Some schools practice hard, while others go light. Some arrive in the bowl city a week or more in advance, while others come in shortly before the game. Some conduct a regular week of practice before the contest, while others modify their approach. Some stay close to the action, others move their teams to outlying areas. In short, there are just about as many different methods of preparation as there are teams in bowls.
Under Don Nehlen, West Virginia used several different methods. The Mountaineers practiced hard and used all kinds of motivational ploys to get ready for Florida in 1981, and the result was a 26-6 WVU spanking of the Gators. The next year, West Virginia again departed early, but lost their edge during the week of activities and were beaten by Florida State in the Gator Bowl.
WVU went with a lighter approach before the Bluebonnet Bowl in 1984 and won, but the same approach nine years later before the Sugar Bowl resulted in an ugly loss.
The Mountaineers are now in the Rich Rodriguez regime, of course, and he's likely drawing on his experiences as a player and an assistant coach to formulate his plan of attack. But, is there a magic formula?
The answer is probably not. There's no one "right way" to prepare a team for a bowl. The trick is to match bowl preparations to the character and style of the team. A squad full of seniors that are strong leaders might benefit from a more relaxed style and less preparation -- such a team has the experience to know what they need to do to get ready. On the other hand, a younger team might need a bit more structure and control as they deal with all the activities and media scrutiny around the game.
Again, this isn't a one size fits all solution. Bowl preparations are a difficult task to undertake and get right. Making the job even more difficult is the fact that learning what works for one team doesn't necessarily help the next time a bowl trip is earned, because the team will be different. Different players, different location, different staff -- it all adds up to a new experience every time out.
Up next: A look at Coach Rod's bowl preparation schedule and some thoughts on how it fits this year's team.