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Cigars & Football – A Simple Blend


Welcome to the South, were college football is a way of life. It’s not that people love the game or that everyone down here follows along. It’s. A. Way. Of. Life. Autumn is the season where the South shines. Football season involves great cook -outs, family gatherings at stadiums, where there is unwavering support for their schools, where daughters never schedule their weddings on game days. Stadiums are more on the line of cathedrals, where the SEC Network is not just another channel but THE channel. FOOTBALL IS KING!

140Georgia– If Georgia ever wants to get back to the SEC Championship game, this is the year. IF they do not win the East, they’ll have no one to blame but themselves – or Tennessee, or South Carolina, or Missouri, or Florida, or Kentucky. They should handle Vanderbilt. In other words there cannot have any melt-downs, like last year against Florida. It just cannot happen. The Dawgs have to replace their QB, so what, just about every team in the SEC has to replace their QB. Brice Ramsey was the backup last year and did pretty well when called upon. But there is Faton Bauta, a junior with a big arm who is getting some press about overtaking Ramsey for the job. Whoever it is, he’s going to have one of the best setups that one could ask for. Behind him will be Nick Chubb, who burst onto the scene last year when he replaced Todd Gurley, and, boy, oh boy, did he replace Gurley. Chubb is considered the top running back in the SEC and he just might be. There is still Keith Marshall, who, in third place, did very well racking up yards. Basically, the backfield is solid, as in, extremely solid. The Offensive line has four returning starters and the replacement will be at center. But UGA has plenty of big ugly lineman that are chomping at the bit to be the replacement. The passing game is a question mark. The two top receivers have had trouble with ACL injuries. The other ball catchers are young and untested. The biggest question mark is the new Offensive Coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer. He is making the change from the NFL to the college ranks. How is he going to do? Not so sure, don’t know of any team in the NFL that he was with where they set the world on fire offensively. The last great OC of the NFL that came to the college ranks was Charlie Weis. Needless to say, Coach Weis did not do well. The Bulldog defense did very well last year against the run, except for two games, Florida and Georgia Tech. What happened in the Florida game no one, and we mean NO ONE, knows. This year they have to replace two lineman, but nose tackle Chris Mayes played so much last year he was practically a starter. Two linebackers need to step up to fill in but when was the last time it was said UGA was weak in linebackers? They haven’t been, and they won’t be this year, either. Passing against Georgia is going to be tough, as in, very tough. They return their stars and last year they kept opposing teams under 170 yards per game average. Top to bottom, this team is set for success, but they have to do is go out on the field and prove it! The schedule is going to be tough, as they play against Alabama and Auburn from the west. They should beat Auburn but they’re going to fall against Alabama. I might be a little biased, though. If they start thinking too highly of themselves, as they’ve done in the past, they’ll fall short again.

Ok, who’s second? WHO KNOWS!!! This is where the SEC East drops a bit. South Carolina could be second, but they were loaded last year and let it all slip away. Tennessee is doing well, but they have no depth, and no offensive line. Florida with a new coach, they have defensive talent, but very little proven offense. Missouri has won the last two years, but needs to replace a load of talent. Kentucky and Vanderbilt aren’t even close. However, don’t count Kentucky out too quickly.

South Carolina– Why not the Gamecocks. If they’re anything, they are unpredictable. They just might rise up and take the East. Replacing QB is,164 of course, on their checklist, but they might have the right guy for Coach Spurrier’s offense in Connor Mitch. He is a pro-style, drop back passer, who is smart and able to spread the ball around. Even if he is the starter, don’t forget he can be pulled from a game in a heartbeat. USC-South will have Brandon Wilds as the featured back. Last year he had four 100-yard games, but he’s going to have to have those type of games against tough teams. Running up stats against The Citadel and the like is not going to cut it. The offensive line has three returning starters from a line that let the team down several times last year. The offensive line has to become stronger and meaner. They need to at least be respectable. Passing is something that is going to happen with the Old Ball Coach. They’ve got talent with star receiver Pharoh Cooper, who was an All-SEC selection last year, but he’ll need help and the youngsters must get better. Defense;- sometimes, while watching USC-South games, one had to sit and stare at the screen, look around to see is you’re the only one that saw this catastrophe, and then stare again with a look of bewilderment on your face. Sometimes they were good, other times …not so much. They brought in two new defensive coordinators to try and rebuild the defense. The Gamecocks were terrible against the run, they were more like matadors when trying to stop the run. The front seven will have size, as they have beefed up, and the Gamecocks recruited some great big guys. Pass defense was where they’d miss assignments and give opposing team free touchdowns. They have returning personnel but they’re going to have to do FAR better.


081Tennessee– has Joshua Dobbs returning at Quarterback. VOL nation cheered. He was just a freshman last year, so there wasn’t any doubt about his returning. He’s smart, composed, and a proven leader. The Vols are going to do everything they can to keep him healthy. He’ll provide them with at least one extra win this year. Another Freshman, Jalen Hurd, will be returning to build on his solid year. He’s a bruiser of a back and likes to run through people instead of around them. They also have a JUCO transfer to provide him with some breathing time. The rest of the backs have some game time, but very little. The biggest weakness of the offense is the line. They have four starters returning, but this was a line that struggled all last season. They were the weakest of all the teams in the SEC . By the second half of their games it was obvious that they were tired. They might be better in 2015, but they’re still one of the smallest lines and they’re expected to struggle again this year. Dobbs as a passer he was mostly mediocre. Some of that can be attributed to him having to run for his life whenever he dropped back to pass. True enough. In 2015 he’ll need to be quicker using his arm instead of his feet. If he doesn’t improve in passing, it won’t take long for him to be subject to a season-ending injury. VOL fans will cry. Howard and North are going to do their best to provide Dobbs with reliable targets. Howard came on strong last year, but his play plateaued a bit as the season went on. He needs to toughen up more if he wants to help out. Von Pearson was expected to contribute but he was suspended indefinitely for sexual assault. He should be kicked off the team. Defense, Tennessee did okay against weaker teams but didn’t fare well against the big boys. The stats say they were middle of the pack within the SEC East. To improve in the win column they’re going to need their defense to do better. They don’t have many players to replace, but, then, the returning players didn’t really shine last year. The biggest problem they’ll have on the defensive line is depth. In a time when the game moves so fast, the need to rotate defensive lineman is a necessity, and Tennessee does not have the troops to rotate in. Butch Jones is doing well as the coach and has the program on the road to recovery, but they still have a ways to go.

Missouri- Since making the switch to the SEC East, Coach Pinkel has done a remarkable job. The past two years the Tigers- Missouri variety, 198have made it to the SEC championship game. They didn’t fare well in either of them, but they were there. For Mizzou to win the East this year, Georgia needs to shoot themselves in the foot at least once, and they very well might. Maty Mauk returns as QB. He has started more games than all but two QBs in the entire SEC. Last year Missouri would do very well at times, then they would flat-out stall, and they would do both several times in the same game. Consistency was not their trademark. UM is replacing all their receivers, every single one of them. Of their replacements, not one has caught more than five passes. Mauk, who struggled last year in the passing game, is going to have to improve with the greenest crop of receivers he’s ever had. Hopefully, their running game will be better. RB Russell Hansbrough will be the workhorse in the Spread offense. He did pretty well last year, but this year the spot light will be on him. Let’s hope he’s in shape because it doesn’t look like anyone’s going to spell him effectively. If he goes down, it will be bad. Of course, Georgia said that about Gurley last year, and Nick Chubb showed up. The Offensive line returns all five starters, Yippie! They didn’t all start at the same time last year, mind you, so there will some guys playing new positions. The shuffling of lineman has three games to get sorted out. Defense has always been Missouri’s strength, more importantly, their ability to get into the backfield from the edge. They have to replace both ends. The rest of the line also has to be replaced. BUT the linebackers and secondary are all returning. Throwing the ball against these Tigers might be a bit difficult. Running against them seems the way to go. If Mizzou can get everything sorted out, and if they gel nicely, and if no one gets injured, they could make a run for the third SEC east title. That’s a lot of “if’s”.

098Florida- It’s been five year since the Gators were a force in the SEC and fans down in the Swamp said, “That is enough!” Coach Will Muschamp was let go and Head Coach Jim McElwain was brought in from Colorado State. Before he was coaching the Rams, he was the offensive coordinator for Alabama, where he did rather well. When McElwain arrived at CSU they had gone 9-27. Under his tutelage, they went 10-2. That’s improvement. Gator Nation is hoping and praying for a one year turn around in Gainesville. That is not going to happen, but there will be improvement. First and foremost will be improvement of their offense. Under Muschamp, the offense was treated like a red-headed step child. Finding a QB will be difficult, as last year’s starter, Jeff Driskel, transferred to Louisiana Tech. This leaves Sophomore Harris and redshirt freshman Grier to battle it out. The strength of the O lies in their receivers. They’re probably the most experienced group on the entire team. The offensive line is inexperienced, as in they have only one upperclassman. Did the Gators not recruit anyone the last couple of years? In all honesty, the offense is going to be young and inexperienced. They’ll play tough but don’t expect too much. The defense, which, believe it or not, was actually pretty good last year, like, against Georgia. They will be relied upon to hold teams under 10 points, cause the offense is going to struggle to put up points. In the unlucky category, they draw Ole Miss and LSU from the West, plus they have that final game against Florida State, and in October they have that great big Cocktail party. Might be a down year.

Kentucky– Came out of the gates on fire last year! They were playing everyone tough and winning! They took 235Florida, in the Swamp, to overtime, and they should have won that game. After going 5-1, something went wrong. The Wildcats didn’t win another game the rest of the season. The closest they came in those last six games was against Missouri, where they only lost by ten. When they fell off the wagon, they fell hard. To correct their problem, whatever it was, they brought in a new OC who has totally overhauled every aspect of the offense. From the way the QB drops back, to the way the line blocks, even the way they communicate. Everything has changed. It will be a hurry-up, fast-paced, pass-happy offense. (big shock, everyone is doing that) The O-line has everyone returning but they were so out-manned last year that they couldn’t keep up with the grind of the season. Running backs;- will UK run the ball? Maybe. They do have three returning backs with experience, but under the new offensive scheme it’s a question mark how they’ll be used. The Defense had two NFL caliber ends last year who made an impact. They are both gone and the Cats do not have anyone to replace them. They do have ends and they plan on using all of them but none are even close to the same caliber. The Secondary on defense in the first six games were outstanding. In the last six, it was obvious they didn’t have the gas to keep up. Which is pretty much the story at Kentucky. They have talent, and they do well, but they’re undersized and the grind of the season wears ‘em down. Hopefully, they’ll do better and go bowling. Looking the schedule, though, it might not happen again this year. I’ve got a feeling about the Wildcats. I could be wrong, we’ll see, but this bunch could be a pain in the neck for the rest of the SEC-East.

Vanderbilt- was riding high, three straight years of going to bowl games, they weren’t the doormat of the SEC anymore, people were actually looking up to the Commodores. Then 2014 happened. New Coach Derek Mason was brought in from Stanford to replace the departed James Franklin and things weren’t expected to change, but they did. Vandy fell, hard, going 3-9. The Dores were inconsistent on defense, they were inconsistent on offense, and they were inconsistent on special teams. New Coach Mason saw what was going on, fired his two coordinators, and changed the strength and conditioning program. So what went wrong? First, they could not settle on a quarterback, they played all four QB’s, and none of them did very well. Hopefully, one has separated himself from the pack by now. The running game was dismal, the backfield was young, and the offensive line didn’t open up many holes. The line returns, all but one, but they’ve got to do better. If they don’t, it won’t matter who the QB is. The defense returns all but three players, so the entire team actually returns. Plenty of experience, but that experience has to be tossed and they need to learn to do things the right (Mason) way. After one year, Mason’s name is being tossed around as being on the hotseat. The first season doesn’t usually make or break a coach, but if there is not major improvement, season two will be Mason’s last.

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