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Cigars & Football – A Simple Blend

Week 0 – The Ultimate Cupcake Saturday

Week 0 (Zero)

Hello, College Football lovers! The waiting is almost over, almost, practically, just about, hang loose for one more week – or even less. The last manly sport finished in June when the Vegas Knights won their first Stanley Cup, taking down the Florida Panthers. Since that time, there has been a hole in the spirit that simply couldn’t be filled with baseball and softball games. Now, week 0, or the Ultimate Cupcake Saturday, is upon us and, honestly, I couldn’t be happier about it. Do you know what the difference is between a cupcake and a muffin? Icing.

Notre Dame vs Navy – Notre Dame plays Navy every year, without fail, and there are two good reasons for this. First, during WWII, the last time we won one, the enrollment rate at Notre Dame plummeted so low that they, the “Golden Domers”, were on the verge on going under. Meanwhile, the Navy was in need of more academic space, so the Naval Academy sent some of their Midshipmen to Notre Dame, which allowed the school, Notre Dame, to stay in business. Since that time ND has made sure to keep Navy on the schedule as a sort of payback. The second reason is because it’s an almost guaranteed victory for the Irish. These two institutions have met on the gridiron 95 times, and Navy has beaten the Irish 13 times. The two teams tied once. This year’s game is taking place in Dublin, Ireland, where the real Irish folks will, of course, be pulling for Notre Dame, at least until halftime. From that point on they’ll be too drunk to care. The nominal Irish football team enters their second year under Head Coach Marcus Freeman. They have 11 staters returning and have replaced their quarterback with Wake Forest transfer Sam Hartman. They also had to replace their offensive coordinator, Tommy Rees, who was persuaded by Nick Saban to seek greener pastures down at Alabama. The defense, which is a projected strength, shouldn’t have much trouble with the new, revamped Navy offense, which is being changed under new Head Coach Brian Newberry. They’re supposed to throw the ball more, and good luck with that. Navy’s main focus in this game is to collect the big game paycheck from Notre Dame, and do everything they can to keep their defense off the field. The more the Midshipmen’s offense is on the field, the better. When ND’s offense is on the field, they’ll more than likely score every time. As one of the Ultimate Cupcake Games, Notre Dame is sure to win, and they’ll have plenty of time to down a few pints at the pubs after the game. They’ll, no doubt, invite the Middies to join them  – and they will.

USC vs San Jose State– In a rematch of the Trojan War, the men of Troy will take on the Spartans. The last time this happened, the Trojans held their walls until they fell for one of the ultimate deceptions of all time and agreed to accept the Big Wooden Horse as a gift from the Greeks. This coined the expression, beware of Greeks bearing gifts. Too late. Now, to avenge that loss, USC is meeting SJS upon the fields of friendly strife in LA. Last year the Men of Troy were on a roll under new head coach, Lincoln Riley, and QB Caleb Williams. That is, until they ran into what passes on the Left Coast for a good defense, and Utah beat them twice. We must also remember that Oregon State darn near upset the Trojans, and both Oregon State and Utah had a similar mind set, which was, to plant QB Caleb Williams on his derrière all game long, and it worked. San Jose Sate defense made the difference for them last year and will be a strength again this year. They have a veteran QB in Chevan Cordeiro, who is a playmaker. The O cannot afford to turn the ball over or give up any easy scores. They’ll do their best to test this new USC defensive line that is made up of transfers, mostly, to (hopefully) store up one of their most glaring weaknesses last year. USC offense is going to be great; they’re going to move the ball all over the field, and, as hard as SJS tries, they’re not going to keep up. In the second Ultimate Cupcake Game, USC is a 30 point favorite, and even that is being conservative.    

UMass vs New Mexico State- Believe it or not, this is the ESPN Primetime game for Saturday, which is very nice, considering that neither of these teams will be on ESPN or any other major sports channel for the rest of the year. I didn’t say, decade, did I? In the Ultimate Cupcake Game of the day, these two cupcakes will muffin it out. New Mexico’s Head Coach, Jerry Kill, was doing great up at Minnesota before having a couple of seizures on the sidelines. He since has recovered and taken over as head man of the Aggies of NM;- not the be confused with the Aggies of Texas A&M, although both need to improve their offensive lines. HC Kill is working on improving the ground game. He has an experienced backfield and this offensive line is expected to be improved, but by how much remains to be seen. Jerry Kill was an up-and-coming coach before he sustained some seizures, and if he returns to form, he won’t be in Las Cruces long. NMS needs to improve their defense as they had a terrible time stopping just about anyone. However, the Aggies of the Enchanted State did make it to a Bowl Game last year and they beat Bowling Green, from Ohio, not Kentucky, where they make Corvettes, so it’s possible that HC Jerry Kill is already working his magic again. Last year UMass jumped out to a 13-0 lead. The Minutemen let the game slip away in the fourth period and lost, 23-13. What UMass lacked, besides a lot, was that they didn’t have any sort of a passing game. Now they have acquired former Clemson recruit, Taisun Phommochanh, and he appears to give UMass an improved offense. In Thailand, Phommochanh’s name isn’t hard to pronounce. Head Coach Don Brown is a defensive oriented type of guy, and he has stated that he is looking for the defensive line to show vast improvement from last year. New Mexico State’s running attack should be a good test for them. Last year, UMass won one game, against Stony Brook. Maybe 2023 will be better, maybe, hopefully, it’s within the realm of possibility that it could be. New Mexico State is going to run all over the Minutemen, but, hopefully, it won’t be a slaughter.

Vanderbilt vs Hawaii – To close the Ultimate Cup Cake Day, the Commodores are coming off a 2-10 record, which was not the start that new Head Coach Clark Lea envisioned when he accepted this position. During the off season, he took full advantage of the transfer portal and roped in anyone he could to improve the Dores, and it might work out for him. They are favored in this game by more than two touchdowns. Vandy needs improved QB play, and that is expected, as QB Mike Wright returns from last year. Where Vandy needs a vast, and it is VAST, improvement is in the offensive line. They gave up way too many sacks last year and permitted their QB to be under pressure just about every time he dropped back to pass. When HC Lea was an assistant at Notre Dame, he was considered one of the league’s top defensive minds. Of course, what league is Notre in since they belong to no conference? Now that he’s in the SEC, where it just means more, he’s realized that this is a whole new level of meaning, and you have to play it. Vandy needs to step up that aspect of their game. Last year the defense gave up an average of 35.6 points per game, dead last in every SEC defensive category. There must be improvement, there’s nowhere to go but up, and this game should allow the Commodores to show they can actually stop someone;- at least part of the time. Hawaii kicked Head Coach Todd Graham to the curb at the end of last season and have brought back their record breaking QB, Timmy Chang, for his first ever head coaching job. His team is picked to finish dead last in the Mountain West conference. Where is that durned fairy with the magic wand when you need her? It is no mistake to say that HC Chang has a rebuilding project on his hands. His first challenge is that the Fighting Rainbows are going to install a run-and-shoot offense, which is what he was good at when he was the QB. He ain’t the Quarterback no mo’. The Rainbow Warriors are lacking the type of QB that can run this style of offense. However, even that is not the biggest concern on the “O” side of the ball, because last year’s leading rusher, Dae Dae Hunter, transferred out, taking with him the top receivers. The Defense has got to improve as they gave up 31.4 points per game last year, which was less than Vanderbilt, so there may be some hope. This is the first time Hawaii and Vanderbilt have ever played, and Hawaii hasn’t faced an SEC team since 2008, when they took on Florida, and that didn’t end well for the Rainbow Warriors. Vanderbilt is picked to win because they’re representing the SEC, and losing to outsiders is not tolerated.

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