Derek Johnson Muses

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Monthly Archives: December 2013

Bowl Games: Watch Points

Bowl season is truly magical. I mean seriously, in September a Washington State-Colorado State matchup, or a Louisiana-Lafayette-Tulane showdown are merely filer for the Pac-12 Networks or CBS Sports networks, but as bowl games, football diehards are tuning in because it’s literally the only game on.

But bowl games can exaggerate a team’s value or accomplishments. With several months to get up (or down) for a game, a team seen at season’s end often isn’t the one playing in Florida or California. So here now are some principals that I’ve adopted when I watch bowl games.

Don’t go gaga over one team blowing another out, or surpassing their average total offense numbers for the season. With a month’s time to prep for a bowl, a coach can install more new things on offense and catch defenses off-guard. Teams who run quirky offenses like Oregon and Georgia Tech, beware though: when defensive coaches have a month to study your tendencies, they tend to figure stuff out.

If your team plays poorly, do be concerned. There are of course exceptions: if you get slammed by a peaking Alabama, Florida, or other SEC power, that is routine as a Tuesday in cubicleville. But if an equal program blows your team out, it’s a problem if they looked unprepared going into the game. Prime example would be Arizona’s 2009 Holiday Bowl, when the Wildcats were controlled by a 10-4 Nebraska team who didn’t have an offense. After another blowout loss against Oklahoma State, Mike Stoops was hitting the brick in mid-season the next year.

If a bowl stadium is full, the program who fills it gets the big picture and deserves a lot of credit. One of the biggest positives I’ve seen in the bowl season so far is two out of five relatively minor bowls have played to full stadiums, the Las Vegas Bowl & the New Orleans Bowl, and the New Mexico Bowl had its second highest attendance since 2008. Some of this has to do with proximity (USC has a large base in Vegas, the New Orleans Bowl was dual home game for Tulane and Louisiana-Lafayette), and Sam Boyd Stadium is small. But given how many empty bowl stadiums there will be over the next two weeks, two full stadiums already are a victory.


Nate Swift’s touchdown in the 2007 Cotton Bowl. Sorry for the low quality…right before a camera upgrade.

Limiting Grocery Store Trips

Stocked Shelves...

Stocked Shelves…

Monday two weeks ago, I had an epiphany: I should try not to go to the grocery store this week instead of my usual three trips a week. I always end up going to the grocery store the second I need something, and then I get a lot of stuff I hadn’t planned on getting, some of which I don’t even need. It was time for me to adopt the practice of making list. Plus, there was plenty of meat in my freezer that I needed to use.

It was a challenging few days, during which I made a special chili for dinner: hamburger, tomato soup, and kidney beans with Holen One Farms’ spice. After a day or two, the fact that I didn’t have any chips started to wear on me. Chips are a huge part of my diet, as I end up eating them with pretty much every meal.  So I bargained with myself a bit: I’ll go when I get a list that has more than ten items. And when one of them becomes bathroom cleaner, the trip becomes all the more urgent.

In the end, I spent $66 on groceries, and the only meat I bought was a four pack of polish sausage that was on sale. A lot of my purchases were baking stuff that happened to be on sale for the holidays. It is now a week later, and I have absolutely no need to go to the grocery store. I’ve only ate out once, at the midweek advent dinner at church. The following week, I also managed to only make one trip to the grocery. In addition, I also have a better idea of how much I’ve spent on food, so I can budget better. Sweet smell of life improvement.

Winter Title



It happened. I got snowed in. Now the walk to my truck takes a good 15-20 seconds of trudging through snow, or going around on the sidewalk. I’m not even going to go out my back door until March at the earliest. I am very concerned that this early snow will lower the general temperature bowl so low that it will bring on an even larger snow storm later this month or early in the new year.



Front porch….

I don’t hate winter but I hate that winter siphons off time and energy to deal with snow and cold. Each year, I think more about moving someplace south so I won’t have to deal with the cold and snow. But I digress.

Winter is the time where I read more and get things done inside, but it’s also the time where I long for change to my routine. My mind washes the winter months away almost as soon as they’re done.  But a lot of good stuff happens in the winter too; both of the larger writing projects I’ve written started in the winter.

By the end of February, the season of not-winter will have started, and I will be walking outside with regularity and throwing on shorts as soon as it hits 50 degrees, and all this white stuff will look pretty in pictures.  For now though, time is frozen.

BCS Chaos: Cases for Auburn, Missouri, and Ohio State

It’s only fitting that BCS goes out with a bang, or some other big controversy, and thanks to Auburn’s win over Alabama, we’ve got one. Now all the SEC lovers are out there telling us how daunting it is to go through the SEC, how the Big 10 has fallen completely off the map. But in the case of Auburn, I’m not buying it.

Yes, the SEC is still the best conference, although I don’t think they run nearly as deep as they have over the last few years. (Still, they have four BCS-bowl worthy teams.) But if you are going to buck tradition and put an one-loss team in the national title game over a multi-loss team, it better be pretty obvious that the one-loss team is better than the undefeated. And that’s not the case when you comare Auburn and Ohio State.

If we’re going to ask who has Ohio State beaten, just look at Auburn’s best wins: every bowl eligible, major conference team that Auburn has played stayed within one score of the Tigers, including the dregs of Washington State, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State, arguably the twelfth best team in the SEC. LSU was up on Auburn 21-0 early in the second quarter, and led them 35-14 in the fourth quarter. And you have the matter of their two miracle wins. If Auburn deserves to be number two in the country, they should have beaten a really good team soundly, and they haven’t.

Having watched both teams, I would say that, if Auburn and Ohio State played on a neutral field on equal rest, the game would be a coin flip, with a slight edge to the Buckeyes because they have the more dynamic quarterback. Granted, Auburn has a very good defensive line, but they lack the down field passing game to press Ohio State to match them score for score. And let’s not forget Auburn’s history: they have not exactly dominated their non-conference matchups and bowl games. Of their last eight bowl games, they have only two wins by multiple scores, and even their national championship team struggled Oregon, Clemson, and from the SEC, Mississippi State. Clemson in fact has beaten Auburn twice in non-conference play, West Virginia once LSU, Alabama, Florida, and South Carolina under Steve Spurrier mowed through their bowl games and important non-conference games; Auburn does not.

The lamest case for Auburn is on the SEC’s history. Everyone making that case should be remind of how Notre Dame campaigned on its history a year ago. If you’re going to crack Notre Dame for close home wins against BYU and Pitt, you have to crack Auburn for close home wins against Mississippi State and Ole Miss.

Missouri, on the other hand, can be seriously considered for the number two spot over Ohio State. Even though some may make the case that they lack seniority in the SEC, just look at the Tigers’ resume: they have crushed three good SEC teams on the road in Vanderbilt, Georgia, and Mississippi, dominating the Commodores from the first snap of the game. Missouri has beaten ten of twelve teams by at least thirteen points. They only teams that have been closer are Texas A&M and South Carolina. And Missouri led the Gamecocks 17-0 in the fourth quarter before Connor Shaw stage a late comeback and the Tigers lost on a missed field goal in overtime. That is a resume worthy of a National Title Game.

Still, when I watch Missouri, I don’t know that they are vastly better than Ohio State. Earlier this year, I thought they were one of the most compelling football teams I had ever seen on television, the way they just flat out whipped Georgia and Florida. They don’t pass the eye ball test the way that Alabama and LSU do, but they execute like no one’s business.

If I was compelled to vote an SEC team into the National Title Game, I would choose Alabama, because I feel their best is better than anyone else best, except maybe Florida State’s. If they had a few field goals against Auburn, they could have beaten the Tigers going away. They lost to LSU in 2011 for virtually the same reason, and, as the rematch proved, they were clearly the better team. If I were a voter, I don’t know right now who I would choose as my top two, but I would take the week to think about it. The one thing that has changed for me is that I wouldn’t feel as bad voting Ohio State number 2 as I would have three weeks ago.


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