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Cigars & Football – A Simple Blend

Pre-Week One Preview

The College Football season is fast approaching and, honestly, it can’t arrive here fast enough for most of us. There are many questions that need to be answered;- will Alabama redeem itself after suffering the pick play that gave Clemson the National Championship? Can the Tigers follow up their winning season after suffering so many loses from graduation? Can Michigan to win with all Harbaugh players? Is this the year J.T. Barrett finally plays up to his super hyped potential? Is the Big 12, that only has ten teams, gamble of having a championship game with only ten teams going to pay off? We DON’T KNOW! But every one of us is chomping at the bit to find out.

Before we get to the main course of the opening weekend, we will be treated to a couple of appetizers this weekend.

358Oregon State vs Colorado State– Last year the Beavers of the wooded Northwest lost their first three games, but then turned things around and won three conference games. Quite an improvement after not winning any in 2016. The powers-to-be were so glad they extended Head Coach Andersen’s contract. Now they are anticipating starting off the season with a win. To do this, they need to improve their most glaring problem; not blocking effectively. Ryan Nell is a very big running back who came into his own late last season, but he will need more effective blocking. If the O-line can bring about the sought-after improvement, look for Nell to have a big game. The Quarterback situation is a bit more iffy. Marcus McMaryion and Jake Luton were battling it out. McMaryion is the more mobile, with Luton being the pure pocket passer. Anderson named Luton as the starter, causing McMaryion to quickly announce his transfer. This might be a sign that the coaching staff believes in their offensive line. Here’s hoping they are right. The defense has experience, but can they stop the run and put pressure on opposing QBs? Last year they were not very good at either, ranking 10th in the PAC-12. They have players with potential, but none of them proved themselves in 2016. Questions, questions, questions….Anderson is known as a coach that can build programs, and there has been progress. If the Beavers begin with a win, it will cause them to believe in themselves.

Colorado State will be introducing a new stadium Saturday. It’s expected that all 40,000 seats will have occupants this Saturday. Coach Mike Bobo is expected to thrill the home crowd with an explosive offense, lead by gunslinger QB Nick Stevens, who led the Mountain West in passing efficiency last year. He’ll have plenty of targets to throw to as the receiving corps returns. Receiver Michael Gallup will be the number one guy as he had 1,272 receiving yards last year and 14 touchdowns. The offensive line has to replace a few positions. but even the replacements got some good playing time last year. The line is anchored by center Jake Bennett and tackle Zack Goldtich. With no drop in blocking expected, this will lead to a killer running attack since the Rams have three experienced running backs who played last year and combined for over 2,000 yards. The offense appears to be locked and loaded, many yards are expected, touchdowns should come in bunches, which is great news for CSU because their defense does not look very strong. They have nine returning starters, which, in most cases, would be an asset, but they are still young and spent last year getting banged around. If they learned from their bumps and bruises they could be tough. The premier returning star will be Linebacker  Deonte Clyburn, who missed all of last season. Someone once told me that, hope is not an effective plan, and that still rings true. The Rams should have little problem moving the ball on the Beavers, but they must avoid bogging down in the red zone. Oregon State is hoping to surprise us, but hope, as I said, is not an effective plan.


Next up, we have to travel to the Land Down Under, Sydney, Australia. G’day Mate!

14 Stanford vs Rice– Rice has been on a downward slide. Head Coach David Bailiff has had a commendable streak with the Owls over the past ten years. They have been to four bowl games, winning three of them. In 2013 they went 10-4 and Bailiff won Coach Of The Year honors. But things have changed. In the last three seasons their win total has declined each season. Multiple off-season changes to the coaching staff were made to address one of the worst defenses in the nation. The Owls allowed 7.4 yards per play in 2016. Improvement is the word of the day. Luckily, they will not have to worry about stopping Christian McCaffery, which is of little consequence. In the season finale against Stanford, Rice linebacker Emmanuel Ellerbee had a fantastic game, making 14 stops. He’ll be a rock this year as well. The offense has little to brag about, no returning quarterback or running backs, but they do have an experienced line, which, you guessed it, has potential. Should they live up to that potential, the Owls might be able to make a good game out of their time in the land of the platypus.

310Pre-season Number 14 Stanford has been one of the most consistent programs in the PAC-12 in the last ten years. They play smart ball control offense backed up with a bend but don’t break defense. True, they have to play without all star Christian McCaffrey, who, in the opinion of this writer, will not be forgiven for opting out of playing the final game for the Cardinal in the 2016 season. They do have several good running backs who need to have the a production by committee mindset if they want to match the production of their predecessor. There’s no doubt that they’ll produce, its just a matter of how much. The Quarterback situation might not have sorted itself out by the game time. There is the possibility that both Keller Chryst and Ryan Burns will see action Saturday. Playing two QB’s is seldom a good idea, but against Rice, this might be the time for Head Coach Shaw to make up his mind. The strength of the Cardinal has always been their defense. As the defense goes, so goes the team. (Very SEC thinking). Last year, this group ranked fourth within the PAC-12. They should have little problem matching that performance. Tackle Harrison Phillips was the leading sack master, with 6.5 in 2016. He has the ability to play anywhere on the D-line, and he’ll probably be used in that capacity. The secondary suffered from graduation losses and were bitten by the injury bug last year. They won’t scare opposing offensives, but they should be effective. Stanford should have little to no problem beating Rice, but winning the PAC-12 North this season could be a different challenge all together.

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