Wednesday, November 18, 2015

SEC Week 12 Picks

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Check back to last week's picks, which you can find here:

SEC Week 11 Picks

I went 2-4 thanks to some...interesting games. 

That brings the season to 20-15. That great lead on the spread has diminished mightily. I blame Gus Malzahn. 
Let's start with games that don't matter.

Tennessee at Missouri- Who would have thought that Missouri could pull an upset win, especially given everything that has happened. But, when I made my picks, Pinkel hadn't announced his retirement, and that was apparently reason to fire the team up. This week Tennessee visits Columbia and is an 8.5 point favorite. The Tigers offense is pitiful. The Vols are missing some big-time defensive players. That's a push. The question is, can the Vols score on Missouri. No one else has been able to score to win. I'll take Missouri in the upset. 

Mississippi State at Arkansas- Last year, the Hogs had two awesome back to back wins before dropping a toss-up game. Who was that to? Mississippi State. State showed its true colors against Alabama last week. Arkansas is a 3.5 favorite at home and playing as well as anyone in the country. Don't think last year's let down game will haunt them again. Take the Hogs and the points. 

Texas A&M at Vandy- It could be debated that Vandy is playing as good of defense as anyone, including East foe, Missouri. But, the Dores have found an inkling of offensive ability. TAMU has had as bad a fall from grace as anyone, Auburn included. But, the Aggies still open up as 6.5 point favorites. I think the traditional thinking is that eventually Sumlin and Co have to come out of their shell and start shelling defenses. Vandy has been awesome against the run, but the secondary hasn't been truly tested in terms of a true air-raid offense. While this is a dangerous game for both teams, I have to believe the Aggies will get the offense going and start putting up points.

LSU vs Ole Miss- Just two weeks ago, Ole Miss and LSU seemed to be set up for a showdown to settle the west. Well, Arkansas ruined all of that and put Alabama right back in the driver seat to Atlanta, making this game essentially a win-and-hope-Auburn-wins game for both teams. Ole Miss is a 4-point favorite. It's hard to get a reading on either of these teams, as they have fallen apart as of late. But, LSU has shown very little against premier foes, whereas Ole Miss has at least been in the games. I'll take Ole Miss and the points. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

SEC Week 11 Picks

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So, I completely forgot to do week 10 picks! Ugh. It's probably for the best because I wouldn't have gone with Auburn and Alabama winning in such a dominant fashion.

Moving on. Still at 18-11 since I didn't do those picks. I will do some bonus picks this week.

Alabama at Mississippi State- Alabama is coming off their best game in probably two years and opens as a 7 point favorite traveling to Mississippi State. Oft forgotten, State is still alive in the west. The Bulldogs are a long way from where they were in 2014, and while they aren't a top tier team, they have quietly put together a solid season. Their offense is very good, but the defense has managed to corral only one team under 10 points, Auburn. This is actually a very good matchup, as State has an extremely talented WR core that could exploit Alabama's defense. Additionally, the ability for Prescott to run and become a +1 hat on a hat runner spells trouble for Alabama. Additionally, Alabama's offense is woefully predictable. That isn't to say it isn't good, because it is good enough. But, the run-first Bama offense needs time to score points and cannot play from behind. State has given up 100+ yards on the ground three different times this year, but still won one of the three games. Even in a losing effort against LSU with Fournette getting 150 yards, State lost by just two points. 

Over the last three years, Alabama has followed the LSU game with a matchup against State twice. Those games over the last three years have seen the Tide outscore the Dogs 73-34. But, the gap has been closed the past two years following a 38-7 drubbing in 2012. It's tough to ever pick against Bama, but Bama has always struggled to cover the spread and State has been a tough team. I will go Mississippi State against the spread. 

Arkansas at LSU-Arkansas is right back where they were in 2014, coming on strong at the end of the year. Arkansas stuffed LSU in 2014 just a week after LSU lost to Alabama. LSU opens as an eight-point favorite at home. Aside from Alabama, Arkansas is the most equipped team in the SEC to fight LSU, especially at Baton Rouge. While one can point to a possible let down game from the Hogs or a revenge game for LSU, the situation is almost identicle to last year. While Arkansas isn't as good on defense as Alabama, obviously, I believe the Hogs are actually a better offense, especially in the second half. I am taking the Hogs in the upset. 

BYU at Missouri- I don't think there has ever been a team with such a wide disparity between the offense and the defense. The Tigers are the 4th best defense and the 4th worst offense. It's amazing that the defense can achieve that ranking despite being on the field as much as it does. An argument could be made that if ANY other offense in college football were paired with the Tigers defense, Missouri might be undefeated. But, they aren't. On the other side, BYU has reeled off 5 consecutive unconvincing wins. Last week's 17-16 win against San Jose State is the closest thing to an SEC opponent, other than Michigan, that they have played. BYU is five point favorite. I can't take Missouri, no matter what the spread looks like, because they just can't score. Add in this issue with their players....BYU and the points

Kentucky at Vandy- Vandy is playing some serious defense, aside from being blasted by Houston. Vandy is a 3.5 point favorite in this matchup in Nashville. The 'Cats have been shredded in the last few weeks on defense while the offense has faltered. That shouldn't be a surprise, as it has been the hallmark of the Stoops era. Towles has thrown 12 INTs to just 9 TDs, and that has been the story. Vandy is going to be fresh off a near loss to Florida where they lost 9-7. Vandy has been especially good against the run, but consider they haven't played a real run-first offense. Kentucky is far from a run-first team, but expect the 'Cats to ride Boom Williams to victory. I am taking Kentucky in the upset. 

Florida at South Carolina-Florida is laying 7.5 points to South Carolina. I don't think this game will be close. Florida may have had a near miss against Vandy, but Florida was sloppy after winning the game against UGA in Jacksonville. McElwain will clean that up and Florida will blast South Carolina. Take Florida and the points. 

Georgia at Auburn- Auburn has lost seven of the last ten matchups. In that rivalry, Auburn has never won two in a row(not applicable since UGA blasted Auburn in 2014). More to the point, UGA has won at least two in a row for every Auburn win. With that being said, most predictive tools have this a straight pick 'em. ESPN has UGA with a 51.3% chance to win, which is the closest I can ever recall. Vegas has the Tigers as a 1.5 point favorite, which is essentially a pick 'em as well. 

UGA is desperate for a win. Like Auburn, this was a team predicted to be in Atlanta in just a few weeks. Instead, they find themselves with multiple losses and an identity crises.  For the first time I can recall, neither team knows who will be playing QB. Unlike Gus Malzahn, Richt may well lose his job if he losses this game. 

Since giving up 38 points in back to back weeks, the UGA defense has turned up the heat. The best game, offensively, came this past week against UK as they scored 27 points. That's only three points shy of what Auburn put on the 'Cats. And, to be honest, Auburn should have put up more. UGA gives up right at 300 yards per game, including around 170 through the air. 

Auburn's defense has been improving, but their improvements are from "dreadful" to "porous." While the performance against TAMU was terrific, TAMU is in complete disarray.  On the flips side, while no one knows what QB will start, Auburn's gameplan is going to be to give the ball to Robinson and make short passes. Malzahn's willingness to rest Robinson in the second half of the TAMU game should be a large indicator of this week's game plan. While the QB play hasn't been very good, Auburn's receivers, especially the younger guys like Tony Stevens, have come along. I expect No. 8 to have a good day. 

Auburn wins and I will take the points. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Fishing Report for Wheeler 10/20/15

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One of the major benefits of having your fishing partner get a job where you work is being able to get in those late afternoon trips. 

However, the last two trips resulted in zero fish, though I did miss a super solid Wheeler beast while flipping a jig. You can see that in this video. 

Anyway, we put in at the Redstone Arsenal ramp after work and headed up river. Josh had a new 3 blade prop that he wanted to try out. When he hit the loud pedal, next to nothing happened. The boat refused to get on plane. I had to stand on the bow to get it to level off. We figure that there is a fueling issue somewhere, but regardless, that limited the fishing we could do. 

Water temp was 68 degrees. Water is about 3 feet low. Current was 46,000CFS. 

We started fishing the entrance to Ditto Landing, throwing a variety of baits. We ran in to some of our regular Thursday night Ditto Wildcat competition and we stopped to talk to them. They were working the downriver point and mentioned that they had caught around 15 fish, none over 12 inches, since 7AM that morning. Crazy, considering that there was 46,000 CFS being pulled from Guntersville on a beautiful day. I had one lone bite as my PowerTeam Lures 7" Tickler on a PTL Triple-X pea head was washed over rocks. 

Kind of a comedy of errors on my part, as I had loosened the drag on the 6'6" medium heavy rod and Citica baitcaster just days before on Smith lake. I had been using 8-pound line and fishing for magnum spots. After breaking off a 3 pounder, I backed off the reel. You can read about that trip here:

Fishing Report for Smith Lake 10/27/15

Well, I respooled with 10 pound line, which I can now do since I order my line in 1,000-yard spools, which I have written about before. 

But I forgot to set the drag. So, when I set the hook on this fish.....nothing happened. I can just see the fish looking at the boat and spitting the bait out, then laughing at my stupidity. 

We headed in to Ditto since common thought is that bait is going back into creeks and the bass will be following them. Again, no bites. 

But a funny thing happened. Well, "funny" to you guys. As I was flipping a jig around docks, the GoPro suction mount decided it wanted to quit sucking. Plop. Splash. Into the drink and to the bottom of Wheeler. That sucked. 

But, I try to keep my temper in check these days. So, I sat down and cried instead, knowing I had to report the financial loss to my wife. Just kidding. I didn't cry. I did yell.

I figure I got 3 years out of it. And, I didn't really like the GoPro 3 White anyway. Don't bother. Buy Silver or Black. 

Without a big motor that worked, all we could do was fish rip-rap banks close to Ditto. Imagine our surprise when we got in to a mess of fish! 

It started with Josh catching two on a walk-the-dog bait. I broke off two fish on a shaky head because I can't tie a knot. 

But, I picked up my Luckycraft Sammy and quickly caught two and evened the score. 

Over the next 20 minutes, which were the last 20 minutes of daylight, we had around 30 hits on top water. Most of those didn't stick, but around 15 did. The size ranged anywhere from six inches to around a 1.5 pound spot. Nothing big. 

Which was fine, because after figuring out that the fish were located in a very small stretch of bank adjacent to an off-shore rock pile, we decided that we would save the fish for a tournament on Saturday, which our friends that were fishing the mouth of Ditto had told us about. 

We were catching the small stragglers on the bank, but the bigger fish were on the rock pile, which we graphed several times with Josh's Lowrance unit. 

Anyway, I had one of the best days I've had in the last few months. While boating 5-6 fish is far from a great day, we had a lot of bites, shook off a lot of fish, but enjoyed a low pressure atmosphere from a quick afternoon trip that resulted in fish. 

Now if only I hadn't lost the GoPro. 

SEC Week 9 Picks

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First off, let me pat myself on the back and tell you that I really racked up last week. Not only was I a perfect 4-0 in Week 8 SEC Picks, but I moved up to second place in the pick 'em league by going 12-8 against the spread. I'm getting pretty good at this. Ironically, I can't do ANYTHING in the ESPN pick 'em league where all you have to do is pick a winner! In terms of picking the SEC games this year, I improve to a, 18-11 record which is 62%. I think that is the exact some percentage I heard a professional boast about this morning. I guess I have been selling myself short, haha! 

Florida vs Georgia- It's the world's largest outdoor cocktail party! This is a game I need to eventually see. Florida is a 3 point favorite in a "neutral site game" in Jacksonville. That's a fancy way of saying that the game is essentially a pick 'em. The crazy thing is, the line had no movement after a change of QB to Bauta for UGA. Florida is a rock-solid team, but doesn't have the explosiveness that is needed to be a true SEC contender. UGA has that, if they can get even mediocre play from Faton Bauta. I really like road dogs with new QBs. Though I expect Bauta to make mistakes, especially against an extremely good Florida secondary, road dogs always play aggressive, which will make the Florida defense respect the pass. Sony Michell has the big game everyone has been expecting. UGA wins, straight up. 

Tennessee at Kentucky-Tennessee closes as an 8.5 point road favorite at Kentucky. As you may recall, I suspected the Dak Show would finally show up at home, and it did. State blasted Kentucky. Tennessee is still smarting after losing against Alabama, yet blowing the 15 point spread. Tennessee hasn't quite arrived yet, but this team is showing some serious ability, reminiscent of the 2003 Auburn squad who was expected to be national contenders before dropping their first couple of games before ultimately finishing strong. While this is a rivalry game and playing at Kentucky certainly helps the 'Cats, I expect Tennessee to cover. Tennessee hasn't played great throwing the ball, but Kentucky's defense is terrible against the pass. With the Vols running game, Dobbs, and the ability to stretch the field vertical, expect huge offensive numbers. On the flip side, Towles will have a decent day airing out the ball. But, don't expect the running game to get going. The real action is on the over-under, which sits at 57.5. I expect that to be blown out by a large margin. Take the over, as that is where the real money will be.  Take the Vols and the points. 

South Carolina at Texas A&M-South Carolina is 16 point dog on the road. The pros are all saying to take the Gamecocks and that the 16 point lie is easy money. Not so fast, my friend. USC is simply a dreadful team. Though they edged out Vandy by 9 points, keep in mind that they allowed Missouri, who has one of the very worst offenses in college football, to put up 24 points. Against better offenses like UGA and LSU, they have given up no less than 45 points. Kentucky, who struggled in their matchup, still put up 26 points and beat USC. Being on the road, even against a struggling TAMU team, is a recipe for disaster. Take the Aggies and the points. 

Ole Miss at Auburn- This line closed at 7.5 points. Auburn continues to show no life on defense, allowing back to back TDs and 2-point conversions, something that I didn't think was possible. The Tiger offense is poised for a breakout game, but against Ole Miss landsharks? I just don't know. White is showing some major ability, but the playcalling and mental breakdowns by the rest of the offense has constantly put the young QB behind the chains. This is the wrong team to be in that situation. On the flip side, Carl Lawson may be back, and that's fantastic. But, this kid hasn't played full speed in over a month. There is ZERO chance that he plays a full game at 100%. And, without that, the Tigers get skull-drug. The only way Auburn pulls close is if Kelly has at least 2 INTs. Take Ole Miss and the points. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Fishing Report for Smith Lake 10/27/15

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So, I swore off Guntersville, in case you missed it. If not, just take a gander at my last report. 

Fishing Report for Guntersville 10/12/15

Wheeler had been tough the last few times we had been out and I wanted to continue to improve my abilities as a versatile fisherman. In talking with my friend John, he had shared some pictures and info from fishing Smith lake, specifically some sweet looking spotted bass.  He talked about catching top water fish in 100 foot depths. The spots were schooling up and exploding on walking baits.

I wanted in. 

Besides, I had never fished Smith lake, and though people constantly complain about how the lake sucks, it remains a destination for large tournaments such as BFL and ABT. I just assumed people thought it sucked because the large majority of fishermen, specifically in north Alabama, are shallow water fishermen. I knew that Smith was a deep late and that catching fish would likely mean heavy use of electronics and fishing off-shore structure. Not that I am good with any of that, but those are challenges I am willing to accept, as can be seen from these two blog posts.

So, we put in at the impoundment. First off, that was a bit further down the lake than I expected to fish. I have been on Smith several times as a kid and remember it quite well, as we camped a good bit. But, I was expecting to fish the upper end of the lake. Instead, we traveled a good bit further, thus disrupting my primary reason for learning Smith: it's the second closest lake to my house. Wow, the dam wasn't what I expected. I didn't realize that the lake was impounded with an earthen dam. I was used to massive concrete structures. It made the engineer in me QUITE nervous, as did backing down the steepest and longest ramp I have ever used. 

We had known the weather was going to be pretty nasty, but expectation and reality are usually quite different. It was driving rain and extremely windy. But, we brought the our rain gear, so everything was long as we caught fish.

My expectations on the depth of the lake were blown away. I expected depths in the 120 foot range. Not the 220 foot range. I also expected steep banks, but WOW, these banks were so deep that if you placed your boat 5 yards too far out and threw your jig to the bank, it would never touch bottom. We started throwing top water without any real relation to the bank. John said that the fish didn't relate to depth and that they could be anywhere from the bank to 75-100 yards off it. On most lakes, that might correspond to depths between 0-50 feet. On Smith, that is literally 0-300. He also warned that the bite hadn't warmed up until the air warmed up. Just days ago, the bite had been inconsistent until around 1PM. 

Indeed that top water bite couldn't be found. So, I picked up a PTL 3/8ths ounce Triple-X pea head with a 7" Tickler and made some tosses towards the bank. In order to get to the bottom, you had to let the bait fall on complete slack line, which meant you had to watch the line carefull, as the suspending fish may pick it up on the fall. 

On my first cast, I set the hook on a fish. I was using a 6-6 MH H2O express ETHOS rod, so I couldn't really tell how big the fish really was as it surged.

I forgot my Spot Fishing 101 lessons: The fish don't fight hard until they see the boat. 

The fish made a jump and we got a glimpse of a 3 pound or better spot, right before it made a break for the deep water, snapping my line.

I laughed about it, because I figured we would be enough bites that the lost fish would be forgotten.

I was wrong. 

For the next several hours, we hit a mixture of spots without any luck. I would occasionally get a tick on the shaky head, but none of them would pick it up and commit.

We decided that we would look for fish first using the electronics before fishing anywhere else. We idled down a stretch of bank adjacent to a main river point before we noticed a group of bait balls in 120 feet of water. In 35 feet of water between the bait and the bank were a series of arches perched on top of rock piles. 

It didn't take long to catch a few fish including a really nice spot. on the PowerTeam Lures 7" Tickler

With time running out before I had to get home and pick the kids up, we went back to the original spot.

Within a few minutes of stopping, the spots began busting shad. But,unlike his previous trips, John mentioned that they weren't grouped up. Instead of groups of between 5-10, we were seeing individual fish. A few short strikes aside, we couldn't get any in the boat. 

Then they were gone. 

It was a pretty miserable day. Though I didn't catch but a few fish, I did catch fish, which makes it a good day. Additionally, I was able to fish a new lake, which is always fun! 

Monday, October 19, 2015

SEC Week 8 Picks

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Go catch up on last week's picks. 

SEC Week 7 Picks

Time to own up. I went 1-3 last week thanks to a yawnfest of UGA vs Mizzu that ended in a 9-6 final. Auburn didn't cover the 4 point spread against Kentucky thanks to some ultra-conservative play calling. Kyle Allen's pick-sixes set the tone early and Bama rolled. At least I called the Florida-LSU game correctly. Down to 14-11, ugh. 

Auburn at Arkansas-Arkansas opens as a 5-point favorite at home. Both of these teams have underachieved thus far, but both look to have started bailing water from what looked like a sinking ship just weeks ago. That isn't saying that each program is on the upswing. Arkansas dropped a close game to Alabama after at least making it to half time. They beat Tennessee, who greatly underestimated them. Auburn has a winning streak, of sorts, going. But, aside from the last series of the Kentucky game, they have been unable to stop anyone. It is worth mentioning that Auburn did improve against the run after Muschamp made a statement about "why would anyone pass against us." Well, Kentucky did throw. A lot. Auburn's corners played one of the worst games I can remember. The good news is, Arkansas is utterly depleted at the WR position. Auburn will be sending four and five man rushes against Allen, who is known to make mistakes. On the flip side, though Arkansas hasn't shut anyone out, they have played very good defense. They looked excellent defending the run against Bama. Auburn's run game isn't that good and I think it will be exposed. However, White could very easily have a breakout game. He could as easily flop. I hate to, but I think Arkansas wins. 

Texas A&M vs Ole Miss-We've seen this story before at TAMU. Kyle Allen looked bewildered against Bama. Guess defenses finally have enough game film to put together a game plan. Ole Miss dropped an obvious trap game that everyone pretends they never saw coming.  Memphis has had a very good defense the last few years, now they have an offense. Ole Miss got their teeth kicked in. The Freeze meltdown has begun earlier than expected, it would seem. Ole Miss is a six point favorite at home. There are some issues. Namely, Ole Miss really needs to run the ball to circumvent a pretty good TAMU pass rush, or come up with a very good screen game. Additionally, the TAMU WRs are the best group in the nation. Nkimdiche will be the catalyst. If he plays, Ole Miss wins and covers. If he doesn't, they don't. At this point, we will assume he plays. I will take Ole Miss and the points. 

Kentucky at Mississippi State- Dak is beginning to have those games that everyone expected. I wasn't that impressed with Kentucky's defense. White did take a lot of sacks this past Thursday night, but he also evaded a weak pass rush and threw down field. Dak will destroy the Kentucky pass rush. On the flip side, I wasn't impressed with Kentucky. The line is State -11. I will take them to cover.

Tennessee at Alabama- UT really expected to be undefeated going in to BDS to face the Tide. The Vols played easily their best game of the last two years in the win against UGA but it is painfully obvious that UGA isn't the same without the combination of Chubb and Michele. 15.5 points in the current line. Alabama has been one of the worst teams on covering the spread. If UT shows the aggressiveness and explosiveness they are capable of fielding, they will keep it under the 15.5 line. All Jones has to do is take Auburn's gameplan for the last two years and repeat it. While Dobbs isn't slippery like Marshall nor is he the gamer, he is perhaps as capable. I will take Tennessee against the spread. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

SEC Week 7 Picks

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Go catch up on last week's picks. 

SEC Week 6 Picks

I wasn't....awful. I went 2-2. Coulda woulda shoulda but I should have been 4-0. But, injuries happen (Chubb) and South Carolina played inspired defense for a half. 13-8 is my current record after two straight week's of 2-2 performances. But, consider that I was awfully scared of the games this weekend. Lots of traps. 

Let's move on. 

Missouri at Georgia- Anyone thought Georgia would drop two straight games this year? Certainly not. Two losses would have been considered a worst case scenario just a month ago. Now it's happened in back to back weeks. I don't think anyone would have predicted a loss to UT, even without Chubb. Fact is, Richt was Richt and the Georgia football fan nation (whatever they call themselves) was Richt-rolled. Missouri's offensive slide continued against Florida, though their string of terrific defensive performances continued. Florida scored 14 points in the first quarter, two TD runs by Taylor. The Tiger defense held solid afterwards. The line is Georgia -16 with an over/under of 46 points. Basically, the betting public is saying that Missouri is going to score more than two TDs. I simply don't see that happening with the way they have played. While the Tiger's defense is really really good, UGA will retool. I will take UGA and the points. 

Florida at LSU- Who would have thought this would be a Top 10 matchup? Many saw LSU as a contender, but no one really saw Florida being a top 10 team. The situation is familiar to Auburn fans who saw a similar situation in 2013. The line is LSU -6.5. Florida lost Grier for the season just as he was beginning to look like a true SEC-caliber quarterback. The running game hasn't been spectacular outside of the redzone. Florida's strength is the defensive backfielf, which won't be an issue with Fournette on the field. With this game being at home, I am forced to take LSU and the points. 

Alabama at Texas A&M- TAMU is quietly hanging around, undefeated and in the top 10. Though the Chavis hire was big, many said that the defensive hires at LSU and Auburn were both better and would take effect quicker than the Chavis deal. That isn't to say that the defense is great, because it really isn't. They held a struggling ASU and Mississippi State defense to 17 points, while giving up even more to the likes of Ball State and Nevada. Alabama escaped a narrow defeat against Arkansas at home. That shouldn't have been surprising, as that was a theme in the past. Additionally, the Alabama offense didn't pick up where it was last year, but has in fact regressed. If Kiffin would be devoted to the run, Alabama would almost certainly win every game, though the score may not be impressive. He seems to have no interest in the traditional methods of the Tide as he abandons the run for whole drives. Additionally, Coker is terrible with pressure in his face. Enter the TAMU pass rush. Alabama enters as a 4-point favorite and a 53 point over/under. For some reason, I am going to take TAMU. 

Auburn at Kentucky-Auburn is a 2 point favorite on the road,despite a defense that couldn't stop San Jose State and an offense that may see the return of Jeremy Johnson after being unable to pass for a TD without him. The over/under is 51 points. That would lead us to believe that Auburn will win somewhere around 28-24. Without drastic improvement essentially everywhere on offense except at running back, that seems to be a tough task, especially on a road and against a team that hasn't beaten Auburn in Lexington since the 60s. I would point to some statistics, but neither of these teams are especially good enough in any phase to really point to an advantage. Kentucky will have plenty of opportunity to prove themselves with SEC East opponents if they lose. Additionally, winning won't do much for them over than for morale. On the other side, Auburn must win this game. Must. I'm going with Auburn and the points for that reason alone.