The best part of a bowl game for players is a chance to travel to a new (hopefully warm) destination to have fun and wrap up the season with a win.
However, the most important part of a bowl game might actually be the practices that lead up to it.
Bowl practices serve as a second, much less intense version of the summer training camp. It’s a chance to work on things your team didn’t do well during the season and get young players some valuable reps.
It can sometimes also be a chance to install some fun and different plays.
First, to dispel a frequently-repeated myth, there is no NCAA-mandated maximum number of practices. The official NCAA Postseason Bowl Handbook doesn’t set a number.
Historically, teams have held roughly 15 practices in advance of their bowl game.
Unless your team is in the College Football Playoff, a lot of that time is dedicated to giving younger players a chance to work.
Urban Meyer has had a “2,000 rep club” for several years now. That allows older players who have participated in 2,000 competitive reps to only practice a limited amount of time during spring football and other camps.
The goal is to keep older guys fresh and let younger players move up the learning curve quicker. At wide receiver, for example, Terry McLaurin, Johnnie Dixon, and Parris Campbell have probably been watching guys like Chris Olave, Jaylen Harris, and Demario McCall practicing more this month.
Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Wyatt Davis was another young Buckeye who is getting a real crash-course in December.
Davis was thrust into the lineup when starting right guard Demetrius Knox suffered a foot injury late in the win over Michigan. He started the Big Ten Championship Game and now gets a full month of work with the first-team line. He said all that experience would make him feel like a returning starter for the 2019 season.
“Most definitely. If I continue just to listen to all of the coaching that I’ve been given and listening to the advice that guys like Isaiah Prince and Demetrius Knox are giving me, I feel like as long as I keep developing and getting better, I think it will feel like that,” Davis said.
But for everyone, the practice schedule has been the same.
According to linebacker Tuf Borland, it started with a return to Football 101.
“Bowl prep has been good so far. We just finished what we call our first phase,” Borland said earlier this month. “Just working on fundamentals and getting back into the flow of things after the break we got after the Big Ten.”
That first phase ended on December 12. After that, the Buckeyes started shifting their focus to game prep for the Rose Bowl. That meant watching film of Washington, and installing specific plays and packages for the game.
They’re currently on a break for Christmas. The players headed home to spend the holiday with the families, and will get back together in California.
After a welcome event in Disney Land on December 26, the Buckeyes will be back on the practice field the following day.
On the surface, it’s all about being ready for the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. But the experience that Ohio State’s players gain this month will continue to pay off all throughout 2019 as well.