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Cigars & Football – A Simple Blend

Week One Preview- 2015

Christmas morning is special. Even when you’re an adult Christmas morning is a special time. The real reason for the season is the birth of Jesus Christ, of course, but, as a child, it was all about Santa Claus and waking up early in the morning to see what had magically appeared overnight. Santa was real back then and that meant that all the stories about Christmas were real, too. The anticipation was agonizing. It was both wonderful and terrible. Christmas morning has taken on a new meaning since I’ve gotten older. I still love it but that magical feeling of pleasant surprise now comes on the first Saturday of College Football Season! Come Sept. 5th Santa Claus will have arrived and given me an entire day of football games, tailgating, cheerleaders, Kickoffs, hard hits, qb sacks, turnovers, Touchdowns, and Roll Tide! It’s College Football season, the wait is over, spring training and all the reports that came in were nice morsels, but they couldn’t satisfy an addict’s appetite. The hot, long days of summer are over. Football is here! It’s a Wonderful Life!

310Stanford vs. Northwestern– The first Power 5 game of the day. No, Northwestern is not in the top 25, and more than likely will not even come close to cracking the top 25. Stanford will be looking to jump start its come back year. Last year was a step back for the Cardinal. They went 8-5, 5-4 in the conference, and didn’t upset the Ducks. They’re more than happy to put that year in the record books and move forward. They are looking for improvement from QB Kevin Hogan. The Virginia native is poised to have a breakout third year. The rushing attack will mainly fall to Christian McCaffrey. He came on strong at the end of 2014. Stanford will still use their running by committee approach, but McCaffrey should be the focal point. Defense has been the Cardinal strength for the past five years. They have some depth issues in the line, but the linebacking corps will be solid. It’s going to be difficult for Northwestern to move the ball against this defense. Northwestern had three glaring weakness in 2014, 1) passing accuracy;- 57% completed passes, most were short passes. 2) Third down conversions;- 40%, that’s below the failing mark, and, 3) QB sacks;- that is, allowing the sacks. 94 negative yards net for the season for the QB. Players have been switched around in the offensive line, and this might take some time to settle in. They’re going to need to protect the QB better because they’ve got to stretch the field more than they did last year. In 2014 they only had 34 plays longer than 20 yards;- only two Division I teams did worse. If the Wildcats can’t complete some passes, some longer-than-five-yard passes, it’s going to be a long day against Stanford. Look for Stanford to win the game with a more balanced attack. Northwestern may have some success running the ball early, but later in the game, the Cats will stall. Stanford wins.

Louisville vs. Auburn– Last year the Cardinals, not to be confused with the Cardinal talked about above, won with defense. They might have had134 the toughest defense in the ACC, and they could have it again this year. They didn’t get blown out by anyone and in the games they lost, they were close. The front seven of the ‘Ville will be formidable again this year. They can stop the run and put pressure on the QB. Saturday they’ll be the key to the game. If the front seven can stop, or slow down the run, and put pressure on the new QB, it will upset the Tigers’, Alabama variety, game plan. The Cardinals’ offense lost most of the their veterans, but this is a Bobby Petrino coached team;- they’re going to score, they may struggle (and its kind-of expected that they will), but if they’re able to smooth out some of the wrinkles by the second half, they could test the new defense of the Plainsman severely. Muschamp could end up earning his hefty paycheck. Last year they played four different quarterbacks, so it’s going to be a surprise for everyone when the offense takes the field. Auburn, there has been plenty of ink flowing over the expectations of this team. Some have them winning the SEC, going to the playoffs, and winning it all. CigarSmokinFootball, isn’t buying it. Auburn put up plenty of points in 2014, but this year they’re starting a new QB, they have to replace their star running backs, and three offensive lineman. The War Eagle defense was not good last year. They gave up a ton of points and and a lot of yards. They outscored most opponents since stopping them was not an option. Muschamp cut his teeth on defense, and even as Florida was collapsing all around him, the Gators’ defense was solid. They should do well against a Louisville offense that may struggle for the first part of the year, so this is a good game for them to cut some teeth on. CSF pick- Auburn. Louisville defense will keep the game closer than Auburn fans like, but in the end, Tigers probably win. But I hope not. (Hope is never a course of action).

593BYU vs Nebraska– Last year the Cougars came out with their tails on fire, winning their first four games in impressive fashion. Then, in the second quarter, against Utah State, the snap heard around the State of Utah happened. BYU QB Hill broke his leg, and, with it, the hopes and dreams of the Cougars. It took BYU four games to steady themselves, by which time the lightning they had caught in a bottle had fizzled out. Tayson Hill was completing almost 70% of his passes and was a huge threat running the ball – until that snap. Jamaal Williams was a great complement for Hill’s abilities. Williams is now 930 yards away from becoming BYU’s all-time leading rusher. He would have been closer but at the end of the 2014 season he went down with a knee injury. Both of these offensive stars are back. Everyone else returns on offense and they need to recapture the genie in the bottle they had before. If they do, BYU is going to be tough to stop. Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall has taken over the defense…again. According to him, the defense has higher expectations and demands. He is setting the bar higher than they’re used to. Saturday will be a good test for them as Nebraska is breaking in a new coach and new offense. Nebraska might find itself on the losing end Saturday. Even if they had the coach that wears his hat funny, like a dork, they still might lose Saturday. This year the Bugeaters are switching to a Pro-Style offense even though they don’t have the players for it. Returning starter Tommy Armstrong is counted on to be a pocket passer in 2015. Last year he completed only 53% of his passes. If you count the times he was supposed to throw the ball but decided to run instead, that average would be down in the 20% Range. Now he’s got to start off the new season with a new offense. It’s going to be a long day for the passing game. Rushing has always been the Cornhuskers’ strength and will be again this year. They have two experienced backs in Newby and Cross, expected to carry most of the load. The biggest concern is in the line where only left tackle Alex Lewis returns. He is an All-American candidate and very good, but he’s going to need the new guys to help him out. Against the Cougars’ defense, the Huskers have a size advantage and should be able to establish their running game. The Defense needs to regain the aura of being the Black Shirts, something that hasn’t been around for years. BYU will attack from every angle, so the Nebraska new-look team needs the old-look Black Shirts handling their defense. BYU’s offense is going to move the ball. Nebraska has the size advantage on offense and should be able to run – some. Both teams will score, but CSF is calling for the upset, BYU wins.

601Arizona State vs. Texas A&M– In one of the premier games of the day, the Sun Devils travel to Houston to meet the Aggies! This should be one of the best games of the day. Arizona State has their best team in years. Their qb, Mike Bercovici, who started several games last year, is a better passer than predecessor Taylor Kelly. But do they have the receivers to complement Bercovici? Their star WR Jaelen Strong went to the NFL a year early and Cameron Smith was sidelined last year after knee surgery. To help the receiving corps, D.J. Foster moves over to slot receiver. Wait a minute! Wasn’t Foster the star running back last year? Yes, he was. How are they going to run the ball? Well, they have three really good backs to take his place. Kalen Ballage, who is a hybrid out of the backfield, he can run and catch, brusier back will be Demario Richard, he’s the biggest back they have, and then Gump Hayes is just flat-out fast. If the two new tackles for ASU are as good as advertised, this offense will be the most potent the Sun Devils have ever had. Defensively, they had to replace the line. It’s going to take a while for this to shake out. The secondary and the linebackers are set. ASU has five linebackers 042rotating in and out of the game and all of them are good. Passing against the Sun Devils will be difficult. A&M relies on their passing game. Something’s gotta give. Arizona State wants the nation to fear the fork;- they might have the team to do it. The Aggies have the prestige of the SEC resting upon them. At the end of last year, pundits said that the PAC-12 had finally surpassed the SEC. They will be looking at this game to see if they’re right. “Come on A&M, don’t let us down!” Kyle Allen was a freshman back-up last year and he didn’t like it, so he took advantage of his opportunity when it presented itself and he never looked back. This kid is special, he’s got an arm and he can read defenses. If he can avoid the sophomore slump the Aggies should have a great year. A&M has receivers and they love their passing game. If they could throw the ball every down, that would suit them just fine. But, alas, they can’t. They have to learn how to run the ball. Tra Carson and Brandon Williams return, and they’ll try to improve upon their production. The offensive line didn’t help out much last year, allowing 27 sacks, and was, were, dismal on short yardage and third down conversations. They’ve been working on it, Coach Sumlin promised the line will do better. Defensively, they’re like Nebraska, they used to have a defense with the cool name, “The Wrecking Crew”. They have become just a shell of that name. Their greatest wreck was their own bonfire a coupe of years ago. They hired John Chavis away from LSU to fix this. Chavis focuses on getting pressure up field from his Defensive Ends. A&M has two good ones;- Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall are primed for huge seasons. If the defensive ends can get the pressure Chavis wants, then A&M might stop some folks. The linebackers and the rest of the line need to prove, too. They’ve bulked up and are ready. They’re going to get their chance to show how much they’ve improved. Both of these teams can move the ball. ASU is loaded for bear while A&M appears to be in more of a rebuilding mode. Hopefully, TAMU will prove to be further along than expected. The experts are picking Arizona State to win this game, but, since I’ve been informed by my wonderful daughter, that starting next year I’ll be writing checks to A&M, I might as well start pulling for them. Arizona State may win, but I’m pulling for Texas A&M.

017Wisconsin vs. Alabama- In the marquee game of the night, and in the Sutton household THE marquee game of the day, the Wisconsin Badgers collide with the Crimson Tide of Alabama. Wisconsin is in a situation it didn’t expect to be in when they scheduled this game. Gary Anderson, after completing just his second year at Madison, jumped ship and left for Oregon State. To replace him, Barry Alvarez hired Paul Chryst, a former Badger assistant, to lead the way. Chryst has to replace three offensive lineman with backups that are very young. They have a fifth year quarterback, Joel Stave, coming back, but he has to improve his passing consistency. They have to replace Melvin Gordon, who rushed for 2,587 yards last year. For a team that doesn’t rely much on the passing game, this task looks formidable. But all is not lost! The premier recruits the Badgers have had in the past several years have been top-tier lineman. If the young talent steps up and produces against the best front seven in all of college football, it might not be that bad. The defense caught a break when they were able to keep Coordinator Dave Aranda. He has done a good job with the defense but against big time programs the Badgers have stumbled. Last year Wisconsin played LSU and lost by only four points. The defense will have to be a lot better than last year, they’re going to be tested. Alabama has not started off their past two years with a bang. They just barely escaped against West Virginia in Atlanta last year. Now they take on a Wisconsin team that is expected to win the Great White North West division. If the Tide slacks off, they’re going to lose this game (and ruin my Saturday night)(and Sunday morning)(and, ….). The Running game is going to be the focus for both teams, but the advantage has to go to Alabama. Derrick Henry gets his chance to be the number one back and he’s determined to make the best of it. So much so that he wakes up in the middle night just so he can get some push-ups in. He’s big and strong and fast and durable and he likes to run over people. To spell him will be Kenyan Drake, who is just flat-out fast. He’s recovered from his leg injury of last year, and this tandem will be difficult to stop. Who will be the quarterback? It’s a moot point that has generated a lot of press. Coker is the hands-on favorite to win the starting job, but CSF says it’s not going to matter much because all five would be starting at other schools. They’re good. Replacing the corps of receivers is a daunting task. All the receivers except Tight end Howard will be brand new. OC Lane Kiffin has his work cut out for him. Confidence is high that the offense will perform. Defense is the strength of Bama and the front seven it projected to be the best in the nation. They’ll going to have to prove it Saturday against Wisconsin. Wisconsin runs the ball. If this Alabama seven wants to make a statement, this is their chance. Two ends putting pressure on the QB, interior lineman who take up a lot of space and linebackers who are fast and show up with a bad attitude. The hype has been that Alabama wants other teams to fear their defense again. In the off season they worked on creating turnovers, it’ll be interesting to see if they can produce against a running team like Wisconsin. The Badgers have more questions than Alabama does. The Crimson Tide is our pick to win (Duh!);- their running game of Henry and Drake will be too much for the “W’s” to handle. But, as stated before, if Alabama doesn’t show up determined to win, or puts the ball on the ground, they could lose this game. Wisconsin ain’t going to give the Tide a free pass, just cause they’re the Tide. In fact, the Badgers will play with abandon because they’re playing the Tide. I will be heartbroken if Bama loses, but they could. Roll Tide!!

Upset Pick-. Georgia Southern will upset West Virginia. The Eagles are not aware that they are supposed to be a push over. They played NC State and Georgia Tech last year and lost by four against Tech and by one to NC State. This team is much better and hungrier than the Mountaineers.

North Alabama– For those unaware, this is my alma mater where I played college football. The Lions travel to Birmingham, AL, to take on Miles309 College. UNA returns 15 starters from ’14 that went 9-2 and were co-champions of the Gulf South Conference. They are also ranked 16th in the nation in Division II. Miles College is coached by former North Alabama All-Americans Reginald Ruffin and Ronald McKinnon. UNA holds an 8-0 record against Miles College. Roar Lions!

Other Games-

Virginia vs. UCLA– Bruins win, but it’ll be closer than last year.

Bowling Green vs. Tennessee- Vols win, but it won’t be a gimmee.

Louisiana Lafayette vs. Kentucky– Wildcats should win, but don’t be surprised if the Cajuns pull the upset

Texas vs. Notre Dame– If the Longhorns had a tolerable qb, they’d win, but they don’t, so the Irish accept the gift.

Texas State vs. Florida State– going out on a limb, Seminoles win.

Eastern Washington vs Oregon– Ducks win. (wouldn’t it be something if the Eagles avenged their former teammates’ betrayal, joining the enemy?)

Mississippi State vs. Southern Miss– Bulldogs win, but they might have more of the Eagles then they care for.

Ohio State vs. Virginia Tech– Buckeyes exact revenge on the Hokies.

Duke vs. Tulane- in the words of Hilary, “What difference does it make?”

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