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Cigars & Football – A Simple Blend

Great White North- West


The Great White North –West, this division should be called the “Little Brother of the GWN”. Only Wisconsin stacks up with the top-tier East teams. Speaking of Wisconsin, they believe they are ready for a “real” Championship. Iowa is having dreams of upsetting the pecking order, Nebraska is determined not to lose four games, Minnesota is moving up in the world, however slowly, Illinois would like to just make it to a bowl game, and Purdue, well, …let’s just say they want to do better than last year.

1.   Wisconsin enters the season as the favorite to win the division. They have a power running game, of course the Badgers have a power running game, what else have they EVER had? Passing the ball is thought of, at best, as something that is a novelty every once in awhile. What Wisconsinother school has won so many games without a legitimate passing QB? Seriously, when was the last time Wisconsin had an elite QB? It’s been a while. Head Coach Gary Andersen would like to have a dual threat QB start this year, and he just might get his wish. Tanner McEvoy is challenging Joel Stave for the starting role, has been named the starter, as a matter of fact. Running behind either of, or, both of, these two is Melvin Gordon, who averages 8.1 yards per carry. That’s- ah- pretty good! They do have to replace James White, the other running back, but we’re pretty sure the “W’s” have a few young horses in the stables. What they should do is just bring back the Single Wing offense and run the ball every play. Why not? It works for Georgia Southern. But, alas, they will need to throw the ball and with a revamped offensive line and inconsistently at QB that could lead to trouble. Even though the offensive line is undergoing some changes, most of the youngsters got some starting experience last year. The defense is also transforming, the entire front seven is new, but they are all smaller but quicker. The Badgers are going to switch from great big, corn-fed behemoths that plug the middle to a quicker, faster attacking defense. Penetrating opposing lines, getting into the backfield and disrupting things will replace their older philosophy of just holding the line. This might work against the smaller Western division teams. The biggest reason for not picking Wisconsin to have a breakout season is their weak schedule. Besides starting off with LSU, which is going to be a tough one, it’s doubtful they will be challenged the rest of the season. Hats off to them for taking on LSU.
Toughest Games:
Aug 30thLSU– The Badgers will be traveling to Houston, TX. If they win, they’ll run the table. If they lose, they’ll run the rest of the table.
Nov 22ndIowa– Besides LSU, this will be the toughest game all year.

2.   Iowa,- at the beginning of last season, there wasn’t a lot of optimism in Iowa City. After losing to Northern Illinois, there was even less. Then the Hawkeyes turned it around and finished with an 8-5 record. They lost to the big boys of the GWN and to LSU in the Outback Bowl. 470This year there is reason for optimism. The offense is more settled with a returning backfield. QB Jake Rudock has vowed to improve his accuracy, which would be a big plus if he does. As for running backs, Iowa has plenty, like, 9 of them, so expect the running game to be by committee. The receivers need to step it up and help out their quarterback. Last year they had a caseload of butterfingers, not catching the ball, and with an inconsistent QB, it’s a little tough to make a go of it. The offense should be the focal point of the team, they’ve got some new people, but there’s effective leadership, too. Might take a couple of games to get it all together but when they’ve had time to jell, their schedule becomes most favorable, also.. The Defensive line has two outstanding tackles in Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat, who are run-stoppers who can also get into the backfield. With Ends Drew Ott and Mike Hardy, good pass-rushers,  the front line appears formable. That’s good, because the linebackers are all new. The Hawkwyes have some guys that have shown they can play but they’ve never  played an entire game. Big difference. Secondary has experience and a lot of potential. If the linebackers can mature quickly and produce up to their potential, the Hawkeyes will have a solid, if not spectacular, defense. Iowa could be ranked number one in this division but they haven’t been able to hang with Ohio State, MSU or Wisconsin. Lucky for them, they only have to go up against the Badgers this season.
Toughest Games:
Nov. 22ndWisconsin, this game will decide who wins the Western division.
Cake walk the rest of the season

3.   Nebraska,-  one of these days someone in the Blackwater State is going to realize that Bo Pelini’s determination to wear his hat like a dunce cap is killing this team. He resembles the caricature of a tail-gunner from World War II. Why nobody listens is beyond me. Under Dunce Cap Wearing Coach (DCWC), the Cornhuskers have lost four games every season, except last year when they lost five. There was talk of getting ridNebraska of Pelini but the powers that be decided to keep him around. Firing him, it seemed, would be too expensive. DCWC will have to produce this year or his tenure should be over. The ”O” side of the ball will be kind-of, sort-of breaking in a new QB in Tommy Armstrong. He’s not really new as he replaced an injured Taylor Marinez for eight games last year. Running back Ameer Abdullah will be back after gaining 1,690 yard season. I believe Nebraska has a receiver or two, I think it’s a requirement nowadays, but they seldom complete a pass. It’s hard to remember. Ah! After extensive research, they have one Kenny Bell, who actually caught 52 passes last year. Who knew? Armstrong would rather run than  throw, why, he’s been known to complete passes to a player on the opposing team! Bell might not have many chances to snag a completion. Nebraska has been plagued with turnovers, they supposedly worked on that this spring. It’s the hat people, I’m telling you, It’s. The. Hat! As for the line,  they need replacements for all five starters.  Of course, the coaches say they’ve got players in waiting who have great talent, but of course they’re going to say that. Defense is looking a bit better with 7 returning starters. The front line all comes back as well as the linebackers. Secondary is a bit weak.  The pressure of the season will be on the “D” to keep them in games until the offense gets everything clicking. Their schedule is tougher than Wisconsin’s and Iowa’s. Too bad.
Toughest Games:
Sept 13th – at Fresno State– The Bulldogs are known to pull an upset or two and they might have Nebraska at the right time.
Sept 20thMiami– should be a good tight game.
Oct 4thMichigan State– Hmmm…yeah, no.
Nov. 15th Wisconsin– don’t see how the Cornhuskers can win this ‘un.
Nov. 28thIowa– could be a resume game for Pelini

4.   Minnesota, –  who doesn’t love what the Mighty Gophers are doing? If you don’t, you have no heart, plain and simple. Jerry Kill has Minnesotataken this team and they’ve improved every year. They’re not championship caliber yet, but, hope springs eternal. They didn’t fare well against the top teams in the GWN last year;- Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, MSU. They’re going to have to close that gap. Some turmoil at QB in the off-season as Philip Nelson left for Rutgers. Sophomore Mitch Leidner was the sole surviving candidate. It’s not that bad as these two shared time the entire season. But Nelson was the passer and Leidner was the runner. Now he’s going to have to throw the ball, too. He needs help from his receivers. Sorry, Mitch, not this year. Pretty much have all underclassmen in that role. Oh, well, the Gophers have an excellent running game with plenty of running backs who have experience and produced. With the entire offensive line returning the running game will be their staple. I feel sure they’ll try a pass or two this year, but, heck, if that rushing thing is working out for them, why bother? Defense, they do have to replace Ra’Shede Hageman, who was drafted into the NFL. That type of player doesn’t come by Minnesota all that often so his loss is going to hurt. New defenders are eager to show their mettle. The secondary took a hit from graduation as well. This has to be addressed as they were weak last year. The first part of the schedule is doable, last four games might be more than Minnesota can handle. They need to exit the starting gate at high speed.
Toughest Games:
Nov 8thIowa
Nov 15thOhio State
Nov 22ndNebraska
Nov. 29thWisconsin
See what I mean about the end of the schedule?

5.   Illinois has gone with a pass-happy offense, and, although they were able to move the ball, they couldn’t score enough points as their Illinoisdefense couldn’t stop kittens from crossing the street. First the offense;- passing the ball like it’s a hot potato will again be the Illini philosophy. They have Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt named their starter. He’s a good passer, as he proved at OSU, he just has a hard time staying healthy. Running back Josh Ferguson will return and he’s a good receiver out of the backfield, too, so he’s loving this offense. With four returning lineman, the offense can move. Here’s where the trouble starts;- the defensive linemen were undersized and have trouble with the big husky lineman of the GWN. They’re quick, but that speed doesn’t account for much when they can’t get off a block. In the off-season there was a concentrated effort to lift a whole bunch of weights. The coaches think they’ve improved, and, hopefully, they have, cause winning only 1 GWN game in 22 tries is not the kind of progress you’re looking for.
Toughest Games:
All Great White North Conference games, even Purdue.

6.   Northwestern entered 2013 and looked great against inferior teams. Ohio State came to town and reality set in! After being literally run Northwesternover by the OSU running game, the season went straight into the can. In the off season they went through a Union vote! Are you kidding me? How can trying to form a union, as students of the university, help out a losing team? It can’t. All it did was cause division among the players, put a fissure between them and the coaches, and get a lot of unwanted press. The Wildcat program is in a state of disrepair. Last season they also got bitten by the injury bug with a lot key players going down. They appear to be healthy at the start of this season but with all the hoopla and negativity going on, CigarSmokinFootball, doesn’t care who or what they’ve got. Until they get this team under control and worrying about football they’re not going to be competitive.
Toughest Games:
All of them and their worst opponent is themselves.

7.   Purdue won one game in Coach Darrell Hazell’s inaugural  season and that was against 1-AA Indiana State and they didn’t win that one by Purduemuch. Coach Hazell believes in spreading the offense all over the field and making the defense scatter. It didn’t work very well in 2013. But now the Boilermakers know what they’re expected to do. Danny Etling has shown he can throw the pigskin and hit the open receiver, but what he can’t do is throw well while lying flat on his back.  This was a problem last year, and it might be worse this season as they have only two linemen with starting experience. Throwing the ball all over the field to open receivers could prove difficult. If they can get any type of a running game going it’ll be helpful. Defense;- they just need to improve, get better, hit the weight room, eat lots of protein and do their best to hang in there. The Boilermakers  have a soft September schedule which might be a good thing. After that, it’s all GWN games and they don’t seem up for the challenge. Maybe 2015 will be better. Maybe. Gotta be, right?
Toughest Games:
All of them.

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