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Cigars & Football – A Simple Blend

Week 11 Preview


Minnesota has had its share of drama, Coach Jerry Kill and his epilepsy;- at least four times he’s Minnesotahad a seizures on the sidelines during games. After the most recent one, Kill left the team to seek more treatment. Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys took over on the sidelines with Kill sitting up in the coaching booth and it’s worked! The Golden Gophers have won three Great White North Conference games. The Indiana contest was darn close, with the Gophers having a 35-13 lead in the third quarter and then the Hoosiers came storming back and took the lead 39-35 with five minutes left on the clock. The Men from the Land of Sky Blue Waters were in a bit of a bind, but one 50-yard pass play to Maxx Williams and Minnesota regained the lead, 42-39. A miscue from UI and the win was secured. Whew! (Wiping sweat from the brow) They’ve also had close games with Northwestern and Nebraska but a win is a win and the boys from the land of lakes are playing some good football, and it’s entertaining. This weekend they take on Penn State, another team that is having fluctuations in their fortunes. Before the season Minn. wasn’t much of a consideration but they are making a mark. Beating Penn St. would help them secure their improving reputation. How have they been winning? By the skin of their teeth, heart attack after heart attack, suspense following suspense. This is a young team, QB Nelson is just a sophomore. The passing game numbers are a bit deceiving, they don’t look so great, but Nelson is improving and he’s getting confidence. The Golden Gophers love to run the ball so everyone thinks they’re one dimensional;- load the box defensively and all’s good. That’s proving to be a mistake, for Nelson and his receivers are connecting, and they love being overlooked. Another surprising stat, when the Gophers reach the Red Zone, they score 96% of the time.  These close games could pay off in the long run, because the Maroon and Gold are learning they can win. They can run with the big dogs of the conference and they fear no one,… well, maybe Michigan State’s defense. Just about everyone should fear that defense. This is Minnesota’s last scheduled game, the Gophers have other things to worry about first. Wisconsin is ranked #24, so Penn State will be the last unranked team UM plays. It makes sense for Kill to sit upstairs during games, kinda’ like the commercial that goes, “is it weird to grow a lucky beard? Is it strange to have a pre-game ritual? Not if it’s working its not.” So far this arrangement is working so keep it up.

Penn State wins a game, loses a game, wins a game, loses another game. The Lions haven’t won two games in a row since the start of the season when they beat Syracuse and Eastern Michigan.PSU  Last week they had to fight tooth and nail to overcome Illinois, in overtime, no less. Agreed, this Penn State is not the Penn State we all grew up, too much has happened in Happy Valley, too many scholarship reductions, too many post-season bans. But, bless their hearts, they are young and they are capable. Sometimes the Nittanny Lions have it, other times it’s like it didn’t make the bus to the stadium. They played their hearts out  against Michigan, but they were stomped by Indiana the week before. That’s just not right. Penn State is at the bottom half of the Great White North Conference, another loss and they’ll be in the abyss. Penn St needs to be careful. They need to make sure of their reads, bend, but don’t break. Nope. NO! Forget it! The Lions aren’t going bowling (again), there are only four games left in their season, so they need to treat this month like it’s the playoffs. Throw everything they possibly can onto that field. Have fun, pin their ears back and charge head first into the fury, all the while loving it! Hit the line of scrimmage with reckless abandon! On Offense they should run like the bulls of Pamplona are on their heels, make every pass count, dive for those balls that seem just out of their reach. On both sides of the ball they have to sell out on every play, because, frankly, if they don’t play this way, they’ll lose. They don’t have the momentum that Minnesota has, they don’t have the confidence, so, why the heck not, go for it!

In the picturesque area of Salt Lake City the Sun Devils of Arizona State will be taking on the Utes ASUof Utah. This will be the second road trip in a row for ASU who have shown that they have trouble outside the confines of Sun Devil Stadium.  Why wouldn’t they, Sun Devil Stadium is nice. Against Stanford, up on the Farm, Arizona State lost by 20. When they tried a neutral field, JerryWorld, against Notre Dame, they lost by 3. Last week, at Washington State, it was the furthest the Devils have been from the desert. ASU fans were worried. At kick-off they were biting their nails and wringing their hands. After the 1st quarter they were jumping up and down, by halftime, they were dancing in the aisles, the curse had been broken ASU could win on the road. Not saying it’s freezing in Utah yet, but it’ll be a lot colder than the Sun Devils are used to. Arizona State lives and dies with the pass, when they are connecting they are almost unstoppable. If their timing is off, things get grim. The running game is alright, but they don’t exercise it enough for it to carry the team. QB Kelly has to show up and be loose, he has to enjoy what he’s doing. The defense has don’t enough for ASU to win by double figure differences, but to actually shut someone down? Give me a break, Arizona State is not interested in actually stopping anyone, they just want to delay them for their offense to catch their breath. Against Utah, they have to keep the Utes from scoring, sometime, somehow. Utah has already proven that they can beat a big name team, Stanford. Yep, Stanford, conquerors of Oregon, again. The game’s in the Bee Hive State, Utah’s home turf. Could be a good test for the Devils.

Utah was playing extremely well. They lost to Oregon State and UCLA, but by no means were they outmatched and overrun, a bounce of the ball a different way and the Utes could have won those games. Then Stanford came calling and these  Utah players didn’t seem to understand the pecking order of the Champaign and Caviar Conference, because they beat the Cardinal, and on add insult to injury, they upset the apple cart of the whole conference! Utah had arrived! Their fans were Utahtalking about how they’d be favored in every game from now on, except for Oregon, maybe. Ooops…..that’s not what happened. They dropped two in row, one to Arizona, and the other to reinvigorated USC, by 11 and 16 points! This wasn’t supposed to happen. Now Arizona State’s coming in with their sights set on a PAC-12 title and smelling the Roses. Utah has the perfect opportunity to right their ship. They could throw a monkey wrench into ASU’s plans, and get themselves back on track for a good bowl. Their next game, against the Ducks, ain’t gonna be no fun since Oregon lost to Stanford (again), they’re mad, and the Ducks will probably vent their frustrations on the Utes. So the ASU game is a must win for Utah. Their spread offense must resemble a well-oiled machine. The defense needs to play the toughest they’ve played all year, pressuring the QB. On second thought, the heck with the pressure, they’ve got to put the QB on the ground every play. If Michigan State’s defense can do it to Michigan, why can’t Utah do it to Arizona State? Utah is a tough team, they hit and tackle well, if they can play a disciplined, hell-bent for leather defense, they can pull it off.

There are some interesting aspects of the game. ASU full-throttle offense against the toughness of Utah, the Sun Devils troubles on the road and the Utes desperate need for a win. Desert People against Snow Bunnies. CSF is picking the Desert to win and then hurrying to the plane to get back to a warmer clime.

“Cry Havoc! And let slip the dogs of War!” LSU vs. Alabama! The Game of the Year (yet another one). The last few seasons this game has provided some great entertainment. Everyone remembers the 9-6 overtime defensive battle, then the National Championship game where LSU couldn’t cross the 50-yard line. Last year LSU had the Tide on the ropes and was getting ready to LSUcelebrate like Mardi Gras on Bourbon Street, but AJ McCarron, after 59 minutes of mediocre performance, tossed a screen pass to TJ Yeldon which resulted in a 28 yard touchdown run. LSU was stunned, trumpets blew in Tuscaloosa. Last year the Bengals believed the year was theirs and Alabama ruined it. Now they’ve the opportunity to return the favor. To say the Tigers are looking forward to this game might be a bit of an understatement. Foaming at the mouth, rabid anticipation, chomping at the bit, rattling the bars of their cages, something like that might be more accurate. LSU doesn’t have any illusions about winning the SEC title, thanks to the Georgia Bulldogs, back when the Dawgs were healthy, and a scrappy bunch of Ole Miss Rebels. At this point, the record is moot;- they have a chance to rain on Bama’s parade – or, something like that, liquid precipitation. Last year, Mettenberger was performing miserably at QB, his play was desultory, predictably lackluster. Then the switch went on against Bama and he became a master of a passer. The whole LSU team was clicking, they threw the ball all over the field, the running game  found holes in Alabama’s defense, and RB Hill was only one of two running backs in the nation to achieve 100 yards rushing against the Tide defense. Unfortunately for the Cajun Faithful, this is not that team. They played well against UGA, but Ole Miss manhandled the more talented Tigers. Both losses were by three points but a loss is a loss, especially in the SEC. The LSU defensive line is good, but they’ve had trouble with a power run, which leads to way too much pressure on the secondary. Against teams that run the ball, and I mean hard core run the ball, the Bayou Bengals simply haven’t stopped them. When Mettenberger is pressured and scrambling for his life, the passing game suffers.

Alabama comes in feeling a bit disrespected. Why? Because people are saying that they haven’t had a real game since A&M. Granted, some of their opponents have not been top tier teams. crimson_tideHowever, one of their opponents was Ole Miss, who was ranked in the Top 25 and had just gotten done beating the tar out of Texas, in Austin, on the Horns’ turf. This is the Ole Miss team that subsequently beat the these same LSU Tigers. The Rebels lost to Bama, 25-0. Also, since the Aggie game, the Alabama defense has surrendered only 26 points. Let’s see here, that’s 6 games, 26 points, that comes out to an average of 4.3 points per game. I don’t see anybody else performing at that level. Maybe Michigan State, needless to say I’m impressed with the Spartan D. But Alabama has two glaring weaknesses. First, the secondary is weak and young. A&M burned them and was almost able to come back and win that game. The other weakness is that The Tide does not have a pass rusher. This might seem like two major problems, it’s the same two problems they’ve had year after year. Name the last power rusher Alabama has had. Right, you’ve gotta really think back a long time. They can stop the run, like, shut down, squash the run. The corners and safeties act like heat seeking missiles, zeroing in on targets and exploding on the tackle. Makes it very hard to attack ‘em. Offensively, they run the ball and rely on AJ to make smart decisions in the passing game. Side Note: Why in the world is AJ McCarron not in the lead for the Heisman trophy? He’s not flashy, he doesn’t run around like a chicken with his head cut off to throw a pass. All this kid has done is to be one of the most efficient passers and field generals in the entire game. He has Two National Championship titles and he’s lost maybe two games as a starter. If that’s not Heisman material, geez, what does it take? It’s a crying shame he’s not getting the attention he deserves. Guess he’ll have to content himself with the flashes of his National Championship rings, three, currently, and reaching for four. Alabama’s running backs are the riches of their empire. They don’t just have a great back, they have a plethora of backs, and all of them are good. Sith Lords Yeldon and Drake are the main ball carriers currently. They don’t mind running up the middle any more than around the ends. They have complete confidence in their offensive line. They know the holes are going to be there when they arrive and, more times than not, it is there and off they go. They wear out opposing defenses.

In this GOTY there will be fireworks because both teams are going to bring their A game. It would make LSU’s entire year if they won, and wrecked Bama’s season. Alabama doesn’t believe in big games, all games are the same and every game requires their best efforts. That may be “The Process”, but they know darn good and well the significance of this particular game. It’ll be decided in the trenches. Mettenberger is going to throw some good passes, he’s a good QB. But the Tigers  MUST stop the run of Alabama and they haven’t been able to do very well against other running teams. This game is known to cause me and my daughter’s heart rates to rise way above normal and Saturday night won’t be any different. I’m just hoping we don’t get the point where either one of us strokes out. It’s been known to happen in. Alabama Rolls!

Short Smokes:

SEC upset;- Vanderbilt beats Florida

TCU tries to salvage their season by beating Iowa State and they do. TCU wins.

Missouri gets to beat up on Kentucky.

Florida State rocks all over Wake Forest. Maybe the Deacons will make a game of it for a quarter, but probably not.

Auburn travels to Knoxville to take on the Volunteers. The Tigers win the game but they might have more trouble than they’re bargaining for.

Ole Miss will not be Arkansas’ first SEC win for 2013. Not sure Arkansas is going to get an SEC win in 2013.

Kansas State is going to give Texas Tech fits. Red Raiders should win but it’s going to be a tough battle.

Virginia will desperately try to get their third win of the year, against a North Carolina team decimated by injuries, but they won’t. They’ll try really, really hard.

USC beats up California.

Nebraska is going to beat Michigan because the Wolverines have not recovered from their butt-kicking by the Spartans. That’s what I would like to say, but, … remember the COTH!!! Wolverines shuck the Huskers.

Texas A&M will host Mississippi State and treat them poorly. No Texas hospitality at all..

BYU will try to running the ball like they did versus (that’s a Latin word. My editor likes Latin words) Texas against Wisconsin and they will, it just won’t be enough cause the Badgers know how to run the ball, too. There will likely be almost no passes.

NC State is making the long trip to Duke, like, maybe, 10 miles down the road, and then they travel back –  with a loss.

Virginia Tech vs. Miami;- should be a good game. Miami has more going for them, they can’t let that loss to Florida State cost them twice.

UCLA vs. Arizona;- a good game to stay up late for. CSF is picking the Wildcats but wouldn’t be surprised if the Bruins win. No COTH, no GOTY, but it could be exciting.


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