Wednesday, October 22, 2014

2014 Tournament Fishing Year in Review

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Now admittedly, there may be a few surprise tournaments that I get to fish in the next 2 months or so, but I don't have a boat currently and I don't have any tournaments on the books. 

Therefore, I wanted to revisit the year and take stock of how I fared in tournaments this year. Now, keep in mind that I don't fish a lot of big tournaments and this isn't a bragging board about how well I did. What I do want to do is talk about areas of growth and future areas of improvement. 

Starting in early March, I went on a 3 week tear of tournaments that started in Tuscaloosa with the annual Eagle's Wings Benefit tournament. In each of the previous events, Uncle Tony and I had cashed a good checks by culling up spots. His techniques for hitting ledges with jigs forced me to learn and utilize a technique that I was uncomfortable using. But, the tournament was moved from late in the year to early in the year, making the fishing unpredictable. We changed things up and fished shallow. Ultimately, we struck out.

The very next weekend, we had the first MFC Tournament on Guntersville. We had received some good intel on where to fish, and we found great success, but at a cost. We learned that fishing to the level that we wanted sometimes meant fishing 1 spot, sometimes only a few yards long, all day for 5 bites. Instead of starting and ending in the spot we had been instructed to fish, we didn't start on it until later in the day. We also learned how some subtle changes in techniques can make all the difference in the world. Though we didn't win, we cashed a check with 16 pounds in only 3 fish, which had us riding high for the next weekend's tournament. 

The next weekend was the NATA Open. We have had mixed success fishing this tournament, usually being boom or bust. Truth be told, we have had 1 good tournament and 3 rough showings. 2 of those plagued by boat issues, as this one was. We did attempt to execute the game plan we had learned the weekend before. We were the first to this spot and almost immediately began catching fish. However, the audacity of fishermen on Guntersville is amazing. We had multiple boats see us catch fish and come in on top of us. At one point, we had people casting line across us. Although there was 30 pounds of fish on this one spot, we ended up sharing it with 2 other boats. Ultimately we were tired of fighting with them and went looking for other spots. We did find a few more, but didn't make it back to the weigh in on time due to motor issues. 

A few weekends later, it was time to hit Pickwick for the MFC Tournament. In the past, I have been on some nice largemouth at the tip of 7 Mile Island. And, I knew that everyone else would be jockeying for position at the dam, though ironically Pickwick had hosted a massive 3 day event just the weekend before and the smallies had been hammered. I prefished the afternoon before the tournament and didn't find anything up at the dam anyway, so my gameplan was for me and Alyse to fish for largemouth while everyone struggled for the smallies. Now, I made great attempt in 2013 to get better with the shakey head, but hadn't really established the technique as a comfort zone type method. Within the first hour of fishing Pickwick, it was evident that the awful weather had put the fish in a foul mood. I went to the shakey head a lot quicker than I normally would have. Alyse and I were able to scrounge up enough fish to cash a check with the PTL Sick Stick. I managed to catch a personal best on light line by boating a 4.5 pound beast, which took 5 minutes to land. It was fairly infuriating that I had now fished 4 tournaments without weighing in a limit. But, I had also cashed checks in half the tournaments. 

Josh and I had made the agreement that we would fish a lot more of the Ditto Landing Wildcats on Wheeler in 2014. So, as soon as they started up, we were out there competing. Back a few years ago, we fished nearly every one of these and, more often than not, cashed a check. We always weighed in a limit, but we rarely found a kicker fish. We fished around 6-8 of these tournaments this year, including the two day Classic. One thing was apparent: 2014 was the year of the kicker fish. Almost every trip, we caught a fish that weighed in around 4 pounds. We did learn from some mistakes. This stretch of lake is all about current, and depending on the amount, you learned exactly how to fish. And, we learned that if there IS current, you better quit being a cheap skate and head to the dam. We did manage to cash a good check in one tournament. 

The MFC Tournament on Logan-Martin has been one of our favorite annual events. The lake is loaded with magnum spots. If the stars align, you can slay them. The difference between this year and previous years is that I was very comfortable throwing the shakey head as a primary technique. So, almost at day break, I was throwing it. And, it netted us 30 fish and a solid sack that came in 2nd. We missed 1st by mere ounces. We weighed in over 12 pounds without having a kicker. All 5 fish were clones. It was a riot. There was a significant source of satisfaction that I had learned the finesse technique and it was paying dividends in a big way. 

One of the barriers that we had not overcome was weighing in a 20 pound sack during a tournament. We had been danger close on many an occasion, and while we win or at least place in almost every tournament we fish (at least with MFC), we seem to excel only on tough days. When the fish are biting good, we have been unable to turn the corner on the competition. On this early June tournament on Guntersville, the MFC Club fished out of Seibold. By 11am or so, we had a limit of around 9-10 pounds which we had scared up using topwater baits on flats, targeting post spawn fish. But, the size started to drop and we knew we needed to do something different. We at least knew that we had a chance with the small sack we had, so we decided to do something that we had both talked about, but never really had done. We turned on the depth finder and went idling down the ledges. Quickly, we found a group of fish that were holding on the ledges in 18-20 feet of water. Using a variety of baits, we were able to cull each and every fish we had up to over 20 pounds. Though we only won 2nd, I left with one of the best feelings I have had while fishing. That was an amazing feeling, to go looking for the fish, to target them, and to knock a home run. 

Our next tournament was out of Ingalls on Wheeler at the PEO Org Invitational. Initially, we hit the ledges, even tough we knew there was no current. Everyone else was doing the same thing, it appeared. The boats were back to back lining the main river channel. After 15 minutes of casting deep diving cranks with no reward, we looked at each other and realized that it would never work. And, even if it did, EVERYONE else was doing the same thing and our luck isn't that good. So, we decided to do the very opposite. We started flipping grass, dirt shallow. Within 15 minutes, Josh boat flipped a 5 pounder. We flipped for the rest of the day, by inexplicably, I could not get a bite. Josh, however, boated 20 or so fish. We finished in 2nd place, though I didn't catch a measuring fish all day. I was frustrated, but ultimately determined to learn how to flip. I am still trying....

What followed was an onslaught of tournaments that varied on location, but all had the same conclusion. Whether it was the Spro Frog tournament, or an MFC tournament on Guntersville, or the Ditto Classic on Wheeler, fish were seemingly IMPOSSIBLE to catch. While it's true that everyone I talked to also struggled, it didn't make me feel any better that I COULD NOT catch anything. Even my fun fishing trips were brutal. I tried a little of everything but couldn't buy a limit. 

After a string of 3 or 4 tournaments without weighing in a fish, I was able to somewhat get on track in the MFC Classic. I entered tied for Angler of the Year, meaning that I needed to beat my opponent, which would be no small task since he had a partner and I didn't. And while the fishing was tough....again....I was able to execute a gameplan and win, something that I wouldn't have done in the past. 

All told, we averaged a check in every other tournament. But, this was the first year that we didn't just "go fishing" during a tournament. We started implementing structure into our tournament fishing and I think it really showed. Across the board, 2014 was the worst year of fishing I have had since I started back in 2009. I registered only 108 fish, which is an insanely low amount. I entered the year with the resolution of never getting skunked, but this was not the year to try and make that happen. But, I learned a few techniques that I am confident with. I learned to really dial in my electronics and use them the way they are supposed to be used. I think I have come around to the idea that I don't belong in any big tournaments. Just because I got lucky in 1 or 2 doesn't mean that I can do it on a consistent basis. I think we learned that fish move spots, so we need to move too. When it comes to ledges, you can't expect them to be there every time. You really need 5-10 ledges to rotate. 

So, that's about it. We caught BIG fish this year, but not MORE fish. Let's see what 2015 brings!

Fishing Report for Wilson 10/18/14

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Well, the end of the year for the fishing club finally rolled around, which meant it was time for the Classic. Only members who qualify by fishing 4 or more tournaments are able to fish the Classic. What we do is, we put all the Tennessee River lakes which we fished in 2014 into a hat and draw out a lake. That means either Guntersville, Wheeler, Wilson, or Pickwick. I have fished the last 2 Classics and both have been on Guntersville. In 2012, I was a backboater and paired with Mark, one of fishermen, and we won it, but it meant that we tied for angler of the year. In 2013, I fished it alone and road 2 fish to a 2nd place with Big Fish finish, which you can read about here. 2013 Club Classic

The 2013 Classic was brutal and everyone struggled to catch fish. Since the Classic is kind of my last hurrah fishing trip of the year, plus the fact that I sold my boat, I really wanted to go out there and smoke the fish, where ever it may be. I had set a lot of New Years Resolutions on fishing and while I do think I have experienced the most growth this year than ever, the Fish of 2014 Page says that this has been my least productive year on record.

So, at the pretournament meeting, only one member showed up. Which is really all I need. I just imagined me pulling Wilson out of the hat and also drawing out, allowing me to fish by myself. Just imagine the fuss that I would hear. But, the club member did all of that on his own, and I had to warn him that everyone would question if the draw was on the up and up, since that has been a lake that I have been fairly dominant on. Of course, I just point to the last trip to Wilson where Josh and I struggled to catch anything, nearly sank the boat, and got soaked to the bone. All they remember is the good times, but that's ok. I'd rather they think I was better than I really am, than to know the truth, which is I just get lucky sometimes. If you are interested, you can check both of those tournaments out here
MFC Tournament on Wilson August 2011
MFC Tournament on Wilson July 2012

Those were certainly some magical trips, but the last few have been less than stellar. I have a few places that I always catch fish, even when things are tough. But, it always seems to be tough.

We started out really early and I idled under the 72 bridge and decided to fish there until the sun came up, which is where Josh and I caught most of the fish on our last trip. No takers, so I quickly moved further back into Shoals Creek.

I stopped at one of the points I always use and went to casting with a combination of a Lucky Craft Sammy and a Strike King Series 3. I like the ghost color for the Sammy and the chartreuse blue back. That color works very well with stained water, which I found.

There was a ton of fish busting around me and they didn't seem to be constrained to any specific depth. I started out in deeper water throwing the Sammy. I quickly found out that I was on top of a lot of white bass. And while I LOVE catching white bass, that wasn't what I came for. I left the deeper water and headed to the flat of one of the points which features some scattered grass and rock in about 5 feet of water. Within the first few casts, I bagged a solid keeper largemouth on the Strike King. I then realized that I hadn't started the GoPro, so I got it running. I cast the crank around, catching a few of the whites and opted to go to the Sammy up against a concrete retaining wall. On one of my first casts, I had a solid hit. I snagged the fish hard and worked it to the boat, but as it got within about 15 feet, I realized that I might need the net. After a few tailwalks, I decided not to give the fish the opportunity to throw the Sammy and I boat swang the fish. Soon as it hit the carpet, I knew that I had probably scored big fish of the tournament. The fish was a solid 4. In the tank it went.

I think I have said it before, this year has been different than previous years in tournament fishing for me because I spent the last 3 years catching dinks and always looking for the kicker. This year has been the opposite literally from the first tournament of the year. Catching big fish hasn't been a problem. It's finishing out the sack.

So while it was a great relief to have that lunker in the livewell, the pressure just to catch 3 more was heavy on my shoulders.

For the next 30 minutes, catching fish was easy. But, none of them measured. The only one that might have been close shook off right at the boat, drawing a groan and a few smacks on the water.

As soon as the sun came up, the bite completely died. There wasn't any activity anywhere.

And while the bite did die, the most aggravating part is losing two Spro Little John DDs. The first was lost when I hit a soft spot in the bottom in 18 feet, thought it was a fish, sank the hook, and the 10 pound Seguar InvizX popped on me about 10 feet from the rod tip. I lost the second because my lure retriever couldn't find the lure, but managed to rub the line over some rock, popping it. Soooo...I just put in an order with Amazon.

With a 12pm weigh in, I didn't have time to go hunting, so I stuck to places I knew, including the 72 bridge. Sure enough, there was a plethora of activity under the bridge against the rip rap. I caught a few whites and was almost ready to move on when some action caught my eye. Up right against the rip rap, a larger fish was chasing bait. Maneuvering closer, I paralleled the Sammy against the bank and the fish destroyed it. I quickly figured out that while the fish was green, it had way to long of a nose. I swung the gar over board as soon as I got the hooks out.

So I headed to weigh in pretty much knowing what to expect. I would get big fish of the Classic, which paid well, but would ultimately lose. While I had my doubts that anyone else would find a limit, surely someone would find 3 fish. The question was, would it outweigh my 2.

Believe it or not, the day was rougher on everyone else than on me and the two fish went 6 pounds, winning me the Classic, Big Fish, and enough points to take home Angler of the Year. It wasn't how I wanted to do it, but HOW you do it doesn't really matter.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Best5Zach's Fantasy College Football Week 9

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I improved to 19-5 this week. I don't know how. I had the epic bye week and tried to fill it in with free agents and left overs I had stashed away. When I went to bed, I was done. Abdullah was my last player and he was stuffed at halftime and I was down by 20. I wake up and I actually won. Don't ask me how. Anyway, a win this week gets me in the playoffs. So, let's win, eh? 

QB: Carden is back off the bye week after a very uncharacteristic performance against that pesky South Florida team. He is up against UConn. And, I am pretty sure the basketball team has a better chance of beating him. 

RB1: Abdullah and the Huskers are at home against Rutgers. Rutgers is getting better and has some playmakers on defense. They are midpack in points allowed, but it's worth noting who they have played some tough teams like Washington State, Penn State, and Ohio State. Don't be surprised if Abdullah has one of his slower games. Additionally, Rutgers can score some points, so that may be an issue. But,what are you going to do? Bench a guy who averages 30 points? Nah. 

RB2:Rawls  from C Mich has been 2/3rds of a great RB. He has monster games paced by "EH" games. But, his low games have still produced 16, 18, and 18 points, which is still better than any available FA out there. He has Buffalo, who is statistically one of the very worst defenses out there, and against some TERRIBLE teams. They give up 35 PPG. The only question is, will Rawls come out early? Considering that the Bulls are still midpack on offense, he very well may play the whole game. 

WR1: ECU's Jones has benefited from the prolific passing attack from Carden. He is averaging 13 points a game, after being held to only 2 points by South Florida. If his rebound games are on par as they have been, expect 20+ points.

WR2: Georgia Tech's Smelter had missed 2 games earlier in the year. Because of that, his total points scored had him low on the list. I sat him the first week as a precaution, which was great as he registered only 4 points. But, I plugged him in last week and he responded with 24 against UNC. Pitt is up next. The problem is, the Pitt Defense is ranked 14th overall. And while they have some cupcakes mixed in, they do have some decent teams on that resume.  I don't need him to catch 10 passes. I just need him to haul in that 1 play action pass for 70 yards. 

FLEX: Do we need to go over this again? Johsnon from Marshall is a RB listed as a TE. And, he is a great one at that. 25 points a game and has Florida Atlantic? Expect Cato to get them up early and Johnson to pound away in the second half.

K: I HATE to do this. I really do. I picked up Alabama's Griffith. It's a foolish pick up, but I have a feeling that Alabama will roll in Knoxville. I am thinking at least 5 XPs and 2 FGs. 

DST: Temple is playing a tough UCF team. And, they laid an egg last week. I am taking Clemson at home against Syracuse. 

Best SEC Games of Week 9

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Gee. Thanks, Florida. Ok. Before you judge me too harshly,I should say now what I apparently didn't say in last week's Best SEC Games of Week 8 preview. What I MEANT to say was, Florida *must* win to keep Muschamp's job. I mean, really, they can't already give up....right? Yeah.....

So, I went on to 17-9 in picking games. I won't pay myself on the back too much because last week was pretty ho-hum in terms of games. And yet I couldn't manage to pick 100%. Go figure. Maybe I should spend more time these picks. Who cares. Yall aren't reading. 

Mississippi State at Kentucky
State is on top of the world. They knocked off seemingly solid opponents 3 straight games. But, turns out that LSU and TAMU aren't nearly as good as thought and Auburn looked awfully suspect when under pressure. Kentucky is a much improved team...sorta. They are certainly a feel-good story from the Blue Grass state whose best team for the last few years has been the Hilltoppers. While they had looked super solid, last week's performance at LSU was dreadful, capped by a failure to cover a squib kick. They were destroyed by a depleted and young LSU squad. Is it possible that State could head into Lexington a little too high on themselves? Yes. But ultimately, it would take an epic failure by all phases of the game to lose this game. I don't think State is ready to close the door on a National Championship quite yet. They are good enough to get out of Kentucky alive, though.
Mississippi State

Alabama at Tennessee
Just for a minute it seemed that the Tide was back. Yes. They drummed the TAMU team as bad as I have ever seen an SEC team get beat. But, here is the deal. TAMU is 2 first quarter stops from being run out of every game inside the SEC West. Take away the win against SCAR and what do you have? Nothing. Once you see the plays, you can scheme against them, which is exactly what the premier defensive minds in the SEC West have done. Ok, so I am being a little hard on the Alabama team. They are perfectly capable of winning each and every game they play. But let's not understate the ability of a good ole fashioned Nick Saban Boot. But, you can only motivate a team so many times and he just spent one of them after the ugly win against Arkansas. The good news is,Tennessee is right back to where we thought they would be....midpack in the SEC Easy. No. I didn't misspell that, get a sense of humor. I still think Tennessee is a good team, but they have glaring issues that have been moderately covered up so far in 2014. Notably, the offensive line, which Ole Miss destroyed. Look, State may be #1, but Ole Miss is the better team. Their defense is amazing. The shine was completely knocked off of the Vols this week. Alabama exhibits much of the same defense as the Rebels do, though they may not be as good on the back end as Ole Miss. Still, I would take Sims over Bo Wallace. Yes, I said that. And Bama has a running game, though it hasn't really looked like it at times. This rivalry used to mean something. It still doesn't. 

South Carolina at Auburn

SEC Game of the Week
Ole Miss at LSU
By year's end, LSU will be a much improved team with a lot of eligibility left. But, we saw what happens when you play a young QB against a good SEC West defense. And, Ole Miss is better than Auburn from top to bottom. The secondary from Ole Miss seems to take every 50/50 ball the other way. Every time I look up, they have another INT. LSU is pedestrian on defense, but they do have one thing going for them....location. Wallace has struggled over the last few years when playing away from home. Think about his last few games at Alabama, Auburn, and Mississippi State. He single handedly gives games away. The good news is, he won't lose the game for the Rebels. Instead, the Ole Mis D wins the day.
Ole Miss

Bonus Irrelevant Pick
Vandy at Missouri
Geeze. What happened to Vandy. Rhetorical question. We all know. The bigger question is, what happened to Missouri? I mean, they could possibly go from first to worst in the SEC Easy? (I used it again). The thing is, Missouri shows signs of life every once in awhile while Vandy has no pulse. 

This game will be a filler game that no one cares about.
 I'll take the Tigers.

The South Carolina Preview

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Well, the bye week is over. Again. I tell ya, it feels like we have had 3 bye weeks...cause we have. That is, if you count the Saturday after the Kansas State game...which I do. Sure, Thursday night games are fine, but it just doesn't have the allure of a Saturday matchup. What did you do with your Saturday? Me? Oh nothing much. Just won the Club Classic and Angler of the Year. 

So, Auburn is back in action against one of the most maligned teams, if not the MOST maligned team in the SEC...The Gamecocks. After a disastrous start against TAMU, they have gone on to lose some mind-boggling games. But, a lot of things came clear after Alabama TROUNCED TAMU last weekend. TAMU isn't very good, suffering its 3rd straight loss, which makes South Carolina even worse. But, we didn't have to tell you that, as they lost to a dreadful Missouri team and a much improved (by their standards) Kentucky Wildcat team. But, after back to back losses (in the first time since I can remember) they responded (?) with a 41-10 win against Furman. Congrats. 

Auburn gets back on the grid iron after one of the most head scratching losses that I can remember, going back to Arkansas circa 2006. That isn't to take anything away from State. After all, I was pretty complimentary of them in my Mississippi State Review. Of course, I should be since I picked Auburn to win in the Mississippi State Preview

Not a lot of news to report out of the Plains following the off week. Auburn's coaching staff had little to say about the loss, aside to point out just how good State really is. So, are they ready for the Cocks? 

It's amazing to think that I thought this would be the PREMIER game of the year, inside of the SEC as if featured what would probably be a game in which a rematch in Atlanta was almost certain. Instead, one team is virtually eliminated from winning their division and the other has slim to no chance. Don't like that kind of talk? Hate it. It's a fact. 

Instead, we get a lame duck game that will be virtually ignored by the media, barring an upset. That's ok. I am still going to the game and we are still going to have the best tailgate at Auburn. Don't believe me? Come by the corner. we are right by the home plate gate of Plainsman Park and Donahue. Just listen for the live band. 

Anyway, let's talk about this game.

Auburn's Offense vs Cocks Defense
The Cock defense is statistically horrible. After a solid tenure as the USC D-coordinator, Lorenzo Ward may very well find himself unemployed at season's end.  The Cocks are 2nd to last in the SEC in scoring defense, coming in at 92nd overall. Aside from a 10 point effort from Furman, The Cocks haven't stopped anyone,  giving up a blistering 31 points a game. Their 20-21 loss to Missouri was their 2nd best effort, followed by slim win against in State East Carolina who STILL put up 23 points. Additionally, SCAR has given up 111 plays of 10 yards or greater, which ranks dead last in the SEC. Their 15 rushing TDs given up is on pace to set a USC record. 

All of this plays directly into Auburn's favor. You would be hard pressed to find a intra-SEC matchup of units that is more one sided. As any Auburn fan knows, Malzahn's offensive attack is predicated on strong downhill running and picking up chunk yardage as to set the tempo. Interesting enough, SCAR has played only one premier running back, despite those horrendous numbers. Todd Gurley ran up 120 yards, even without his coach putting the ball in his hands late in the game. Missouri's Scarbrough was held to 43 yards total, but managed 3 TDs. 

That being said, Auburn's offense looked incredibly suspect. Sure, the turnovers looked bad, but what looks worse is this: For two straight games, opposing defenses have known exactly what passing lanes Marshall will use. Which makes you wonder why this didn't happen last year. Well, the answer is simple enough. Marshall made crucial passes outside of the pocket where batted balls were not a problem. I am so tempted to label this a square peg in a round hole. Why make Marshall a pocket passer when he is the games most dangerous weapon while on the outside? Additionally, I have to question the repeated passing on 1st down, especially when your QB and receivers have struggled. By the time CAP was able to wear down the State defense, the damage had been done. On top of the 1st down play calling, I was absolutely baffled by the TE pass. 

Ok. Sorry, I know this is about Auburn and South Carolina. Yes, I do have some questions on Auburn's offense. But I don't think they will be answered against a sputtering Gamecock defense. It is difficult to predict just how Gus will direct his offense this game as it appears there is much to work on. While many fans point to his press conference where he stated that Roc Thomas and Peyton Barber's role could increase, I think he means simply because there will be 4th quarter garbage time. In fact, I think this game will be a tune up game for CAP to get back to doing what he has done best: post 100 yard games. One thing I do think is possible is increased early playing time for Jeremy Johnson. Somehow I think that the game against State showed that Marshall, through no real fault of his own, cannot come from 2 or more scores and win. Throwing isn't, and probably never will be, his strength. This is a great opportunity to get SEC experience for the future of the program. I hate to say that, I really do. But the play calling and execution of the last game sank Marshall's Heisman hopes. With the receivers that Auburn has (and most likely won't have in 2015),  the time to win with the pass is now. With SCARs inability to rush the passer or defend the pass on the back end, this is a perfect opportunity to see JJ unleashed. Even if this isn't the case, I expect Auburn to roll on offense, provided that they don't allow the Cocks to follow the same recipe for success that State followed. I look for an explosive first quarter as the Tigers roll up 21 first quarter points, a FG in the 2nd,  A TD in the 3rd and a FG in the 4th. 
Big Advantage to Auburn

Auburn's Defense vs South Carolina Offense
One of the things I talked about before the MSU game was whether or not the Auburn defense was finally back to the Good Ole Days of the Tuberville era. I said that the State offense vs the Auburn defense would be the real litmus test, specifically the Frost/McKinnsey vs Prescott matchup. While State rolled up 21 first quarter points and made the Auburn defense appear bad, the fact is that the Auburn defense was dealt a 2/7 off color split when it comes to hands of poker. They could not have been put in any worse of a situation. Yet, the Auburn defense shut down state for much of the game including 3 INTs. They kept Prescott from running amuck, though I was disappointing to see the lack of execution or play calling from Ellis Johnson on the rebuttal TD for State where Prescott spread out the field and ran up the middle for a TD. I literally turned to a friend, presnap, and told him EXACTLY what was going to happen. 

So, when it comes to labeling the Auburn defense as an elite defense, I have to push, though I admit that I am still leaning that way. A great defense doesn't give excuses like 2 straight turnovers. They simply shut down offenses. But, the shock of how it happened and where certainly gives them a little credibility. 

South Carolina hasn't been TERRIBLE on offense. They are in the top quarter of teams in college football in scoring offense. They are midpack in rushing and passing. And though they have lost a lot of games (for them), the points are just coming in garbage time. They are scoring all throughout the game. And, the Cocks are well balanced, with Thompson posting 1800 yards, 15 TDs with 6 INTs. And, while not a Heisman front-runner as predicted, Mike Davis still has 660 yards and 8 TDs. The Gamecock offense isn't an offense to sleep on, especially if you can't put together a solid pass rush, which Auburn hasn't been able to do yet, at least not from the defensive line, and it doesn't appear that help will arrive anytime soon. Instead, Coach Johnson relies on blitzes from the LBs or from the corners. While Thompson isn't Connor Shaw, he can make throws if given time. And, P Cooper and N Jones are very capable receivers who can also handle sweeps in space. 

So, it seems we revisit the same thing we have visited before. Can Auburn find some sacks? I have little doubt that Auburn will shut down the Gamecock rushing attack. Additionally, the emergence of Jones on the outside has given a lot of hope that Auburn can shut down good receivers. The X-factor is the Auburn crowd, who are surely itching for revenge against an SEC foe after the meltdown in Starkville, Though the Auburn fans don't wield cowbells, they are very loud in their own right. Expect that to rattle the Cock offense early. 
Advantage Auburn

Players of the Game
Quan Bray had a ton of targets against MSU. In fact, his minutes and plays per game have consistently risen all season. With the increased focus on Duke Williams and a crippled up Sammie Coates, Bray has turned in some great games in 2014 from that outside receiver spot, though he is very much a possession receiver. Coupled with his potential to score on punt returns, I think he has to be the player to break the game. Bray has cut it loose in his final season on the Plains. He has half a season to transform himself into the type player that Chris Davis became in 2013. Davis wasn't on anyone's NFL radar until the Tennessee Game in 2013. This game has much of the same feel to it as that game did, at least to me. They are coming off an SEC West game and playing a weak SEC East 
team. Hey, I called it in the Preview of the Offense in 2014. The development of the possession receivers would make or break this offense. 

CAP was both bottled up for much of the day against MSU, just as he was against the Kansas State D. What we do know is that CAP hasn't been stopped in back to back games. He is due for a monster game and this is the perfect time to do it, against a team that is terrible against the run. I do suspect Marshall to leach off some carries, but the bruiser should have his way. 

To me, I don't see how USC can stay in this game. But, Coach Spurrier is never a coach that you should file away. While the SEC East may be out of reach, getting back on track against a Top 5 Opponent would do wonders for his program that has been carried by stars in the last few years. Even though I don't give much credit to the SCAR team, its coach is good for shaving some points off a spread that seems pretty large. But, Auburn responded well after their loss at LSU last year and held the Rebels to 22 points, 16 of those in the second half as they cruised to a win. I expect a healthy win for the Tigers.
Auburn wins 34-10

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The MSU Review

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Talk about painful! Not only did I have to watch this game by work...but I had to endure one of the most painful performances I have ever seen Auburn put together. So, here is what we expected in the MSU Preview. Awful. Just terrible. You know, I have been through some tough periods where we just didn't have the players to compete. But, we have the talent. We have the coaching. And this was a failure of both. 

I do want to credit MSU with an amazing display they put forth for Gameday. The atmosphere looked to be outstanding and the cowbells were deafening even through the TV. Auburn stumbled out of the shoot in a surprising LSU 2013 V2.0 type 1st quarter. I found myself yelling "TAKE A TIMEOUT!!!!" at the TV.

What can I say? Your first two offensive plays are turnovers. The first was a batted pass. It would be easy to say that it was luck, but it's becoming a very reoccurring theme. Defenses have figured out the passing lanes that Marshall uses and they get defenders in those lanes who get their hands up. This is the 2nd or 3rd team to consecutively do this to Marshall. And MSU did it TWICE for INTs. 

The second turnover comes on a great defensive play where a helmet popped the ball out of Duke William's hands. After that, State gave the Auburn offense plenty of turnover with which to work. The offense was completely out of sync and the one time that it seemed to come together was the one series that featured Roc Thomas, who put together 50 yards or so on a few carries, got Auburn into field goal range, only to see it squandered. Then, #9 was sent to the bench. It left all of us wondering why. 

After that series, I found myself being very critical of the play calling. It seemed we threw on every 1st down, rarely completing it, taking a loss on 2nd down, and running on 3rd and long. The feeling was exacerbated on a 3rd and goal TE pass that left me and a lot of fans scratching our heads. 

Then the rain set in. Auburn was down by a lot of points and found itself having to throw. Marshall struggled mightily with overthrown balls. I am never for yanking out elite players, but I found myself asking why Jeremy Johnson wasn't in the game. It wasn't so much about Marshall's struggles as it was about the need to have an effective passer. When you are constantly playing from behind, especially by multiple TDs, you have to field a competent passer.

After the game, I contemplated what I have seen with this offense. People, mostly announcers and other pundits have said it, but this offense is not the same Auburn offense from 2013. I don't mean because of the play calling. I mean, the execution has been bad in multiple games. If nothing else, it has been peaks and valleys. We have an offense that was on Kill Mode for the first half of the Arkansas game. Then, struggled against Kansas State. Back on Kill Mode in the LSU game. Then completely discombobulated in this contest. I think most people thought that this offense would be more versatile and therefore, less apt to bog least for a whole game. Instead, it seems that the inability to do one thing forces pressure to do the other and the offense can't adjust. It's almost like the pressure to be balanced has taken a team from being excellent in one thing  and one thing only to being mediocre at everything.  Who knows? Maybe instead of having those same 6 plays and being perfect, the team has to know 60 and can't handle the play book. 

One thing is for sure, the offensive line is not the same without Robinson and Kozan.  Last year, Auburn didn't care if you knew they were running or not, they were going to run and do so with a mean physicality. This unit hasn't performed near the level that last years unit performed. 

The short fields proved too costly for the Auburn defense who gave up 21 first quarter points.  The good news is, Auburn did a good job at limiting Prescott, despite the turnovers and punts. I don't think Frost and McKinnsey did quite as well as I had hoped in stuffing the big QB in the middle, but they limited him. Fact is, after the 1st quarter, Auburn's defense played extremely well. I thought this game might set them apart as an elite unit, and I am really thinking they are there. But, it's tough to play a clean game when the offense hands the other team the ball. 

Johnathan Jones, however, is a star in the making. He played absolutely amazing. 

I had said that Wilson was a receiver that had the size, speed, and ability to be elite. He sure showed it as he drug defenders into the endzone for his first TD. He fought Jones all day and Jones did an admirable job, though some odd calls hurt the Auburn defense.

Speaking of odd about that pass interference on Coates. Look, I don't mind CLOSE calls that go against you. But that was a bonehead call. 

Best5Zach's Fantasy College Football Week 8

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Up to a fine record of 17-4. I had a loss in my SEC Only league since Auburn dropped the ball (actually, threw the ball away). But, that's a free league, so I will sleep A-OK tonight. 

QB: Carden is on the bye, though he struggled mightily against a decent South Florida team. It isn't the first time that a fantasy player has been stonewalled against them. I really didn't want to start him against the Bulls, but he is a must start. But, as I said, he is on the bye. In his place we have Hendrix from Miami-Ohio. He averages 29 points a game, though the big numbers have come in the last 3 games against similar caliber teams. Against Cincinnati and Michigan, he had a pedestrian game. Up next is Northern Illinois, which is middle of the road in terms of talent. NIU gave up 46 points to my running back, Rawls. They are a great fantasy matchup team, it would seem. There isn't anyone else available on the waiver wire and I don't really have anyone I want to trade. If I lose, I lose. 
RB1: Abdullah is back from the bye week and playing an upstart North Western team that finds itself in the driver seat in their conference. Because all the other Heisman candidates have struggled, expect Pelini to give Abdullah the rock 30+ times. The North Western D is plenty capable of causing me to struggle. But, a guy who averages what Abdullah averages must be played. It is worth noting that NW allows only 150 rush yards. 
RB2: Rawls exploded against NIU for 46 points. Other than his down games against Toledo and UT-Chat, he has been a stud. Even those down games gave him 18 points per. All things considered, I would take that. He has Ball State this week who is 1-5  and allows 200 rushing yards per game. 
WR1: Jordan is a receiver that I have had on my bench for a few weeks. He consistently turns in points, his lowest total being 7 points and his highest being 33. I expect him to have a good game against Cal, who allows a WHOPPING 400 pass yards a game. 
WR2: Smelter is another player that has been on my bench. he has missed 2 games this year, but when he does play, he has been a difference maker. Last week he struggled against Duke, recording only 2 catches for 22 yards. He plays UNC, who gives up 300 passing yards per game. He is really a boom or bust player, considering that he has missed several games AND was injured leaving the stadium last week. 
TE: So, remember that I traded for Devon Johnson a few weeks ago? Yeah, so he is LISTED as a TE, but is ACTUALLY a RB. He is giving up 24 points a game on average. WOW. Talk about a league winner. He has Florida International. Yep. I will take that matchup, at least until halftime. He may not play all game, but I can be fairly certain that he will out-touch any other TE in college football. 

FLEX: Two weeks ago, Franks, the Texas State RB went on the waiver wire because he was on a bye last week. I picked him up, looking forward to the end of the season. I sat him that first week because I don't like the risk of playing new players. well, he played last night and got me a WHOPPING 3 points. Yep. We will holler at him next week.
K: Hunnicut is one of the best kickers out there. He is on a team that scores a lot of points. He gets Kansas State. While I don't think OU will score a TON of TDs, I DO think they will 
DST: Temple is playing Houston in a game that features the top scoring DSTs. The good news is, at least we know Houston's offense turns the ball over. 12 fumbles and 9 INTs. I live it.