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Cigars & Football – A Simple Blend

Great White North West

The B1G Ten, as they like to call themselves, could be another indictment of what public education has become, or it could be another reason why common core math is SO bad. How else can a conference have 14 teams and still call themselves the Big Ten? What? The other 4 teams that joined aren’t as good as the originals? Here at we have solved this problem and taken all the numbers out of the equation. Makes it a lot easier to understand. Here at CSF we just refer to this conference as the “Great White North” Conference or GWN. This is because they are located in the northern part of the country where they are known to get a lot of snow. My choices were the Great White North or the Frozen North. It appears that just calling them the “Yankees” or the “Enemy” was wrong. If anyone ever asks why there is so much animosity between the GWN and the SEC it’s because these states all fought against each other over 150 years ago and neither side is willing to forgive and forget. Can’t say I blame them Good Ole Southern boys, but this is about those Damn Yankees.

The Western Division:

Wisconsin– The Badgers will be breaking in another new spokesman after Gary Anderson bolted for Oregon State. He did well in Madison, but Wisconsinwas just not happy, he wanted back in the Northwest, coaching football, without clearing everything with the REAL Wisconsin coach, Barry Alvarez. The Badgers turned to Paul Chryst, from Pitt, who was an assistant coach under Alvarez so he should be used to Alvarez’ constant monitoring. The “W’s” are coming off an 11-win season, they have lost a good bit of fire power, but should still have enough talent to win the weak GWN West. QB Joel Stave returns, but he’s not going to have superstar RB Melvin Gordon to bail the team out of trouble. Stave completed 53.4% of his passes with nine TD and 10 interceptions last year. Usually this would not matter as Wisconsin views the passing game as an unnecessary risk. They rely on the run, they favor GREAT big lineman that resemble Paul Bunyan pushing people out of the way. Only two of those offensive lineman return, the left tackle and center. There are some back-ups that have eaten a lot over the past year but they are untested on the gridiron. The Defense in ’14 was far better than most people realize, they held opponents to 126.1 yards per game rushing and only 168.0 yards per passing. But statistics can be deceiving, as they piled up these stats on weaker teams, by and large. When they played against the big boys, they didn’t fare so well. The secondary, which was very good against the pass, has most of their playmakers returning so opposing offenses should have trouble passing. Running the ball might be a bit easier. We’ll find out real fast how UW is adjusting to all this change as the start the season off with Alabama in Arlington, TX. Surprise! Surprise! Surprise! CSF is picking Alabama to win. But Wisconsin should do very well against the other Yankee schools as they avoid Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State and Michigan, at least until they face one of these in the championship game.

Minnesota– Most sports people are dismissing the Gophers because they don’t have the big name talents the other Yankee schools have. MinnesotaHowever, that’s not how Coach Jerry Kill operates. His staff is known for finding under-the-radar type players and developing them into great players, (see Bill Snyder at Kansas State). This is the fifth year with Kill’s system and they have shown they deserve to be reckoned with. They haven’t upset any of the traditional powers yet, but this could be the year. Returning QB is Mitch Leidner who runs the Gopher offense very well and can create plays with his feet. He’s got to do way better in the passing game, for a 51.5% completion rate is not going to get it done in today’s environment. Losing his star receiver and tight end will not make it any easier. They need to replace their leading rusher, but running backs in Minnesota are a dime a dozen, the Gophers have lots and lots of them, but they need to figure out the right combo. The entire starting offensive line returns. Receiving corps needs a couple of people to stand up and be counted. Most of the defense returns but at times last year they got beaten up pretty good. This year they need to be consistently good, no let ups. Only in the TCU game did this defense not have the Gophers in a position to win. Believe it or not, Minnesota was in a position where a bounce or two last year would have turned their season from a good one into a great one. They’re right on the cusp of making a statement. They either will or they won’t.

NebraskaNebraska– The Cornhuskers, under Head Coach Bo Pelini, who wore his hat like a dork, lost four games every year like clockwork. CSF has always said it’s because he wore his hat askew. The powers that be finally had enough of four losses per year. It wasn’t just the losses, but it was how they lost, and to whom. Big Red just couldn’t beat the upper echelon teams, and, as a matter of fact, they usually got spanked pretty good. New coach Mike Riley was invited in and he wants to change the Huskers over to a Pro-style offense. Most all the teams in the GWN need better QB play, and Nebraska is no exception. Maybe they need to look beyond last year’s retread and find an enthusiastic underclassman who wants to be their QB. Replacing RB Abdullah might not happen this year. They have two youngsters who got some playing time in 2014, mainly in mop-up, but they have to carry the load in ’15. The two returners on the line are the tackles;- it’s the interior that needs replacing. There is talent, Nebraska always has talent, but how are they going to do in the new scheme? Defense needs to improve, the noteworthy Blackshirts haven’s been around for years. New Defensive Coordinator Mark Banker, who came over from Oregon State, wants to make the defense more aggressive and get more turnovers. They concentrated on recruiting defensive players to make up for the lack of experience on that side of the ball. Coach Riley has his hands full. He needs to get the Bug Eaters (Huskers) to a GWN Championship. The fan base is loyal, but they are very demanding. CSF has doubts about whether Riley was the right hire. He didn’t set any records at Oregon State last year. New coaches get a one year grace period;- Coach Riley needs to use his time wisely.

Iowa– has been known for having a power running game. They lost bruiser back Mark Weisman, and the returning cast doesn’t have the ground470 power the Hawkeyes are known for. The QB situation got thrown into a quandry when C.J. Beathard was announced the starter before the spring game. This is after Jake Rudock threw for 16 TD’s in the previous season. Jake has since taken his talents to Michigan, – who can blame him? The offensive line will be replacing their tackles. Iowa, like Wisconsin, likes BIG lineman and this year will be no exception. The defense returns seven starters with outstanding end, Drew Ott, looking to make an impact. The secondary, which was outstanding last year, appears ready. The Hawkeyes are usually a “good” team, but after 17 years Head Coach Kirk Ferentz needs to produce a GREAT team. Everyone figures the Hawks will be competitive, but 8-5 is not going to save Ferentz’ job. I don’t think he’s got the horses to get that job done.

IllinoisIllinois– a riddle, wrapped in an enigma, surrounded by a mystery. Was that Churchill’s description of Russia? Look it up. It’s Illinois’ football team this year. In the past two years the Illini improved their win total by two, but if they do that this year, they’re going to have to upset a ranked GWN team, which is something Illinois hasn’t done since 2007, against Ohio State. The schedule has ample opportunities to achieve that goal. QB Wes Lunt was doing very well at the start of last year, but a broken leg against Purdue brought thay stardom to a screeching halt. It wasn’t the Boilermakers’ fault, they didn’t mean to do it, they don’t mean to hurt anybody. Lunt will have a good back to hand off to in Josh Fergueson, who averaged 5.0 yards per carry. WR Mike Dudek was expected to have a breakout season but suffered an ACL tear in the spring. Hope springs eternal in the fact they think he’ll be back in time for the season. How he’ll perform will be another matter. The offensive line, which was a bit porous, has three returning starters. They need to improve at protecting the QB and allowing him time to read his receivers. The Defense gave up a GWN high of 34 points per game. With seven returning starters they hope to improve. Really, they can’t get much worse. The Illini should qualify for a bowl, but upsetting a ranked team….there’s always next year.

Northwestern– I don’t expect a lot out of the Wildcats. Last year their running game was spotty, and that’s being generous. They have some Northwesternbacks with potential, but they don’t have any that can break a game open. Quarterbacking was just bad. They only averaged 5.71 yards per attempt in passing the ball! Maybe Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald should make a trip down to Georgia Southern and learn how they run their offense, they’re not known to pass very much. Defense surrendered over 210 yards rushing in more than half their games. They need to get better. The front seven do have returning linebackers and hopefully the experience they’ve gained will allow for much needed improvements. The schedule is not favorable, and the Wildcats will be favored in only one game;- when they play Purdue. Hopefully, this union thing is behind them, but once some guys start thinking like that, it’s amazing how many ways they can come up with to circumvent the law.

PurduePurdue- Oh, poor Purdue, what is there to say about the Boilermakers? They weren’t very good rushing, and they weren’t very good passing. Maybe their punting is superior. The Engineers will be replacing their top two running backs. They are going to change to a faster-paced offense;- couldn’t hurt. They have two returning lineman, senior Robert Kugler, at center, and LT David Hedelin. The best way to describe the offense is that they are young. The defense was mostly a sieve, they didn’t stop anyone, they just delayed the inevitable. In two seasons Darrell Hazell has produced four wins, 20 losses. They won’t be favored in any of their games. Looks grim, Coach. Wonder if you can pull off another miracle like you did at Kent State that ONE year? I doubt it.

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