Off weeks offer plenty of questions

Off weeks are tough to figure out for college football teams, and coaches have all kinds of ideas about when is the best time to have them and what's the best way to handle them.

Have one too early, and the team can find it hard to get into a rhythm. Have it too late, and the team can get too banged up before it gets to enjoy the time off.

Should the coaching staff cut back on the hard work and give the players a bit of a break? Or should the coaches push their players even harder during their time off?

Is it good to have week off before a big game or a rivalry game? Or is it better for a team to play the week before such a game to be in a rhythm and have things going the right way for a big-time showdown?

Just last week, we saw Georgia and Florida face off in Jacksonville, Fla., in their annual rivalry game. Both teams were off the week before that game (coming off losses), and both were sloppy. It wasn't a well-played game, although the Bulldogs made just enough plays to beat Florida for the third straight year.

Still, it wasn't the kind of a game – other than the win – to make the Bulldogs' players, coaches or fans feel good about how they played. They certainly enjoyed the win, but how they got there – nearly blowing a big lead – was anything but enjoyable.

On Saturday, LSU and Alabama face off in an important SEC clash. The two teams have played some classic games the past few years, but it will be interesting to see how off weeks for both teams before this week's game will affect the level of play. Will it be sluggish like Georgia-Florida, or will the two teams take advantage of their rest before the showdown and come out and have a game that will live up to the pregame hype? Alabama was playing well before its off week. LSU really wasn't. Will that time off change that momentum for the two teams in this game?

You just don't know.

That is facing the Clemson and Georgia Tech coaching staffs this week.

Georgia Tech has been streaky, winning three games to start the season before a three-game losing streak and then yet another three-game winning streak. The Tigers were struggling a bit before last week's win over Virginia, but they seemed to have found their groove a bit with a 59-10 victory in Charlottesville.

Will the two teams lose their momentum and be thrown off by the extra week to prepare for next Thursday's game at Memorial Stadium? Both teams certainly could use some time off after having their first off weeks early in the season.

Georgia Tech's came after the first game, while Clemson's came after its second game.

It's hard to say for the Yellow Jackets because they have been so up-and-down the entire year. The Tigers? The extra time to prepare for the Yellow Jackets and what they do offensively will be beneficial.

Georgia Tech's offense is much different than what most teams run through the season, and having some extra time to focus on that can only help. Clemson has struggled in the past years against the Yellow Jackets' option offense, so any extra time the Tigers' defenders have to see those schemes will help them prepare.

This Clemson defense, however, is much better and more experienced than it has been in past years, and it has played well throughout this season. No matter what Georgia Tech does, it would be a surprise to see that defensive unit struggle next Thursday.

The time off could help the offense, as well, mainly quarterback Tajh Boyd, who obviously is a bit banged up. This next week or so will give him time to get fresh for the stretch run and have a strong finish to his Clemson career. Again, it would be a surprise if he doesn't play well against Georgia Tech.

We won't know for sure until next week, but it will be a shock if the off week doesn't help the Tigers and they don't come out and play well against the Yellow Jackets.

Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of The Telegraph in Macon, Ga., and co-host of The Morning Show on FoxSports 1670 AM. Follow him on Twitter at @DM_Shirley and read his blog at Top Stories