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Cigars & Football – A Simple Blend

Week 8 Preview


Preview of Week 8


Here we are half way through the regular season. In the Game Of The Year (GOTY) thus far, Alabama had it’s hands full with Texas A&M before getting some revenge on the Aggies. Thank goodness, because now I have bragging rights over my daughter for the year. I doubt I’ll abuse that right the way she did. We’ve had the weird officials’ call, or lack thereof, at the Arizona State vs. Wisconsin game, no one has actually been able to explain that situation yet, but the season isn’t yet over so we’ll give the pundits more time. There was the shootout between Georgia and LSU, which was then deemed the GOTY. Ohio State played in a fierce battle against Northwestern. Fresno State ended a huge losing streak to Boise State, much to the dismay of’s SmokinHotModel. Then there were a few upsets;- West Virginia, after getting shut plumb out by Maryland, beat Oklahoma State. In Week 7, Utah beat fifth-ranked Stanford, Missouri continued undefeated by upsetting the hospital unit that is currently Georgia. Then Texas came out of nowhere and whipped Oklahoma. Penn State salvaged their season by beating number 18 Michigan.

Now the ACC has their chance at the GOTY, that is, until the first of November when that title Clemsonwill switch back to the SEC. All eyes are focused on Clemson vs. Florida State. Clemson is coming off a battle with Boston College while FSU had the week off to prepare. Both teams have the goal of making it to the BCS National Championship game against a worthy foe, probably the SEC winner. This weekend will be the biggest test for both the Tigers and the ‘Noles. Each team is known for having a letdown some time during the season, but so far, they’ve both  avoided that disaster. Saturday, one of them is going down. Clemson is 6-0 and the toughest game they’ve had was against a healthy Georgia squad. It was a back and forth battle with UGA missing a field goal and the Tigers winning by 3. They struggled with Boston College before pulling it out in the 4th quarter. The Tigers pile up big numbers, mainly in the passing game, averaging 342 yards per game. They need to work on their running because their 172.5 yards per game average is only good for 65th in the country.  QB Boyd has decided to make this his Heisman year, as he has been a passing machine, throwing for 1783 yards with 15 TDs. His receivers have helped him out as well, with all of them catching passes, not just Sammy Watkins. Clemson has no plans whatsoever to change their game. Against Florida State they will live and/or die with the pass. Defensively, the Tigers have improved the most from last year, holding teams to 16.2 points per game and ranking 10th in the nation. They attack offenses by blitzing just about everyone they can. They come at you from the left, from the right, over the top, under the offenses linemen;- it’s like a blur of orange. Georgia’s Bulldogs put up some serious numbers against Clemson, but against their other opponents the Tigers have pretty much stymied them. Now they have the chance to knock off a top ranked team. Will they prevail, lose with class, or Clemsonate?

Florida State is 5-0 and they are playing great – against smaller schools. The biggest test they’ve had so far was Maryland. The Terps came into the game undefeated and looking to take down the Noles. FSU did not have any problems dismantling the Terrapins, 63-0. Prior to that they playedFSU Logo Boston College, the same team that gave Clemson a peck of trouble, and the Eagles also gave Florida State trouble. The Seminoles dispatched BC, 48-34, but it was a closeer game than the score indicates. Then, of course, they had the big bad boys of Bethune-Cookman, Nevada, and Pittsburgh, none of whom came close to testing FSU. The Noles rank 18th in the nation in passing, averaging 320.8 yards per games. That would be thanks to their new QB Winston, who is having a monster season. He’s thrown for 1441 yards and 17 TDs. The guys in Florida all knew about this kid and were singing his praises long before the season started. Everyone else was on a wait and see approach. Now it seems this kid can’t throw an incomplete pass. He hums the ball down the field and his guys catch it. FSU is doing slightly better running at 17th nationally. It may be only one spot better than their passing but it IS better. They run for 228.2 yards per game, led by the duo of Freeman and Williams, both of who are averaging more than 7 yards per carry. That is what is called a balanced attack. This offense can do most everything, they can execute every type of play that they need to. Clemson is going to have a tough time stopping them, if they’re able to stop them at all. Defensively, the Noles are one of the best units in the nation. They rank 3rd, allowing 12.0 points per game.  When your offense is scoring 53 points per game, holding opponents to 12 is a sure way to win. Yes, FSU hasn’t played a tough schedule, and those numbers are a bit deceiving, but they’re still pretty good. Against Clemson the DB’s need to play the most disciplined game of their lives. I doubt they’ll stop the Tiger receivers, but they need to do everything possible to slow them down and disrupt their patterns. They’ve got to make pass completions difficult.

The big game in the SEC could be Missouri vs. Florida, but CSF wrote about Mizzou last week and they did great despite the fact I picked them to lose. Florida is coming off their loss to LSU and they didn’t play all that well. Since I’m an Alabama fan, and I haven’t written about the Crimson ArkansasTide in a while, Alabama – Arkansas game wins. The Razorbacks come off a big loss to South Carolina, and before that they lost to Florida, Texas A&M, and Rutgers. This is a team looking for a win, and they need a signature win on top of that. They haven’t won an SEC game this entire season. Beating the Number One ranked team in the nation would provide them with both. That’ll be a tall order. The Hogs don’t pass well, 113th in the nation. They are doing better with their ground game, ranking 24th by averaging 216.3 yards per game. WHoo! Way to go Razorbacks! Last year Arkansas was loaded with talent, they had a QB that could sling the ball and a stable of running backs along with Big Uglies up front. Their problem was they didn’t have any leadership whatsoever. Now they have first year coach Bret Bielema who came down from Wisconsin. While he was the Head Coach of the Badgers, he believed in running the ball and it appears he still does. Bielema has stated that the record doesn’t matter this year, it’s all about getting better. Most coaches that are losing do say that.  The Hogs do have some good things going for them, the offensive line has surrendered only five sacks, second-fewest in the SEC. Collins runs for 102.9 yards per game, and Williams adds 80.6. They’ll have their work cut out for them against the Tide, because in the last four games, Bama has given up a TOTAL of 206 yards, holding opponents to 1.9 yards per carry. May not be the best scenario for the Razorbacks. Defensively, the Hogs are hurting, too, 73rd in the nation, surrendering an average of 27.6 points per game. In their last four losses they’ve allowed more than that, so average appears to be climbing.

Alabama comes in ranked Number One, as they have been all year. Against VaTech, the offense was not firing on all cylinders and they struggled. They did take over and win the shoot-out in crimson_tideTexas, winning at College Station, 49-42, then they relapsed against Colorado State. The college football world was starting to question if this team was worthy of its high ranking. Ole Miss came to town and something changed. The Tide dominated the Rebels, 25-0, much to the dismay of my brother. Fortunately, the Sutton family bond is strong and we survived that week. Against little Georgia State, the Tide rolled, and against Kentucky they controlled the entire game. Saint Nick did find a few things wrong in the Kentucky game, mainly, fumbles and dropped passes. I’m sure he’s been teaching them the wise words of John Heisman, “It is better to have died a small boy than to fumble this ball.” Hopefully, Yeldon and Drake have taken those words to heart, because they need too. Bama’s numbers do not indicate that this team is as dominant as last year’s, they rank 50th rushing, at 188.3 ypg, and 46th in passing at 260 ypg. They are improving and in their last four games indications are they’re improving a lot. QB McCarron has stepped up his throwing game, 1407 yards and 11 TDs. Of course, those numbers would be a lot higher if his receivers were hanging on to the balls that hit ‘em in their hands. Against Kentucky, they had a lot of dropped balls. Also, McCarron’s stats would be higher if he were playing the entire game. In the last four, he’s been on the sidelines by the 4th quarter. Against Arkansas, the Crimson Tide can’t be over confident, for they could lose this game and kiss their Number One ranking good-bye. On the other side of the ball, Bama has become the Alabama defense we’ve grown used to. Early on, folks were questioning their ability to stop people;- they had a bit of a problem containing  Manziel, but, heck, who doesn’t? Since then though, the Alabama defense has become an Alabama defense. They are ranked 2nd in the nation, giving up 11.3 points per game. In their last four games they’ve allowed 16 points total. They’ve  learned how to stop the run, like, completely shut it down. The secondary still needs some work but the freshman that are filling that role are getting better, which is scary for the rest of the College Football World. Alabama beat the Razorbacks by 50 last year, last week the Razorbacks gave up over 50 points, this game is timed for the Tide to Roll. But, if AJ McCarron is still in the game at the start of the 4th quarter, something has gone terribly wrong.   

Looking at the Champaign and Caviar conference schedule, the most interesting matchup is #9 StanfordUCLA vs. #13 Stanford.  The Cardinal was ranked in the Top Five last week before they ran into unranked Utah, who beat them. After falling eight spots, Stanford should be chomping at the bit to get back into the Conference race. With the rest of the PAC-12 being rather weak they can’t afford another loss, especially within the conference, or its bye-bye Championship dreams and good-bye Roses. The only way they can stay in the national race it is to win out. If they want nothing but the Rose Bowl, they still must win out or only lose to Oregon, and even then its iffy for the Rose Bowl. Basically, they have to win out or settle. There is a weakness showing in the Cardinal armor. Last week they needed  six yards, and they had two plays, to win the game. Six yards. Coach Shaw did not have any faith in the running game and chose to throw it both times. That’s not good. When a team that is ranked Number Five and can’t gain six yards to win, “Whoa Nelly!” The questioning started following the Army game where they struggled against the Black Knights. Against Arizona State, Stanford jumped way out in front but the rest of the game made people start thinking there might be something wrong. Against Washington State, everything went great and they were on the right track. Washington game, Stanford didn’t play well, not like the world has gotten used to Stanford playing. Then came the Utes, who weren’t impressed, and Stanford lost. Coach Shaw said, “UCLA came in here a week ago and barely squeaked out. We knew it would be a battle and we didn’t play well enough.” This was also quarterback Hogan’s first loss as a starter. Now the pressure is on the entire team. They’ve got to beat UCLA. Whatever was wrong last week has to be fixed. Looking at the numbers, passing, they only average 205.2 ypg, good enough for 89th in the nation. Running, they average 199 ypg,  good enough for only 42nd.  Hmmmm…..that might be the problem right there, they can’t move the ball. They score points, but, looking at the numbers, it would suggest that they can’t sustain drives. Defensively, they’ve dropped off from what they were last year. CSF isn’t holding out hope that they would become that dominant defense. They’re allowing teams too many plays on 3rd downs. They don’t have that killer instinct to stomp on the other team and then kick them when they’re down. Nobody but Wazzou has been awed by the Stanford defense, and CSF doubts UCLA is awed, either. Stanford has to get out of the rut they’re in and become better at being themselves. A rut is a grave with the ends knocked out.

UCLA enters undefeated and ranked ninth in the nation. They have confidence, drive, and determination. If you doubt that they do, CSF suggests that you watch their Nebraska game. The UCLACornhuskers had the Bruins down by 21 points. At the end of the game, UCLA had 41 and Nebraska still had 21. The Bruins were determined to win. The closest game they’ve had this year was against the Stanford-beating Utah Utes, where UCLA won, 34-27. This has to be a confidence booster. In other PAC-12 action, they had no problems with Cal’s Golden Bears,  dispatching them, 37-10. QB Hundley threw for 410 yards. The Uclans didn’t run the ball that much against the Bears because, as Coach Mora said, “They packed the box, so we threw for 410 yards.” Not a bad game plan, if you can pull it off, and pull it off they did!  Passing, the Bruins rank 17th , averaging 323.6 ypg, Rushing, they’re 21st, at 223.4 ypg. Very balanced approach to the game. They have good speed at receivers and good running backs that follow the blocks and cut to daylight. Nothing fancy about this team, they’re very sound on the fundamentals and they stick to the game plan. On defense, UCLA has had a bit of a problem. They allowed Nebraska to get out ahead but then they shut them down. Utah was pretty much in the game the entire time. Cal, hmmm….not so much. Now, nothing would please the Bruins more than to beat Stanford, who beat UCLA twice last year in consecutive weeks, once at the end of the regular season and the next week in the PAC-12 Champaign and Caviar Championship game. UCLA couldn’t stop the Cardinal either time. Now the Bruins come in with the stronger hand. It will be interesting to see how they play this out. Stanford’s season could be failing, which makes them dangerous, UCLA doesn’t quit and grinds people down. Who’s going to have that killer instinct to take it to the other team? All signs point to UCLA, they’re ranked higher, they have better numbers and the mojo is on their side. But Stanford is like a wounded animal, which makes them very dangerous. UCLA wants this game, Stanford NEEDS this game.  Stanford takes it.

Short Smokes:

TCU vs. OSU;- both teams have underperformed this year. Good chance to get back on the right side of things. OSU wins.

South Carolina is on a roll, whipping Arkansas last week and this week they’re going to whip Tennessee.

Michigan State vs. Purdue;- the Spartans appear to have found an offense, defense-wise they’ve had one. Spartans win.

Texas Tech travels to West Virginia, neither or teams know anything about defense, so it’s going to be scoring non-stop! Raiders score more.

22 Florida vs. #14 Missouri, Florida is coming off a bad loss to LSU, Missouri is riding high after beating Georgia. They’ll ride even higher after beating the Gators.

Auburn takes on Johnny Football and the Aggies. This is not the Auburn team that got smoked by A&M last year. The Tigers are 5-1, and a much improved team. Different mindset, different attitude, different everything. Won’t matter, A&M still wins.

18 Oklahoma is in Kansas country. The Sooners get to make up for their horrible loss to Texas by scorching the Jayhawks.

Indiana vs. Michigan;- on the surface it looks like a snoozer, but, hang on, there. Michigan is licking its wounds from the Nittany Lions who were beaten up and down the field by Indian. If the Hoosiers are for real, beating the Wolverines would go a long way in making a statement. Could be a good one!

Iowa vs. Ohio State;- OSU has a weakness in its passing game, they’re just not that good at it. Running the ball, Great! Iowa is very good against passing, and pretty good against the run. Could the Hawkeyes pull the upset? Yes! But they won’t.

#20 Washington vs. Arizona State, both teams are at 4-2 and this could be one of the most entertaining games of the weekend. It’s in the desert and fans will be rocking the stadium while the Sun Devils win.

LSU plays Ole Miss in Oxford. Mississippi is a better team than what they’ve shown in the last couple of games. Last year they gave the Tigers all they could handle all game long and came close to pulling the upset. Would not be surprised if the Rebels pulled the upset here. They need to come back from the rut they’re in (remember what a rut is!), LSU was not impressive against Florida last week. If the Tigers underestimate Ole Miss, they lose. CSF says it’s a Rebel win.

USC vs. Notre Dame;- USC played like they were supposed to last game. The Irish are a bit wishy-washy this year. Trojans win, unless there is some unusual call, or some unusual calls, that cost the men of Troy a TD or two.

BoiseStateBoise State is poised to run all over Nevada, and they will. Why? Because the SmokinHotModel said so, that’s why.

Another good game out west should be Utah vs. Arizona. The Wildcats have been a bit of a puzzle this year, we never know what they’re going to do, good, bad, or indifferent. Should cause the Utes fits. Utah still wins.

Fresno State at 5-0 and ranked 17th, and still no one is paying attention to them, plays UNLV at 4-2 in Bulldog Stadium. The Bulldogs win and still get little notice.

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