Right now, December 4, we are 34 days from the BCS Championship Game being played, and both Notre Dame and Alabama are staring a long layoff in the face before meeting for the title bout. For Notre Dame, exams kick off with reading days December 7, and exams run the 10th through 14th. In Tuscaloosa, the same schedule holds true.
While the coaches make the schedule regarding lift times, practices after the exam period, when the kids go home and when they report to Miami, there is still a lot of time on the kids' hands. So how do you spend that time? What do you do during all of it?
Well, I'm glad you asked, because I'll tell you what I'd do.
Here's the thing: A lot of folks are going to say it has to be football, football, football, football. This is the biggest game of your life and you have to spend every waking moment preparing for all of the possible situations.
Yes, it is an important football game, but guess what? You've played important football games before. If you have a routine to your preparation, then stick to that routine. If you have been a good-time, go-out, fun-time guy, then be that guy. If you were the guy who spends the evenings at home or with your girlfriend, then keep being that player.
The biggest thing is doing what works and retaining that often-mentioned "sense of normalcy." When you get to Miami, you are going to have a bunch of crap going on all around you. So your true prep work must be done before you head home for the holidays.
Coaches will produce a game plan and, like every week all season long, it is up to you, the player, to digest the plan and get on the same page with your teammates. Get your prep done, watch your film, understand your assignments and enjoy the week on campus when everyone is gone except you and a few other teams.
When you get to head home, get your workouts in and watch film. That does not mean go out and kill yourself in the weight room. What it means is do not go home and sit around, getting fat on mom's cooking and losing the shape that you've been worked into since fall camp.
Now, like before, is the time to continue doing what it is you do. Go see your high school friends. Go see that high school sweetheart you've been texting who went to a different college. Those things are all okay and help you keep even-keeled. Enjoy the holiday with your friends and family, while making sure to maintain your focus on arriving in Miami prepared.
Once you're in Miami, the layoff is technically over, but focus must truly be maintained. The reason you want to get your prep in before you get to town is because there will be too much going on surrounding the game to try to install new things and work out kinks. Practices the week of the bowl are about rehearsal and polishing more than they are about installing.
We've saved the most important thing for last: Be smart and don't get arrested. Smart as in don't get in the car with a drunk driver, don't set yourself up to get popped on a drug test and don't do something that will get you scrubbed from the game, like a potential NCAA violation.
Sure, don't get arrested might sound self-explanatory, but every year there are a host of kids who fall prey to the idle time of the layoff. Look, they are not all bad kids, but when 17-23-year-old guys have gobs of free time, the silly things can land you in the clink talking to the magistrate real quick.
So, while I think the saying "nothing good happens after midnight" is a load of baloney, I will say avoiding an arrest is a smart move. A lot of good things can happen after midnight, and if you're smart, none of them should get you arrested.
Enjoy your layoff, but use it well. Prepare as you would every other game, because when the fanfare is stripped down, that is what this is—another football game. Staying out of trouble and not getting arrested are the baseline for the layoff. Getting ready for the game while not over-complicating the sport you've played well all season is the goal—nothing more and nothing less.