12 games in 12 weeks

Three Southeastern Conference football teams – Alabama, Auburn and Vanderbilt – will play 12 games this season without an open date. You'd think that would cause much wailing and gnashing of teeth but at least one of the affected coaches is taking a low-key approach.

That would be Alabama's Mike Shula, who coached in the National Football League prior to becoming the Crimson Tide's head man three years ago.

"My first few years in the NFL, you didn't have bye weeks then," he said. "So you kind of go back to that mindset. I think it's something you talk to your players about at the start of the season, and then it becomes a non-issue from that point on."

Although 12 games in 12 weeks can take a toll physically, Shula believes the real problem is handling the task mentally.

"Everyone gets it in their mind: You look at the schedule, there's no breaks, there's no open week," he said.

The solution, he added, is simple: "You just get it in your mind you're going to have to grind each and every week."

That grind is a lot easier for an Auburn or an Alabama than it is for a Vanderbilt, which lacks the depth of the SEC's upper-echelon teams. As a result, the Commodores' Bobby Johnson is a little less philosophical about playing 12 games in 12 weeks than Shula.

"Twelve straight games can be extremely tough," he said. "Sometimes an open date can disrupt you if you've had a stretch where you're playing well. But most of the time an open date gives you a chance to rest your guys, get them healed up a little bit. I think it's definitely an advantage to have one on there somewhere."

Asked what he'll do to try and keep his players from wearing down, Johnson replied: "Cut down on practice. We won't hit as much and we won't scrimmage as much in preseason. Otherwise, you'll wear ‘em out."


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