College football head coaches are busy at work this week in the midst of bowl practices, trying their darnedest to get their teams ready to play one more game.
They all have one thing in common – getting their team “in the mood.” I’m not talking about dimming the lights and putting on some Lou Rawls.
I guess the better way to say it is – which coach can get their team motivated to stay focused and play their hardest in their respective bowl game? And most of these coaches have a bigger challenge on this front than others.
Let me explain. Do you think Dabo Swinney or Bob Stoops will have any issue getting their teams motivated and focused to play on New Year’s Eve? How about Nick Saban or Mark Dantonio? Didn’t think so. After all, there is a pretty big prize on the line for these four squads.
How about Ole Miss, Houston, Florida or Michigan, all playing in “New Year’s Six” bowls? I think they’re safe there too.
No, I’m talking about every team in the 33 other bowl games being played, starting on December 19 with Alcorn State and North Carolina A&T facing off in the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl.
Back to my main point – the “give-a-darn” meter for all of these teams will vary from 100 percent, all-in, to, “Can we get this game over with as fast as we can? I have a date tomorrow.”
I began noticing this issue back in 1998, when No. 2 Kansas State was upset in the Big 12 Championship Game and tumbled to the Alamo Bowl rather than play for the national title. The Wildcats went on to get their butts kicked by an 8-4 Purdue Boilermakers team because K-State simply didn’t care any longer.
This year – who’s going to really be motivated between Washington State and Miami to play in the Sun Bowl in El Paso on the day after Christmas? How about the Foster Farms Bowl in Santa Clara, Calif., between Nebraska and UCLA? Is either team going to focus on this?
If you’re headed to Vegas for the holidays or joining a bowl pool of any type, pick your games with caution. Multiple college programs are undergoing changes among their coaching staffs, including several at the head coach position. You think the focus on those campuses are rock-steady, especially when they finished the season 7-5 or 6-6? Please.
What’s a coach to do? He can give motivational speeches and have leadership council meetings until he is blue in the face. The bottom line – if his kids don’t buy in and want to win, they won’t.
Look at the Music City Bowl between Texas A&M and Louisville. Kevin Sumlin’s team had its starting quarterback transfer this past week and there is plenty of uncertainty at the offensive coordinator position. Which Louisville team is going to show up? Will Bobby Petrino be more focused on landing a better job and riding his motorcycle than preparing his team?
Yep, it’s tough picking games at this time of year. I usually have better luck getting out a dart board or flipping a coin on each game. Of course, when I do that, I like to lower the lights a bit and play “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine” on my iPad.
You know, to get in the mood.