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Cigars & Football – A Simple Blend



Here at we can admit our mistakes. We got a bit behind in getting our Football Preview completed before the beginning of the season. We could go into things like, back injuries, work, and this problem and that problem but none of that matters, we didn’t get the SEC Preview completed before the season! CSF is a small operation. So instead of just forgetting about the SEC and moving on, here is what we’re going to do;- First, you’ll see the Preview of each team, like we would have written before the season kicked off, then a brief synopsis of what the first week gave us. Without further ado, let’s get it on with the King of College Football, the S-E-C WEST!
Florida State was able to break the streak of National Championship crownings that the SEC had for a dozen years, or so. It came down to the last thirteen seconds, but the Noles won. Just because we (yes we. I am an SEC Fan through and through. Us southerners don’t just pull for our team, we are loyal to the conference, something the rest of the nation just doesn’t understand) didn’t win the last BCS championship doesn’t mean we’re out of the running for claiming the first playoff championship. Auburn, who darn near won it last year, thinks they still that “It” factor. Texas A&M is wondering what it’s going to be like without Johnny Manziel. LSU is still LSU no matter how many they lose to graduation. Arkansas is in pursuit of their first SEC win under Bielema, Mississippi State needs to get back to relevance. Is Ole Miss becoming yet another powerhouse in the SEC West? And, of course, Alabama says it doesn’t matter who’s at Quarterback, they can still win it all!
1.    Alabama rolls in at Number One. They are voted Number Two in the national polls and if they had an established quarterback would there be any doubt they wouldn’t be Number One? I think not. Last year the Tide dropped two games, the last two. Auburn, in the luckiest 194season ever for a school, got the ‘W’ and then OU won the consolation game of the Sugar Bowl. An 11 win season for any other school would cause alumni ecstasy, students would strut with their heads high and school pride would abound. Alabama only accepts 11 win seasons if there is a National Championship attached to it. Hard to imagine that two losses cause the season to be looked on as a disaster, but Alabama is not just any school. They take football, very, VERY SERIOUSLY. Led by Amari Cooper, the Crimson Tide enters 2014 with the most talented corps of receivers in the nation. From the tightends, to the slotbacks, to the wideouts, they’ve got receivers who can catch and then run, tacking on YAC, Yards After Catch. Great things are expected from this group. The running backs, or, as we say at CSF, the Sith Lord training ground, has Darth T.J. Yeldon returning and after last year there is plenty of Heisman talk surrounding this young Dark Lord. Spelling him will be Darth Derrick Henry, who racked up 161 yards rushing against OU in the Sugar Bowl. He’s put on some weight in the off-season, I’m willing to bet it’s not fat. Behind him will be Kenyan Drake who has shown that he can be explosive and run up some yards, but he hasn’t earned his Sith Darth Lord title yet. We expect he will in 2014. The Offensive line returns three starters. With one replacement coming in from the Jr. College ranks, the other just might be one of the heralded freshman for the 2013 recruiting class. Either way, the O-line is expected to be solid and massive. Now for the biggest question in all of college football, who is going to be Alabama’s Quarterback? Blake Sims is a fifth year senior who has only seen action in mop-up duties. He’s paid his dues and now wants to start. Florida State transfer Jacob Coker is coming in to challenge Sim’s status. From all the reports and hype, it looks like Coker is going to win the QB battle. Everyone in football knows that Sims cannot, or, will not, pass. In the spring game he went, 13-30, for 178 yards, 0 td’s, 2 int’s, and actually there should have been 3 int’s. The passing game is not his forte. Coker, on the other hand, is supposed to have a cannon of an arm with rifle accuracy. If he can just hand the ball off to the Sith Lords, he’s set! Should Coker be all he’s supposed to be, Bama’s offense is going to be a bear to stop. There might not be a team out there that can stop them. Defense;-… come on! This is Alabama, where defense is king. Of course the defense is going to be impenetrable. Granted, it may not be as good as last year’s, but even a step down is still in the great category. The secondary needs to improve, Duh! The secondary needed to improve last year. I hardly remember when the secondary didn’t need to improve. Did you know that Nick Saban coaches the secondary? And CSF believes it would prove extremely helpful if the D-line was able to pressure the QB. But, St. Nick Saban hasn’t sought our opinion in that matter……….Yet. Pity.
After the First Game- The best way to express CSF’s impression of Bama after the game against West Virginia is…Whiskey Tango Hotel! This is supposed to be the Number Two team in the country? I don’t think so. Blake Sims’ performance showed me just how important AJ McCarron was to the Tide program. Sims never completed a pass of more than 10 yards, and he attempted few of those. Why in the world did they not put Coker in? If Sims is the best that Alabama has, where did all the hype about Coker come from? The receivers played pretty well, when the ball was thrown where they could catch it, that is. The Darth Lords Yeldon and Henry were the saviors. Without them, Bama would have gone down in flames. The defense allowed West ‘By Golly” Virginia to run the ball on them! Unspeakable horrors! Alabama’s defense needs to improve in all areas. All of them, all of them, all of them. If Sims is going to be the QB, expect Bama to lose at least four games. CSF extends its apologies to Pat Forde. He predicted the Tide would lose four games and we laughed. He was wise beyond his years. If the defense doesn’t improve drastically, Bama could lose four, or five, or even six! This is SACRILEGE!
2.    As stated above, Auburn was the luckiest team in football history last year. How they were able to pull out wins against Ole Miss, Georgia, Texas A&M and Alabama was nothing short of miraculous. Everyone remembers the Iron Bowl victory, it’s been re-run enough in Auburnthe off-season, but let’s not forgot the last second pass deflection-completion to beat Georgia. How was that possible? They make it to the National Championship, after winning the semi-final game, (SEC Championship Game, something the Big 12, that only has 10 teams, doesn’t have) and come within 13 seconds of winning the whole kit and kaboodle! Luck had to run out some time. No one was picking the Tigers to win the SEC, much less make it to the BCS National Championship game, but they did! 2014 might be a bit different. Gus Malzahn now has to prove that last year was no fluke and that he’s a coach among coaches. Nick Marshall is returning at QB, even though he has run into a bit of trouble with the law of the land. Malzahn has said that he will not start the first game against Arkansas, but he will be the QB for the rest of the season. In 2013 he rushed for over a thousand yards, and was a major threat, like a good tailback in the ancient Single Wing formation. In 2014 everyone expects him to run, so he better improve his passing. He can pass the ball, but only for short completions and then let the receivers get YAC. Marshall’s going to have to spread the field vertically in ’14. Auburn’s running game was a huge strength and is expected to be again, but if the Plainsmen can’t pass the ball other teams are going to learn real quick how to shut them down. Tre Mason, who had the year of his life in 2013, is gone, leaving the running back position wide open. There are two seniors, competing, they’ve both seen action before but only in limited roles. For the War Eagles to succeed again, they have to prove that these two can replace Mason. The receivers were, at best, inconsistent. Now they have a year under their belts and need to develop sticky fingers. If they can help Marshall out and improve the passing game, Auburn is going to be tough. The offensive line has four returning starters and, as the hogs go, Auburn goes. Defensively they have holes to fill, with only 6 returning starters. The leaders are still there, but, in the SEC West, if you don’t have a stout defense, go ahead and hang it up. It’s expected the “D” will be pretty stout.
After the First Game- Auburn sat Nick Marshall out for one whole half, gotta say CSF is disappointed in Gus Malzahn, and not just a little bit. Backup QB Jeremy Johnson was doing well against Arkansas, at the end of the half they were tied 21-21. Auburn looked like they had a bit of rust and Arkansas looked improved. The Tigers pulled away in the second half and won the game, 45-21. No reason to change anything about our prediction of how they would do this year. They played well, if not sluggishly. As the season progresses, that sluggish play will disappear.
3.    Ole Miss- My status as the favorite brother was going to be in jeopardy if I didn’t place Mississippi in third. Considering that I’m the only brother my brother has, losing the favorite status is of great consequence. Fear not, Rick, CSF believes in the Rebels! If they had finished off 500Auburn in ’13 their season would have been different. They lost 5 games but only against Alabama were they out-matched. In every other one they were a hair’s breadth away from winning. One bounce of the oblate spheroid this way instead of that way and the Rebels would have been the surprise team of the NCAA. Maybe they can pull it off this year. Hugh Freeze has done an outstanding job at recruiting, UM has more talent on campus then they’ve had since the 1950’s. Now all they have to do is gel into a premier team and the world is their oyster. The most experienced QB in the entire SEC is Bo Wallace. Yes, read that sentence again, Bo is the most experienced. That doesn’t mean he’s the best, it means he’s the most experienced. He’s earned the reputation of being a gun-slinger that commits turnovers. In the Egg Bowl, he threw three int’s and then fumbled the ball into the end zone that gave arch-rival Mississippi State the trophy. He can throw good passes to the designed receiver, he’s proven he can connect with any of them anywhere on the field. But for the Rebels to have an outstanding season, Bo’s got to cut down on the interceptions, and eliminate fumbles. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Receivers will be led by Laquon Treadwell, SEC freshman of the year. Next to him they have plenty others who can catch and run, so there’s no reason for Wallace to continue throwing Int’s. When in doubt, throw it to Treadwell. Mississippi wants to have a power running game. Hasn’t worked out that way, mainly because the backs they’ve had are more of the small shifty type. But, hope springs eternal. Jr. College transfers Akeem Judd and Jordan Wilkins join the ranks and the each outweigh the Rebel veterans by 20lbs. Offensive line, they have three returning starters but freshman Laremy Tunsil has already claimed the left tackle position and there’s some early NFL talk about him. The Ole Miss defense might be the best in the SEC, they certainly have the talent and the experience. If they’re able to take that next step they could be the immoveable object to counter irresistible forces. If Robert Nkemdiche, the highly-touted recruit, can keep his head in the game and not make freshman mistakes like he did last year, he’ll be a monster. If Auburn slips, Ole Miss will take over the second slot in the West. Who knows, this just might the year they win the SEC West. Nah! Too many “ifs”. Ain’t gonna happen.
After the First Game- Against Boise State in Atlanta there were two separate stories. In the first half Ole Bo threw three interceptions and killed any chance the Rebels had at establishing drives. The defense played well but not as great as they could, we’ll chalk that up to rust. At halftime it was 7-3. Second half, a totally different team was wearing the Red jerseys of Ole Miss. The defense was dominant and the offense moved the ball easily, winning, 35-13. If the Rebels can play the rest of the season like they did in the second half, look out SEC West!
4.    LSU- It’s been five years since the Tigers didn’t have at least ten wins in a season. Les Miles may be the Mad Hatter but that’s a darn good record. This year will test his coaching abilities. He’s lost some extremely skilled players on offense, and his defense has more question LSUmarks than answers. First off, the Quarterback position is about as murky as in Tuscaloosa, AL. LSU fans don’t appreciate being compared to anything in T-town. Who’s going to get the nod at QB is anyone’s guess. Freshman Brandon Harris has shown raw talent but not enough consistency to sew up the spot, Soph. Anthony Jennings is still showing weaknesses that need to be corrected. Who knows what’s going on, the Mad Hatter is as mum as St. Saban. ( I enjoy making those LSU fans squirm). Running Backs have never been a problem, but this year might be a let down. The Bengals have highly recruited Fournette coming into the fold, but, being a true freshman does have its drawbacks, like, learning the offense. By midseason he should have it down pat and then we’ll see how well he’s doing. Receivers are going to be a problem, they have proven ball catchers but none of them have been that go-to guy. They’re good but not great. The highlight of the Bayou Bengals is the offensive line. Four returning starters, and they are all very, very good. With the so-called skill positions in a flux, it’ll be up to the offensive line to establish leadership. More than ever the hogs of the middle will be relied upon. Sink or swim, LSU’s offense depends on how they do. Not sure any team will be able to match up against the D-Line of LSU. They are experienced, they’re good, and they’re hostile. Hostile, mobile, agile. Good luck running against them. But, and it’s a big but, if a ball carrier is able to get past the line, it’s much easier going from there. Tiger linebackers are the weakest link of the entire team. Last year no one actually led the team, the defense was good, but, without leadership from the linebacker corps, establishing the identity of a top SEC defense will be tough. Same song, second verse as in 2013, except, who’s playing QB?
After the First Game- In the first half LSU looked every bit the question mark CSF predicted. Wisconsin was running the ball right down their throat and the Tigers were powerless to stop them. LSU thought they could throw the ball, but, nope, that didn’t work out. In the second half the Bayou Bengals figured out that Wisconsin couldn’t pass the ball, either, and they stacked the box and stopped the Badger run game. LSU abandoned the passing game and ran the ball twice as many times as they did in the first half. Coming back from 17 points down and winning the game is a great start for the Tigers. LSU just might be better than expected.


5.    Texas A&M- How can the Aggies be this far down the chart? Simple, they lost Johnny Manizel and don’t have a proven starter and their defense ranked 109th nationally. I’m no mathematical guru but when there’s only 119 Division I teams, being the 109th best is waayyy bad. Texas A&MKenny Hill is favored to take over at QB, but due to his legal problems in the spring, true freshman Kyle Allen came in and made a name for himself as a serious threat. Now, like with every other team in the SEC West, except Ole Miss, there is a QB question. Who’s it going to be? Hill is expected to be named the starter. The Running game is going to depend upon a transfer to come in and help out. Brandon Williams transferred in from Oklahoma to help out Tra Carson, who played for the Aggies last year but started off his career as an Oregon Duck. Carson has the ability to wear a defense down, he’s strong and carries the ball with an attitude. If Williams is able to help with the load, they might be Thunder and Lighting in the making. Offensive Line is by far the high point. A&M just keeps producing NFL lineman one after the other and that’s what this group is, an NFL line in the making. Defensively all four starters and all four backups return. With them ranking 109th in the nation, that might not be the best recommendation. They all have experience (at 109/119). If they can’t do better now, all that experience – what’s the word? How do I say it? Oh, Yeah, all that experience sucks! The linebackers had three freshman last year and it showed. They have TCU transfer A.J. Hilliard and another highly-touted freshman coming in and hopes are high they’ll be better. The secondary has one, count ‘em, one legitimate marque player. Other than that, who knows. If the defense doesn’t get better, and we’re talking in a hurry, A&M is going to have a disappointing season. Which is the reason they are ranked 5th.
After the First Game- HOLY CRAP! The Aggies went into Columbia S.C. and just beat the hell out of the Gamecocks. Kenny Hill threw for 511 yards and completed 44 of 60 passes and 3 touchdowns! A&M came out of nowhere! There wasn’t a football guy outside of College Station that had any idea they were going to be this good. We’re shocked! If A&M keeps this up they are going to win the West. Either they are far better than we thought, or USC-South is not nearly as good, probably a little of both. Get used to hearing, Gig’Em, Aggies.
6.    Mississippi State has fallen into the dreaded morass of mediocrity. They can beat weaker teams, but when it comes to a game of significance, they lose. If it weren’t for a gift from Bo Wallace last year they would have lost to Ole Miss and missed going bowling. In ’14 they have 16 starters returning including do-it-all QB Dak Prescott. He is a dual threat but the coaching staff has realized that if he doesn’t Mississippi Stateimprove his passing they will – here’s that word again – suck. Be stuck in mediocrity. In the spring he made improvement, how much is yet to be seen. His receiving corps all returns but they didn’t really shine last year. The two biggest questions on offense are, 1) who’s going to run the ball? 2) who’s going to block? Josh Robinson is expected to be the work-horse behind Prescott but he’s unproven and, the bad part is, there’s no one else. Blocking is vital in football and the Bulldogs have paled in that aspect of the game. They have to replace just about all their blockers, pale or no pale. Oh, the joys of being the line coach in Starkville. If there is a bright spot beside Prescott, it’s the Bulldog defense. They return 8 starters from a unit that ranked fourth in the SEC. Granted, they didn’t do too well against quality opponents but hopefully they have learned and will be able to apply those lessons. Come on, people! We’re giving them the benefit of the doubt here. This team used to be called either the “Bulldogs”, or the “Maroons”. Interchangeably, like the Tigers and the Plainsmen at Auburn. Why aren’t they called the Maroons anymore? I have to generate SOME interest in Miss State.
After the First Game- The Bulldogs beat Southern Miss 49-0 to open the season. Beating a team that hasn’t won a game since Larry Fedroa left, and this is his second or third year at North Carolina, doesn’t account for much. We’ll hold off on our opinion of MSU.
7.    Arkansas- It’s hard not to feel sorry for Arkansas. They were riding high, thinking championships, when everything, motorcycle (with Arkansasundocumented passenger) included, came crashing down. Bobby Petrino really did a number on them. After he was fired, John L. Smith took over and the vaunted Razorbacks, expected to contend for the SEC West title, won a total of 4 games. Then the Athletic department went up North to the Great White North conference and hired Bret Bielema, who hadn’t a clue how the SEC works, and they won a total of 3 games in ’13. They lost every single SEC game they played. The worst part of all this is that, after listening to Bielema in the off-season, he is refusing to accept the fact that coaching in the SEC is different from up north in the GWN. Why bring in a carpetbagger? The first thing that needs to happen is for Bielema to change his attitude, learn, give Urban Meyer a call. We encourage him to do so. The Hogs need help on offense. These are not the offensive line hogs we refer to in all other articles, these are the Razorback Hogs of the University of Arkansas. Soooooeeeeee, Pig! Sooeee! QB Brandon Allen is expected to recover from his injury last year, but who knows if he can lead. Running backs will be the focal point of the “O”. Alex Collins made a name for himself as a freshman, rushing for over 1,000 yards. The Line replaces two but if they don’t show major improvement from last year, they might as well replace all five. The receivers don’t have a game breaker and they could use one. Defensively, the Hogs got beat down, they were out-manned and by the second half they were completely worn out. They’ve got to get bigger, stronger and find some speed. Last year after they lost to Rutgers, they got blown out of the following games. Then, in their last three games, against Ole Miss, MSU, and LSU, they played better. Against LSU they lost by only 4, so there was improvement.
After the First Game- Yep, Bielema hasn’t learned a thing. They hung in there until halftime, 21-21, then Auburn ran away with it. The Hogs defense was gassed by the third quarter and they have no depth to relieve anyone. It’s going to be a long time before the Razorbacks regain respectability, much less win an SEC game. Too bad, they made the SEC West even more fun when they were good.

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