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Cigars & Football – A Simple Blend

Week 1 – Opening Weekend

Week 1

Last week was a delicious little appetizer, UMass actually won their first game on the road in something like 5 to 10 years, whatever. It was it was a very long streak and now the Minutemen have hope in their hearts and songs in their spirit – like the Indians they replaced a couple of centuries ago. Songs only carry you so far. North Alabama, picked to finish at the low end, and we do mean very low end of the 1-AA rankings, did not break the barrier against #22 Mercer, but, at least, they gave them a good game and hung in there for most of the game. Maybe the Lions will finish in the middle of the rankings instead of in the basement. Roar, Lions! Navy was demolished by Notre Dame, and Vanderbilt let Hawaii give them a bit of a scare at the end. Can you believe Vandy was 21 points ahead and nearly lost it, AT HOME!!!. Now it’s time for the main course, Week 1, everyone plays! Most everyone starts off with a high priced scrimmage, but there are a few who are sticking their feet in the water against quality opponents.

Florida vs Utah – Last year Utah paid a visit to The Swamp and the eventual PAC-12 Champions left after a hard fought loss. They would like nothing better than to return the favor to the Gators (why doesn’t everyone call them what they are, the Alligators?) on Thursday night. That might be a bit difficult, as the Fighting Utes come into this game with some serious QB issues. Their All-Star QB Cam Rising busted his knee in the Rose Bowl and he’s listed as questionable for the first half of the season. Not to be outdone, backup Brandon Rose went down in a preseason practice, so the question of who’s going to take the reins of the offense is up in the air. Florida has questions of their own on offense, like, how to replace

their star QB from last year, Anthony Richardson. Utah will probably be relying on their run game and pounding the ball. Against other PAC-12 opponents this could be reasonable, however, against Florida, this might not turn out too well for the Utes, as the Gator defensive line is massive and can not only absorb a pounding, but can give back as much as they take, pound for pound (that may be a pun, but it’s a good one). Utah is one of the teams out west that believes in having a functional defense. They’re not all-in believers, like in the SEC, but they’re better than most. The Utes will have to rely on this defense to get them through, and, unless some forgot, they were the defense that shut down the high powered USC offense, not once, but twice last year. Ergo, there’s reason to believe they can do it against Florida as well. The Gators are starting Wisconsin transfer Graham Mertz, who is more apt at handing the ball off then he is at throwing it. Florida has very good receivers and will be testing the Utes’ secondary on every throw. It’ll just be a matter of “if” Mertz can get the ball to them consistently. Florida is going to have a very tough opener, it will be a whole lot tougher if Utah has Rising behind center. Because of that, Florida will win, and because there is no excuse within the SEC for losing to outsiders.

South Carolina vs North Carolina – Saturday night the Battle of the Carolinas will take place in Charolette, NC ,which sits on the border of the two states. Last year the Tarheels’ defense ranked last in just about every category within the ACC. They had practically no pass rush and their secondary was shredded for an average of 271 yards per game. Their only redeeming quality was to get the opposing offense to bomb away just to keep up with the high powered NC offense, which tended to score very quickly. This year, UNC’s defense is expected to play better, how much, no one can say, but improvement is expected. On the offense side of the ball, preseason Heisman hopefully QB, Drake Maye, is expected to rock and roll again. If the O-line can keep him upright, along with a devastating receiving corps, this offense is going to be even better than they were last season. The Gamecocks didn’t instill a lot of confidence in their fan base at the start of the 2022 season, but, somewhere along the way, someone lit a fire under their behinds, and, lo and behold, they did end the season well. They didn’t just beat Tennessee, but they cut them up and served them for dinner. The Gamecocks enjoyed that so much that they went to Clemson and KO’d them on the road. Should QB Spencer Rattler achieve the performance he was expected to show coming out of high school in Arizona, USC-South is looking to be a genuine threat. They have to stick to what works and stop turning the ball over, no fumbles, no interceptions, and limit the bad decisions. If they keep up with the high octane UNC offense, this should be a heck of a game from start to finish.

West Virginia vs Penn State– Are the Nittany Lions legit College Football Playoff contenders? There’s a lot of speculation and a lot of hope, along with Texas, and Florida State, – in other words, we’ll see. The Lions are coming off an 11-2 season and they have 16 returning starters, but its QB Drew Allar taking over that everyone excited. This will be his first season as the starter, but he showed flashes of brilliance when he was inserted as a freshman. Will he be the difference maker in getting over the Ohio State and Michigan hump? First come the Mountaineers, and that should serve as an indicator. West Virginia enters this game as a three touchdown underdog, so, can they buck the betting and pull off a major upset on the road in Week 1? HC Neal Brown and the Mountaineers have heard all off season how they won’t have a chance, how they’re going to lose, and there is nothing like some good, old-fashion bulletin board material to get the season

jump-started. If the Mountaineers can do the improbable, and whip the BIGHOWEVERMANY Nittany Lions, it would be a great beginning to a renaissance season for WVU. Penn State, though, might be entering this season with a bit of an attitude. They’re sick and tired of coming up short year after year against the bigs in the BIGHOWEVERMANY, Michigan and Ohio State. If they’re going to get over that hump, now’s the time. Look for the Nittany Lions to jump out to a big lead. After halftime, it’ll just be a matter of will they take their foot off the gas.

LSU vs Florida State – Last year the Seminoles completely ruined HC Brain Kelly’s debut as a head coach within the SEC, and, yes, there were snickers. This the year game is being played in Orlando, FL, and the Bayou Bengals want payback. What they must do is stop the FSU rushing attack. When Florida State was able to run the ball last year, they were unstoppable. When they couldn’t, they flat out lost. In the Wake Forest game, they were held to 132 yards rushing, and it didn’t turn out well for the Noles. QB Jordan Travis is billed as a do-it-all playmaker, and he’s got a loaded group of receivers to help him out. What he doesn’t have is a proven offensive line to keep him upright. If, and it’s a big “IF”, the O-line can hold its own against a loaded LSU defensive front then the Seminoles are going to be a force to be reckoned with. The Tigers have got to be successful running the ball, also. There is no way around it. If they can’t impose their will on the ground, then they will have to rely upon QB Jayln Daniels, who is known for looking briefly at his primary receiver, and, if he’s covered, Daniels runs. Granted, he’s made some yards with his feet, but, as a proven leader who can distribute the ball, he does not stand out. Look for this game to be slobber-knocker, as both teams will rely heavily on their lines. Whichever mud-monsters impose their will, wins the game. LSU is the favorite, however, FSU, who hasn’t reached their Bobby Bowden glory days level, have vastly improved. This will be a game to watch. LSU is the pick, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s an upset.

Short Smokes:

Michigan takes down East Carolina will little to no problems. They said the same thing about App State a few years ago.

Virginia would love nothing better than to upset Tennessee, but it won’t happen.

Colorado will be HC Deon Sanders debut and the world will be watching as the Buffs lose.

Over-ranked Oklahoma might find Arkansas State more of a handful than they first thought.

Mercer will suffer at the hands of Ole Miss, and it will be high scoring game for the Rebels. It’s what Mercer gets for beating UNA.

Iowa State takes down their first opponent in the battle of the Hawkeye state as they play Northern Iowa.

Ohio State hasn’t lost to Indiana is over 20 years, that streak will grow.

Boise State is no pushover, and Washington is going to find that out, but the Huskies still win.

Texas is not going to prove they’re finally back against Rice, that’ll come next week in Tuscaloosa, but the Horns will win.

Auburn hosts the hot streaking Minutemen of UMass, and the Plainsmen end the Minutemen winning streak.

Georgia will destroy UT Martin, and it will be glorious, in my opinion.

Texas A&M hosts New Mexico, and, unlike their App State experience last year, the Aggies will win, more than likely.

Army takes on UL Monroe and will march all over them. Beware the Jabberwocky, Cadets!

Washington State travels to Colorado State, and this could be a good, close, game.

Alabama tunes up for their Texas game against Middle Tennessee, and it won’t be pretty for the Blue Raiders.

Coastal Carolina travels across the entire country to on UCLA, but ,at least they get a fat check for their troubles.

Clemson may not be as dominant a team as they have been in years past, but, against Duke, they will prevail. I think. I believe. Really, I do. The Tigers may need to also beware the Jabberwocky

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