rssBlog EntriesComments


Cigars & Football – A Simple Blend

The Great White North Conference 2012 Preview

The Big-10 (that has 12 teams) or better “The Great White North Conference”

For some reason that escapes me there are two conferences that refuse to accept who they are. The Big-12 only has 10 teams and they refuse to call themselves the Big-10 because the Big-10 that has 12 teams refuses to accept that they are no longer the Big-10. The Big-12 needs to call themselves the Mid-West Conference or the Middle America Conference, something that doesn’t have a number in it. The Big-10 needs to change their name to the Great White North Conference or The Freezing to Death Conference, something, anything, …come on, people, accept who you are! When you have 12 teams you can’t be the Big-10 conference. At least the PAC-12 changed their name to show that they actually added more teams. Ok, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, we can proceed to covering the Great White North Conference or GWN.

First up is Ohio State. Talk about the ideal situation for Urban Myer. He ohio state logopretty much has a free pass of a year to install his type of football team. No matter what happens this year, it’s a pass. Ohio State is under sanctions from the NCAA, they can’t play for the GWN title and they can’t play in any post seasons bowls. The Buckeyes have nothing to lose and that will play right into Urban’s hands. Urban Myer is coming back to football after taking last year off. His last stint as a coach was for Florida where we all know he did really well, like two national titles well. The one thing that Urban learned in his SEC run was that the Defense rules college football. No questions, no lies, defenses rule! If he’s able to install a highly aggressive version of football, Ohio State will rule the GWN. First off he needs to install his spread offense that worked so well down in the Swamp. This spread will challenge opposing defenses vertically as well as horizontally. This type of offense will be like nothing the GWN has gone up against…., well, except Ohio State who went against Florida in the BCS Championship game. Talk about ironic! Braxton Miller will be taking the snaps this year as he learns this new offense. Their biggest asset will be the running game. They have three options, Carlos Hyde, Rod Smith, and freshman Bri’onte Dunn taking turns running the ball. Jordan Hall will be the receiver/ running back for the team. The offensive line is a bit thin but they’ll have the entire season to learn and develop. Remember this season is a “gimme”. The defense is going to be aggressive or at least learning how to be aggressive, nothing really new there, Ohio State prides its self on having hard core defenses, like linebackers that have long hair and like to crush people. They will be fast and mean, (sounds like a conference where teams like defensives this way) Ohio State has recruited well and brought in some good young talent that didn’t come to OSU to sit on the bench and they’ll get their chance to learn. The Bucks are very talented and if they weren’t playing under sanctions, they would be favored to win the GWN. Urban Myer is loving this situation. He’ll develop his players to conform to his type of team and then he’ll pull in some really good recruits next year. Look out Great White North conference, Ohio State is going to be good for a while, or for as long as Myer’s health holds up.

Next up is the next best team that isn’t under any sanctions, Michigan State. Mark Dantonio has built a good program in East Lansing and they are looking for a third year where they have double digit wins. The Spartans do have to replace their Quarterback and two NFL draft Michigan Statereceivers. Not a problem. To replace Cousins they have this Junior, Andrew Maxwell, who’s arm is actually better then Cousin’s. He hasn’t proven he has the leadership skills as his predecessor but the coaches are really high on this kid. Replacing two NFL caliber receivers doesn’t appear to be a problem, either. They have five, yes, five, talented receivers that are ready to step up and spread the field. That’s a good situation to have, lose two NFL receivers and have five left over.  To top the offense off, the Spartans have four returning starters on the line, the most Dantonio has had since he’s been there. These guys already know each other and have gelled;- remember Michigan State played extremely well last year. The cherry on top of this whole offense is Dion Sims as the tight end. He’s freaking big, talented and can catch the ball. Wow! Talk about an offensive team. Now for the defense;- the Spartans return 8 starters from a team that was ranked number 6 in the nation. They also lead the Great White North Conference in rush defense, sacks, and interceptions. The defense is expected to be quicker off the ball, and if that proves true, expect them to rule the GWN conference again. They will play the same way they did in the past, physical play, hard hitting and causing turnovers. They have two defensive backs that are expected to be All Americans at their positions in Johnny Adams, and Darqueze Dennard (who hails from Georgia so he’s learned how to play defense). With a team like this, what’s not to like! Michigan State should be back in the GWN Championship game;- anything less will be a disappointment.

The Wisconsin Badgers got another transfer at Quarterback in Danny O’Brien, from Maryland. What’s up with ACC QB’s transferring to Wisconsin? It can’t be the weather because it gets freaking cold there, so Wisconsinwhat is it? Are the cheerleaders there more beautiful? Or does cow tipping really appeal to these guys? Or maybe the state of Wisconsin does not have good QB’s and they need to poach from other schools for theirs? There’s something going on that CigarSmokingFootball has yet to figure out. Anyway talented O’Brien is now their QB. At Maryland he threw for over 2,000 yards and had 22 touchdowns. He graduated Maryland in May, and he’s going after his Masters in Wisconsin with two years of eligibility left. Montee Ball is back as the featured running back and a preseason Heisman threat. If O’Brien gets the passing game going this will cause Ball to rack up some really impressive rushing yards. The down side to the offense is that OC Paul Chrsyt left the Badgers to become the new head coach of PITT. So a new OC will have to get these guys in sync. The Offensive line for the Badgers is not a problem, they have behemoths who look like their helmets should have horns protruding from them and they should be carrying battle axes into battle yelling, “ Vallhalla!” The Badgers always have massive offensive lineman, so CSF is not really worried about that aspect of the team. Maybe that’s what causes QB’s to transfer there, they see these huge O-linemen and think they are totally safe from getting knocked around. Defensively the Badgers have some work to do. UW is not all that good in the run defense category. Oregon exposed this in the Rose Bowl last year where the Badgers lost to the Ducks. The Ducks ended up with 621 total yards with 345 yards in rushing. That is a problem for any team. To cope with this, Defensive line coach Charlie Partridge is going to try and rotate eight players on the D-line, four tackles and four ends. They need to be more aggressive at the line of scrimmage and they really need to get more pressure on opposing QB’s.  Should the rotation of the D-line work and the offense clicks, then Wisconsin will get to play Michigan State twice again this year, once in the regular season and then in the GWN Championship game. Note, there is something about the Badgers that has always bothered CSF, which is they always lose a game or two that they could win. Not sure why this happens but they just can’t complete the season without a blemish.

The Michigan Wolverines are going to get tested right out of the blocks as they take on last year’s National Champions, Alabama. (St. Nick refuses to Michigancall Alabama “defending” National Champions, since CSF don’t want the first meeting with him to be a bad one, CSF respects his wishes).  This game against Alabama in Dallas is going to be huge for Michigan. Should they win, or at least keep it close, then the Wolverines are going to have a good year. If they get blown out, the reverse is true and they will have a hard time recovering. In a great big surprise to everyone in college football (that’s tongue-in-cheek), Michigan is going to run the ball. If they’re going to win they have to be effective running the ball. They have tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint who came on strong last year and then QB Denard Robinson likes running as well.  The passing game is not going to be exceptional for the Maize and Blue. First off, Robinson is not a great passer, he’s more of a runner. He’s known for throwing INT’s and that hurts a team something awful. He’s been working on bringing his iNT’s down but as long as he believes in his feet instead of his arm, the passing game is going to suffer. On top of that, Michigan lost just about their entire receiving corps;- Roy Roundtree is the only returning receiver on the entire team! He’ll need to be good, along with the new guys who have not generated a lot of praise in the off season. So Michigan is going to Run, run and run some more. The Defense in the past couple of years has been dismal to say the least. So Head Coach Hoke has been working on improving this aspect of the team, and they’ve made some improvement. The secondary will be the strength of the D where they have three returning starters, one of them supposed to be a star, Blake Countess. The Linebackers are caught up in a struggle right now. They have one returning starter in Kenny Demens, but he’s having to fight for his job against Mike Jones and freshman Joe Bolden. That could be a great situation to be in as they are all good and will all play and contribute, else. The Defensive line has question marks as well, so much so that even Hoke said the “unit looked weak up the middle” in the Spring Game. Now either he is saying what he really feels or he’s trying to fake out Alabama into thinking this line is not going to be strong. If he’s trying to set Bama up, good luck! Which leads to the belief this line is on the weak side. They need to shore this up and plug up the middle. If not, that first game is going hurt, along with the rest of the season. The strength of Michigan is going to be the running game and if they rely on just one dimension, they are not going to make it to the GWN Championship game as they’re going to lose to the Spartans…again.

Nebraska is going to try and take that next step and become a dominant team. Under Pelini this team has had nine win seasons for the past four years. Not bad, but then again that’s not being dominant, either. The Huskers are just kind-of stuck at being a good team. Nothing more, nothing Nebraskaless, they are mired in mediocrity. Nebraska fans don’t really like being just a normal team, they want to be a great team, they want the 90’s to come back when they were winning national championships. Husker fans are going to have to wait another year, however, because this is not their year. Once again they’re going to put their faith in Taylor Martinez as Quarterback, he’s fleet footed, but this year he doesn’t have to be the main character. Rex Burkhead is going to be the workhorse of the offense. This will be the second year of OC Tim Beck’s offense and they are looking to improve. Burkhead ran the ball almost 300 times last year and he’ll have to do the same this year. Martinez is going to have to throw the ball to some young talented receivers who have yet to prove themselves. Martinez is also not known for being a great thrower, but for the Huskers to get out of mediocrity he’s going to need to be at least an accurate passer, which has not been his strong suit. The Huskers Defense still wears black shirts under their pads but they have not lived up the reputation of past Black Shirts. Last year this unit gave up 350.7 yards per game on average. Not a way to win a bunch of games. The Black Shirts of Nebraska have always led the way to being a winning team and they are going to need to be head and shoulders better than last year. Hopefully, new DC John Papuchis will be able to build this unit. He’ll have Rick Kaczenski coaching the D-line, which might be an asset since he’s coming over from Iowa and already knows what the GWN league is all about. Maybe the Huskers had to go through a learning curve in their first year in the GWN league. They’ll be better this year, or maybe Nebraska is just a mediocre team. Sorry Cornhusker fans, but just as the Midwest is experiencing a drought, Nebraska is going to continue their drought.

There is something brewing in West Lafayette, IN. The Purdue Boilermakers are becoming a good team and just might be the dark horse Purduetitle contender for the GWN crown. Coming into this season there are some questions that needed to be answered, but maybe those answers are positive ones. Caleb Terbush is coming back after starting last season, but he wasn’t supposed to be the starter, that job had been earned by Rob Henry. Henry, instead of leading the team in 2011, watched from the bench after he tore his ACL. Terbush took over and led Purdue to a 7-6 record. It’s not a great record but there were improvements during the year. Now it appears that Terbush and Henry will battle it out for the starting job again. Akeem Shavers, the MVP of the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, is coming back and is expected to have a good year. The Offensive line is in good shape as they are all returning and they all have experience, the downside is there is no one behind them with experience so depth a problem. The best part is they all have experience and they are all healthy! That’s a new situation for the Boilermakers. The Defense for the Boilermakers is going through an upgrade, Tim Tibesar is the new Defensive Coordinator.  Haven’t heard of him? Don’t worry, a lot of people haven’t, south of the Canadian border. For the past couple of years he’s made his home in Montreal where the Alouettes, ( an Alouettes is the French word for Skylark or Lark, yes, we looked it up). Last year the Montreal French Skylarks had the number one defense in the CFL. Coach Hope is relying on Tibesar’s  CFL experience to  turn the Boilermakers’ D into dominance. The best news is that most of the Defense is returning intact, so they’re experienced Juniors and Seniors. Look out Great White North Conference, the Purdue Boilermakers could end up surprising everyone this year.

Another team that could turn some heads this year is the Iowa Hawkeyes. Then again, they could have a down year, too. They are in the middle of a transition, they have a lot of young talent and two new coordinators. This Iowayoung talent has bought in to what they are doing in Iowa. They believe in the new system, they’ve worked hard in the off-season and think they’ll have a good year, maybe even vie for the Championship. That’s all well and good but they’re going to have to prove it on the field and they have a lot of holes to fill. The offense is being rebuilt by former Texas Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis. So far, his new playbook has proved to be challenging, but according to the players, they’ve caught on pretty quickly. They’ll be led by senior QB James Vanenberg who will be the only returning senior in the backfield. Vanderberg  has proven that’s he’s a top-tier QB and can produce. It appears he’s going to have to shoulder most of the load since running back Jordan Canzeri tore his ACL in spring practice and is out for the year. That means incoming freshmen Garmon and Hill will get the chance to prove their mettle right from the start. Hopefully they’re going to be good. Receiver-wise, Davis and Martin-Manley are returning. In 2011, they were the second and third best ball catchers on the team. Should Vanenberg connect with them, they the Hawkeyes should be able to move the ball. The O-line for Iowa is like Wisconsin’s, these guys are always big and take up a whole lot of space. Makes one wonder how much money their parents had to spend on grocery bills as they were growing up. Now that the University is feeding these guys the parents of the O-linemen can enjoy European vacations. One other reason to like Vanenberg, in the off-season, he took a hunting trip to Canada where he took down a 350 pound bear with a bow. What’s not to like about this kid? Now for the defense, Phil Parker has been promoted from defensive back coach to defensive coordinator. He’s been with Iowa for the past 13 years and was named one of the best assistant coaches in the nation. Not a whole lot is expected to change on this side of the ball but they will be playing new personnel. Most of the playmakers from last year are gone and young guns are going to fill the void. The notable returners are linebacker Morris and cornerback Hyde who will take on the roles as leaders of the defense.  The young Hawks could be good, they’ll learn a lot and they might surprise a few folks. They’ll make it to a good bowl game but not a BCS one. Next year, however, they just might be one of the best teams in the Great White North conference.

The Fighting Illini of Illinois are trying to improve. In 2011 they recorded 7 wins but that’s not enough. What’s lacking? Discipline and timing, according to New Head Coach Tim Beckman.  To change this culture he Illinoishas instituted a military mental attitude for his players. It’s not enough for the players to show up on time, everyone has to be ten minutes early. Is his words, “If you’ve got a date at six, you better pick her up at 5:50.” What does this have to do with football? Simple discipline, hard-core discipline. If a player doesn’t show up ten minutes early, they eat oatmeal instead of steak. I can hear it now on their dates, “Baby I had to pick you up ten minutes early, you how bad oatmeal is compared to steak and potatoes?” On the offensive side of the ball they are putting in a spread offense, no-huddle style of attack. Everything they do is to be with precise discipline, everyone knows their assignments and executes every play. Then its hurry up and get ready for the next down. The military style of thinking doesn’t stop here, on special teams they’ve decided to name themselves after military units.  Punt teams are the SEALS, Punt returners are Recon, kickoffs are Delta, and kick returners are Bravo. (I’m guessing fake punts and fake field goals will be the ever dangerous Green Berets, Sneaky Petes, in Army lingo). The Defense ranked pretty well last season, ranking in the top 10 in pass defense, tackles for a loss, and sacks. If they can actually improve on defense and stop teams like Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State (doubtful, but it could happen) then the Illini could climb the ladder to the top of the Great White North Conference. This military friendly bunch will be interesting to watch as the year progresses.

NorthwesternThe Northwestern Wildcats are an enigma in the college football world. Last year there was a lot, and we mean a lot, of potential, but not much came of it. What happened? According to the players, they lost focus on the fundamentals of the game. Now they appear to be focused but it’s a wait and see type of situation. The Cats can play with the others, they had a lead against Nebraska, only to lose by 3 points, so they’re going to have to believe in winning every game, and, of course, execute that belief. The Offense is going to the Northwestern’s strength, their receiving corps is loaded, going at least seven deep. Opposing defenses are going to need their secondaries to be ready. The opponents’ defensive lines liked playing against Northwestern. In their losses, the Wildcats averaged being sacked 5 times per game. Not a good stat to have when the team is relying on the passing game. For the last couple of years no one has really stepped up to be the feature ball carrier. This needs to change, the Wildcats must run the ball, otherwise, sacks are going to just keep piling up. Defense for Northwestern has not been up to par, either. They only achieved 17 sacks for the entire year! That type of pass rush does not instill fear in opposing quarterbacks. In short, the defense was lousy. Now they are pinning their hopes on a lot of young talent. Hmmmm….that doesn’t really bode well for a team trying to find an identity. The Wildcats are looking to getting into shootouts and scoring more points than their foes. Maybe they’re a little mixed up, thinking their class test scores count on the football field.

MinnesotaJerry Kill, (who has the best name in the world for a football coach) didn’t set the world on fire last year in Minnesota. The Golden Gophers racked up only 3 wins in his first season.  But that’s what happens when the team has the worst tackling stats in the GWN. First order of business is to tighten up the D. One course of action that Kill is taking is moving Hageman from tight end to defensive end. Not real sure how well tight ends tackle but the Gophers are going to try it. They have reassigned several other people in hopes of getting improvement. The offense has problems, too, with several new wide receivers who are nice, and maybe talented, but have only one touchdown catch between them. MarQueis Gray will be taking the snaps under center. He needs work on his reads, and avoiding turnovers. Last year he gave the ball up 17 times all by himself. John Heisman’s quote, “Gentleman, its better for you to have died a young boy then to fumble this ball,” needs to become his watchword. He’s a dual threat QB and he may put up yards, but that does not equate to wins. To help the running game Minnesota has brought in Jame Gillun from Mississippi Gulf Junior College where he ran for more than 2,000 yards last year. This team has a lot of work to do. Four or five wins would be an improvement.

Indiana had one victory last year, against South Carolina State. They lost two games by three points, one to North Texas and the other to Virginia. Not what could be called powerhouse football programs. The rest of the Indianacontests were ugly losses. The Hoosiers ranked last in just about every defensive category, but the offensive didn’t do well, either. On the bright side, if there is one, Indiana had the youngest team in the nation. If these young players can take their experience and improve on it, and if they want to win against someone other than a division 1-AA team, they just might become competitive. To help out in the improvement category Head Coach Kevin Wilson has brought in five junior college transfers and is already putting them into the starting lineup. The running game and the passing game were both miserable. Indiana football has experienced one winning season in 17 years, so to build this program into something that is even close to a winner is going to take time, for anyone, even Urban Myers, but he’s at Ohio State. Maybe, in five years, or ten, or, who knows, maybe only four.

The last team covered in the GWN is Penn State. The Nittany Lions are coming into this season with more baggage than any team has ever had to deal with, except, perhaps, the old SMU team that received the Death Penalty. The only team to ever receive the Death Penalty.  How this team reacts is anybody’s guess. They might close ranks and go out on the field PSUand beat the crap out of everyone, they might totally fall apart, or they might be so-so. Who knows? The program needs to heal and that’s all they can do. If they don’t win a single game, it will not matter much outside Pennsylvania. There is not a coach in the world that wants to be in this position. Bill O’Brian has left the New England Patriots to become the new head coach. His job is the change this program, to revamp everything. To accomplish this, O’Brian has only two coaches left from the previous staff. Everyone else is brand new. The Lions have a new Offense, new Defense, new Strength program, and they are even going to change their jerseys. Not by much, but they are going to add player names to the back of their jerseys. Besides that Penn State’s culture is changing. They’ve always had a good running game and that will need to keep it to accomplish anything this season. There is only one returning starter on the O-line, everyone else is new. The Defense is also new, and with all the players that have left the program, this defense is going to go through some growing pains. Chances are, Penn State is going to be okay, they’ll more than likely have a winning record, but, as stated, its really doesn’t matter outside Pennsylvania. As long as they are able to begin the rebuilding process and succeed in putting someone else’s sins of the past behind them, the Nittany Lions will prosper. May God bless them in their efforts and guide them in the way they should go.




Leave a Response

Please note: comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.