? The loss of Quarterback Skylar Thompson is bound to hurt the Cats. They embarrassed Stanford, and Nevada, and they’ve done it with basic, fundamental football. Simple, effective and very hard to stop. The defense has done a good job, too. They play hard-nosed basic defense and they’re good at it. The key to their success has been their lines. The D-line has made it their goal to get into the backfield every play and disrupt all the timing of their weekly opponent. So far, they’ve pretty much succeeded.   

Oklahoma State – The Pokes have not been impressive. It appears they are merely playing to their opponents’ level. Right when it seemed they were going to lose, they pulled off a one-point victory over Boise State on the Smurf Turf. Maybe it was the blue field that caused OSU trouble, it seems to have that effect, but the Pokes only amassed 74 yards through the air. Their running game carried the day. Against K-State, they’re going to need that passing game to improve a bit. Oklahoma State’s defense has been pretty good, not great, let’s just call it what it is, it’s questionable. One play they do great but then the next three they forget what they came to do. They shouldn’t have had that much trouble with Boise, but they did. If they can’t get the passing game in gear, defeating the Cats will be most difficult.  

What to expect – Believe it or not, this a game could put the winner at the head table of the Big 12 that only has ten teams. Texas has faltered, ISU as fall from grace a bit, and OU has shown that they, too, are not invincible. So the chase for the title starts right here. The K-State defense is going to be better than most people think and it’s going to cause OSU’s passing attack to falter. The ground game will be the key for the Cats and if they can keep the ball for long, LONG periods of time, they’ll slowly, and methodically, choke the life out of the Cowboys. Then again this game is being played in Stillwater, OK, and Kansas State has a long history of not playing their best football there. Time and again a Wildcat team of promise has stumbled, fumbled, bumbled their way through sixty minutes of football at Stillwater, but I’m still picking KSU.  

Short Smokes:  

Georgia will not be kind to Vanderbilt, its going to get very ugly 

Villanova will fight the good fight against Penn State, for maybe a half 

LSU wants revenge upon Mississippi State for last year, they’re not going to get it 

Missouri makes an unusual trip to Boston College and they’re going to win 

Texas better right its ship against Texas Tech, or it’s going to be a long season 

Army will steamroll over Miami (OH) because, well, the Cadets don’t pass 

Utah State is undefeated, and Boise State isn’t, so Aggies win it 

Someone better stop Coastal Carolina before they think they can’t be beaten, but it won’t be UMass 

Washington State and Utah are both underperforming. Someone has to get it right, and it’s anybody’s guess who it will be. 

Clemson is going to have a very difficult time with NC State, they’ll win, but it won’t pretty  

Iowa State has the perfect opportunity to show they are or who we thought they were against Baylor 

Rutgers and Michigan, neither team has been tested but they’ve received a lot of press. The Wolverines will win, but its not going to be a blow out 

UTSA vs Memphis is a battle of the unbeatens and them Tigers are going to lose 

UCLA thought they were unstoppable, Stanford is showing improvements after their opening game, it’ll be interesting to see if the Bruins can recover 

Tennessee wants to beat the Gators, they’re begging to beat ‘em, but not going to happen this year, and next year isn’t looking good either.  

Michigan State, now ranked, will win by more than expected against Nebraska  

Kentucky is going to be 4-0 after taking down USC-South 

Alabama is a heavy favorite against Southern Miss, and they’d better prove they’re worthy. Another Mississippi school next week. 

It would not be a big surprise if West Virginia overcomes Oklahoma;- an upset, to be sure, but not a surprise.  

Arizona is not going to win against Oregon, no way, no how.  

Oregon State could upset USC. They could, they really could, can you imagine the headlines saying Oregon State upsets USC? Ain’t happening, but there’s something brewing with the Beavers. 

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