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Cigars & Football – A Simple Blend

Preview of Week 10

Welcome to the weekend of Halloween. Yes, by Saturday all the trick or treaters will be stuffed with candy, most of the parties will be over and the nation will have gone into a new month and looking forward to the next holiday. But this is the closest weekend to All-Hallows-Eve so that makes it Halloween weekend. Besides, some of the costume parties will have waited until the weekend, and I’m sure there will be plenty of college students in the stadiums decked out in their ghoulish outfits, most their parents would not approve. There is always something different about this weekend. The air has a nice crisp feel, the leaves are changing colors, and everyone is avoiding black cats. Strange things happen on this weekend. Upsets occur and sometimes in weird ways. Missouri fans are pointing to last week’s game as their Halloween game and they do have a point. The most famous game played on Halloween night was in 1959 when LSU hosted Ole Miss. Number 1 ranked LSU was the defending National Champions with a stellar defense. Those Rebels from Mississippi were ranked 3rd and playing football like nobody’s business. With a rabid crowd in Tiger Stadium, Ole Miss was holding on to the lead in the 4th quarter when Billy Cannon ran a punt back 89-yard for a score, 7-3, LSU. But with a minute left in the game the Rebels drove the length of the field to the 1-yard line and, as time expired, they were stopped. LSU still celebrates that game, there will be someone, somewhere in Louisiana dressed in a Billy Cannon uniform. Now let’s take a look at this weekend’s games.

ArmyFirst up is the Army vs. Air Force game. Neither of these teams are ranked nor do they have a winning record, doesn’t matter. Here at we cover the Academies when they play each other. We’re kind-of a military family, like, hardcore military, so saluting the Academies is a way of life. We are partial to The Military Academy located at West Point. The patriarch of our family graduated from there. So we have the ground units taking on the air squadrons. The students of Lt. General Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, the “Father of the U.S. Infantry, against the followers of General William “Billy” Mitchell, the “Father of the U.S. Air Force”.  Army enters this game at 3-5;- they’ve had some great games though. Against Stanford, who was ranked 5th in the nation, the Cadets gave the Cardinal all they could possibly handle. Stanford had a devil of a time trying to stop the ground game of the Black Knights. Stanford won the game but they didn’t enjoy playing it. Actually, nobody has been able to stop the ground attack of Army, (that’s actually comforting on a national level that our Infantry can’t be stopped). This triple option attack of Rich Ellerson’s is difficult and they run the ball all the time! They may attempt a pass or two in the course of a game but they don’t like it, they want to run the ball, they love to run the ball and against Air Force they’re going to RUN! They’re ranked 1st in the nation in rushing, for cryin-out-loud, 340 yards per game. They’ve got speed when they get into the open field, too. Baggett, (no not the Hobbit that’s Baggins) racked up 304 yards on 18 carries against Eastern Michigan, an average 16.88 yards per carry! That’s Awesome! They also have Dixon who averages 6.9 yard per touch. When an offense has backs that average that many yards per carry, why would they throw the ball?  Defensively, they’ve had trouble keeping people out of the end zone. In most games this defense is hopelessly outsized. They don’t have the big mules that are needed on the line;- relying on quickness to shoot the gaps all game long is great if they can keep it up. Against Air Force they’re going up against guys that are about the same size. Army will need to shoot those gaps and get in the backfield quickly and disrupt the rhythm of the Falcons. Unlike Army, Air Force actually tries to throw the ball a few times, so the defensive line needs to be disruptive. Now the Cadets haven’t been to a bowl game since 2010, when they beat SMU in the Armed Forces Bowl. They win 3 out of the last 4 games and they’re bowl eligible. They have this game, Western Kentucky, who is not setting the world on fire, Hawaii, who hasn’t won a game all season, and then their lifelong rival Navy. So it’s do-able, they’ve got motivation they just need to execute.

The FlyBoys started off the year great! They beat Colgate, 38-13. They ran all over them! Expectations were soaring in the clouds after that day. Then the next 7 games came along and theair force expectations crashed and burned. They haven’t won a game since beating the Raiders. Ok, so no one writes about the greatness of Colgate football. Doesn’t matter, the Falcons have already lost to Navy, what they want to do is beat Army and then Army beat Navy and the three Academies share the President’s Cup. AF runs the wishbone, or a variation of it, and they’re pretty good at it, for a bunch of “Flyers”. But they have trouble putting points on the board. Against Nevada, they did score 42 points, the most they’ve scored all year, but lost as the Wolfpack scored 45. Aside from Nevada, they haven’t gotten over 23 and they only scored that much once. They haven’t been shutout in any of their games. They do have a bit of QB competition going on, who will be the starter for this game they haven’t yet named. It’s between freshman Nate Romine and Sophomore Jaleel Awini. Awini was the starter, but he lost his good standing as a cadet and that meant he couldn’t play. Kale Pearson, who was the original starter, is out for the season due to an ACL tear. So right now, it’s anybody’s guess who’s going to be taking the snaps. Whoever gets the call will have a leg up on the remaining games of the season, which should help come spring training. It’s never a good sign when a program is talking about spring training when the season is still in play. That’s not to say they don’t want to win this game, they do, they really, really, really do. But they know they’re not going to a bowl game. Motivation would be hard to come by, but their opponent is the original, since 1802, U.S. Military Academy. The last time these teams met in Colorado Springs, Army had a case of fumblitis ,even though they outplayed, outperformed, and out manhandled AF the whole game. They got some revenge last year at West Point, but they can’t have a case of the dropsies. Wonder if these schools will wear the best looking uniforms in all of college football, those camouflage unis, it’s Halloween weekend, what better reason is there to wear ‘em? There isn’t, so suit up. Army wins. (ED. NOTE: YES!!!!!)

In the Great White North Conference it’s the “Battle of the Mitten!” Michigan vs. Michigan State. For those that don’t remember what Michigan looks like, It looks like a mitten. The road to the Leader Division crown goes through Michigan this year. Both teams have only one loss, and both are ranked in the top 25. Michigan State is 24th, and Michigan is 23rd. I didn’t say they were highly ranked in the top 25, just that they were there. Both teams have strengths and both teams have glaring weaknesses.
MichiganFirst Michigan;- their only loss this year came at the hands of Penn State in a double overtime game. Nobody was picking PSU to upset the Wolverines, except me! In this very blog, I wrote about it. Even my editor and cigar partner said the upset wasn’t going to happen. Ok, enough bragging. The Maze and Blue have had some games where they dominate the opponent;- in other games they barely eek out a win. How they pulled out a win against Akron still has Coach Bowden scratching his head. Last week Michigan had the week off before that they blew out Indiana, 63-47, and there is  their strength, they have an offense that can score. QB Gardner can score, he’s thrown for 13 TD’s. Running back Toussaint has 11 TD’s, Receiver Gallon has 7 TD’s, and there are others that have scored and put up some impressive numbers. So, if they can put up a bunch of scores, why aren’t they ranked higher? There are few reasons why: 1) the interior offensive line is weak, 2) they don’t dominate any of their game, 3) they can’t keep people from going through them, 4) they’re not consistent. They don’t have a good defense. If they can’t stop anyone it puts a lot of pressure on the offense to keep scoring and it’s worked, except against Penn State. I mean, come on, Akron and Connecticut almost beat them! That’s not an imposing defense.
Michigan State’s only loss was to Notre Dame, but that was before they actually found an offense, and we’re not just talking about QB Cook, who is a big improvement from Maxwell. It’s been theMichigan State offense line. Last year this unit looked like….well, what Georgia looks like this year. They were plagued with injuries. Against the dreaded Wolverines last year, they had two that were starting for the first time, one was a redshirted freshman, and another that was making his second start of the season. Everybody that was somebody on the O-line popped a knee, twisted an ankle, broke something or tore something else. This year, however, they have not had those problems and things have gelled together, so much so that the running game, which was expected to drop off, is actually better than it was last year. Even though this unit is better and the running game numbers are better, the Spartans’ weakness of is their offense. They seem to have trouble finishing drives. In the past four games they’ve improved, but not against teams with winning records,… well, Iowa has a winning record now but they didn’t when they played Sparty. Saturday they will be tested. They need to put up points and they should;- remember, Michigan’s defense is a cheap date, everyone scores! The Spartans’ strength of is their defense. We’re not talking Alabama defense, but it’s darn close. Where the Tide ranks 1st, the Spartans rank 3rd. Oh, that’s good! They play full speed all game long, all the time. They get off their blocks, shut down running lanes, turn the plays inside, and flat out crush people when they tackle. They have a vampire blood lust with a Frankenstein type body. They’re big and mean. Michigan has not fared well against hard defenses, and the Wolverines have a weak interior line. The D-Line of the Big Green team is going to be key this key. If they can exploit the middle and shut down Michigan’s run game, force every pass, every run, to go outside, it’s going to be difficult to move the ball on the Spartans.
Both teams are in position to win the Leaders Division. MSU has the easier road, they have Nebraska, who just lost to Minnesota (called that upset too), at Northwestern and then Minnesota. Michigan has Nebraska, Northwestern, at Iowa and then Ohio State. The last time they played in Spartan Stadium, the Wolverines were manhandled by the Big Green, to the point that bulling charges were almost filed against them. On top of that, the Spartans have beaten Michigan 4 out of the last 5. At the end of game, the team dressed in Green jerseys will be yelling, “THIS IS SPARTA!” as they celebrate their victory.

In this week’s Game of the Year (GOTY) we have Florida State hosting Miami. Both teams are 7-0 and both teams are hoping that they are back into the glory days! Every year it was a watch to see if Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles could make it past the Hurricanes and win that elusive National Championship. It wasn’t that the “U” was winning championships, they just made sure FSU didn’t. Who hasn’t watched that “Wide Right” game between these two? No one! that’s who, because every year they show the highlight of that game, during the ESPN College GameDay;- then its shown again before the game, at halftime and sometime in the 3rd quarter. So everyone has seen that kick and Coach Bowden running down the field like he won only to realize the kick missed. Only in recent times have they become, well, a nonfactor. FSU has gotten lots of hype over the years but proved to be nothing but a fizzle. Miami tried to shake off its bad boy image and instead had boosters paying players left and right, so the past few years they have self-imposed bowl sanctions and scholarship reductions. Then, on top of that, the NCAA finally ruled and only took away a couple of scholarships and accepted the bowl sanctions as punishment.

In Tallahassee, head coach Jimbo Fisher has the Seminoles back on the national stage, they have QB phenom Winston, who is having a Heisman type career in only his first year on the college field. FSU is winning and winning big, racking up style points, wooing women, and impressing FSU Logoeveryone else. What’s not to like about this team? They run the ball well, they pass well, they block and tackle and kick and skip down the field with the greatest of ease. The only team that has caused them any sort of trouble was Boston College and even that was short-lived. They’ve faced two top 25 teams so far and dismantled both of them. To be fair, the only other team that had a winning record they faced, besides Clemson and Maryland, was Bethune-Cookman, but they’re 1-AA! So, yes, Florida State has had an easy schedule, with only one real test and that was Clemson and FSU kind-of Aced that one.
MiamiMiami enters this game ranked #7, and they’ve earned, and I do mean earned, the nickname, the “Cardiac Canes.” They edged out a win against, at the time, #12 Florida, and then they had a heck of time against Georgia Tech;- against North Carolina and Wake Forest it wasn’t until the last of the fourth quarter they held the lead! But, hand it to them, they’re 7-0 and ranked 7th in the College Football Poll. Now, in the days of yore, every Hurricane player was good for a news clip or two running his mouth;- it was t.v. gold. Reporters wanted to interview someone on that team just so they’d have the sports clip of the week, or day. Not now, Head Coach Al Golden has changed that culture to one where reporters are begging players to say something, anything, it doesn’t even have to be disrespecting toward the other team, they just want them to open up and say Ahhh! But, no dice.(OOPS! Gambling term! Get thee behind the Canes, Satan!) After begging Cane linebacker Perryman to say something, he finally spoke and said, ‘I mean, it’s why you come to UM.” And that was it! Nothing more, no follow up, nothing. So this game may have some sort of feel of the old days but not really. Miami knows that they are coming in underdogs. They’ve had problems, they’ve had miscues, but they were able to pull out of those nose-dives against lesser schools. The Canes don’t have an all-star, all American QB, or running back, or anything else. They’re just a team that relies on each other to play the best they can and to help out. Nothing special, nothing fancy, they just play.
Whoever loses this game is not out of the ACC race, there’s a good chance these two teams will meet again in Charlotte  at the ACC Championship game. FSU has Wake Forest, Syracuse, Idaho and Florida left on their schedule. Of those teams only Florida has a winning record. It’s safe to say FSU is a shoo-in for the ACC game. Miami has Virginia Tech, Duke, Virginia and Pittsburgh;- they should make the run but these are the “Cardiac Canes” we’re talking about here. Get out the defibrillators because Tomahawk Chop will be prevalent all game long as FSU wins.

Short Smokes

Virginia Tech, who was beaten by Duke last week, takes on Boston College, and the Hokies get back into the win column.

Penn State vs. Illinois, Nittany Lions win their fifth game of the season.

Wisconsin takes on Iowa. Can Iowa beat the 24th ranked team in the nation? Yes! And they do. Iowa takes it. It’s Halloween weird things are supposed to happen.

Purdue hosts Ohio State will come out of that game wishing they had been playing against ghosts. OSU is big people, and the Buckeyes roll to victory.

Mississippi State vs. South Carolina, the Gamecocks pulled out an unbelievable win last week against Missouri, this week it will not be that close. Bulldogs go down in flames.

North Carolina vs. NC State, battle it out for the second place team in the state, behind Duke. Never thought I’d write that sentence, but  I enjoyed it. NC State wins.

Georgia and Florida play at the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party!” I know people are trying to be PC about this game and not call it that anymore, but who cares what they think. It’s the “World Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.” Georgia is getting healthier, Bulldogs win.

Northwestern gets back into the win column as they beat Nebraska. Why? Because of the curse of the hat (COTH)!

Clemson beats Virginia

Auburn will not be Arkansas’ first SEC victory this year.

Tennessee gets the privilege of hosting the mad, Mad, MAD Missouri Tigers. Guess who wins, and don’t ask my editor. Volunteers, HAH!

Boise State travels south to Colorado State and beats the Rams. SmokinHotModel will be happy.

Fresno State plays the late game against Nevada and they have been known to lose to the Wolfpack, but the Pack had this QB that was tall and could run. He plays for the San Francisco 49ers now, so FSU-west will win this one. 

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