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Cigars & Football – A Simple Blend

ACC Coastal – Division

In the Coastal Division of the ACC things are bit different. Last year the only team that performed as predicted was Virginia and they finished last. North Carolina came on like gangbusters, Georgia Tech just let me down. Figured the Yellow Jackets would do a whole lot better. Now this division has hired three new head coaches and all of them have given their respective programs a needed shot of enthusiasm.

460North Carolina– Last year the Tar Heels took on South Carolina in its opening game, losing that contest put a damper on their entire season. They ripped off wins in all the rest of their games but that loss just hung over their head. Then they should have been awarded that onside kickoff against Clemson. Not saying they would have beaten the Tigers but they would have had a chance. So it was no surprise that they lost to Baylor in the Citrus Bowl. Since they’ve shown the world they can win, they have to follow it up. Winning the Coastal Division would prove they’re not just a flash in the pan. They have to break in a new QB but Back Up Mitch Trubisky has been with the program for the past three years, he knows this system. Besides all he’ll have to do is hand the ball to Elijah Hood and watch him run behind four returning offensive lineman. The Heels have plenty of explosive players returning and should have no problem scoring plenty of points. The big question is can they stop anyone? Last year they didn’t actually stop teams as much as they just held them up for a while. They were very susceptible to the running game, as they allowed 247 yards per game on the ground. That’s not good! But even with a sieve of a defense they won 11 straight games. Not bad. If the defense improves they should be able to do much better. They do have Florida State on the schedule but if you want to be considered one of the big boys you’ve got to win the big ones. Its time to shut up and put up. Lets see what they do.

Pittsburgh– Yes you are reading that right, The Pitt Panthers are my pick for second in the Coastal and I wouldn’t be surprised if they won the IMG_7848whole darn thing. Ok, that’s a fair question, I’ll tell you why I think that. Pitt has always been a team on the cusp of breaking through but they just never had “it” to get over that hump. Head Coach Narduzzi has instilled a never say die attitude in a team that needed it. In the regular season they were not blown out and darn near pulled the upsets. Now they’ve got a few more key players back from injury and few more keys into unopened locks. Most importantly they have a defense that was pretty good last year. Not saying they’ll be challenging Alabama for the defensive title anytime soon but they’re still good. AND they have eight returning starters. They keep playing hard nose defense and they’ll stop most ACC opponents in their tracks. Look for the Panthers to beat Penn State in the second game of the season, that will propel them to more victories. If they can Beat North Carolina at Chapel Hill, they’ll win the division. They fall in that game, they’ll place second.

244-2Georgia Tech– Ok the Yellow Jackets were going to win the ACC last year but ended up with a losing record questions have been soaring about them since. Even though they had plenty of returning players in the back field they had none on the offensive line and it showed. Number one rule in Football: “Games are won or lost in the trenches!” If you don’t have the personnel who can handle the hand-to-hand combat the game is lost. Now these young Stingers have had a year to learn and recover from their mistakes. They’ve got this Paul Johnson system now, HC Johnson has never had a team down long and he’s not going to start now. The returning starters in the backfield will help. The defense was middle of the road at best, they do lose most of their secondary but they return the defensive line. The schedule is not dauting but they’ve got their challenges. GT is better than most people think, they were better last year than what they showed. Look for them to surprise a lot of people.

Miami– Every sportswriter in the nation is picking the Hurricanes to be back in the driver’s seat and finally win the ACC. They are just enthralled with the hire of Mark Richt from Georgia. They’ll tell anyone that is listening that he averaged 9.7 victories per year with the Dawgs. So why fourth? Because he won 9.7 games per year at GEORGIA not Miami! He hasn’t coached a down in South Florida and the Hurricanes are a team in disarray. They have talent yes, but not the type of talent they’ve had in the past and not the type of talent Richt had in Georgia. QB Kaaya is supposed to be the Bee’s Knees, but he hasn’t show that yet. He’s done good but being that leader that takes the team and makes them better he just hasn’t shown that. He’ll have good receivers and a running back or two. But the O-Line is what has to improve. Luckily they return all five starters, but they have to learn a new system, new everything and that means most of what they learned last year, will not apply. Richt will win in Miami, and he’ll grab some spotlight wins, just not this year.


Duke– They’re supposed to lose again this year because they lost key players to graduation, their projected starter at QB went and ruptured his Achilles for the second time and is doubtful for the season, PLUS they lose two offensive lineman. But these darn Blue Devils have learned how to win and they like it! Besides, I thought they’d lose last year and they proved me wrong. What’s that saying, “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.” Since I don’t want any more shame placed upon me, I’m not picking the Blue Devils to finish last. They’ll win enough games to go to a bowl game and who the heck knows they just might win another one! Coach Cutcliffe has been building a winning program for a while and its taken root. They’re not going back to those losing ways.

IMG_7808Virginia Tech– Justin Fuente was lured away from the Memphis lights for the mountains for Blacksburg, VA. He was a sexy hire and there were plenty of schools that wanted him, after all if he could win at Memphis surely he can win anywhere! Not. So. Fast. Fuente is a good coach and he will win, just not this year. First things first, he must find a QB that fits he’s style of offense. In the City on the Bluff (Memphis for non-southerns) he had a guy named Paxton Lynch, and he was great! Gonna need to grab another one of those QB’s, and right now VA Tech doesn’t have one. Brewer graduated but he was no gunslinger and all that’s left are guys who were expected to hand the ball off more than throw it. This is a year of transition, maybe a two year transition. The Hokies are going to win a few and they do have that great big game in Bistol, TN, at a race track against Tennessee, which would be awesome if they could pull that upset! But kind-of doubt they will. It might be too much to ask for him to keep the 23 year bowl streak going.

IMG_7842Virginia– The UVA has gotten tired of being last. They don’t like it, they just don’t like it. BUT they’re going to spend another year at the bottom. The stealing of Bronco Mendenhall away from BYU was a masterful stroke. Worthy of one of the most epic cat burglaries of all time. But he’s not going to turn them into a winner in one season. There are several pieces missing from the Cavaliers. First and foremost they have to stop shooting themselves in the foot. Stop the turnovers, and execute their assignments. Mendenhall has stressed accountability with this team, and that’s a good start. The Cavs have been competitive in the past couple of years but always fell short. Former HC London was known to be a very good recruiter, he was just never able to take that talent and turn them into a winning team. So the cupboard is not bare for the new coaching staff. The second game of the season is at Oregon, wanna make a statement win? This is the perfect opportunity.

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