Bye weeks are put in place for several reasons. Put in place more for the players benefit, bye weeks tend to be a time to recover.
For coaches, they’re used as a time to start some early game planning for the next opponent. Oftentimes, bye weeks give teams a winning edge— two weeks to prepare is better than one. For fans and supporters, it could make for a boring week of football, but it also offers some relief for those who tend to regulate their weekly emotions based on the ups and downs of the program.
No matter how you feel about bye weeks, though, this doesn’t mean extra time off, but rather more for focused preparation.
One might be led to believe that bye weeks on the game schedule are reflected in the weekly practice schedule. They’re not wrong, but also not totally correct. Weekly practice schedules go Tuesday through Thursday, with two or three lifting days throughout, depending upon if you’re a travel squad player or not. During bye weeks, everyone is included in a morning practice on the day that would be been game day. This was my experience, anyway, as a member of the Mizzou Football team between 2007-2011. With a new strength and conditioning staff and an almost brand-new coaching staff though, the details may be a bit hazy, and/or have changed a great deal.
Throughout the week leading up to (what would be) game day, the team will condition twice a week in the afternoons while maintaining the normal morning lifting schedule. During this time, coaches are game planning, going over film for the next opponent, and including players as necessary. The team will still meet at times throughout the week, but “Troy Practice #1” will be this Saturday now, instead of next Tuesday. It’s a schedule designed to allow players to get their legs under them once again, recover, and get an early jump on the next opponent.
For this Mizzou team, this will likely come at the price of prioritizing what’s most important. The Tigers can certainly ride their momentum into the bye week, just as any team should want to do. When a team goes into the off week with a dominant win like the Tigers had in their SEC opener against South Carolina, things take the tone of preparation over reflection. (The adverse affect would be more reflection-heavy, filled with a little more stress following a loss, but we won’t focus on that.) Mizzou will treat Troy with the same level of intensity as all other opponents — they’ll just get an additional week to do it.
For this team, much like any other, it might be easy to say, “It’s just Troy”. For all the good that bye weeks represent, though, they also offer an opportunity to get lazy and complacent. One thing this team cannot afford to do is become complacent, as they’ll re-enter SEC play the following week, facing a remaining schedule that may seem forgiving, but will be anything but. We all know that, in SEC play, any momentum is good momentum.
This week should be approached with balance: balance that weighs the pros of mental and physical recovery, with the cons of having an “empty” game schedule for the week. A team’s top priority apart from winning should always be the health of its players, and bye weeks aid in that process. This week should be treated as such, giving the players time to rest up, while remembering to make decisions that won’t hurt the football team. With the busy schedule that is Division I college football, players don’t always know what to do with free time. This can lead to... we’ll just say, “non-productive,” things happening off the field. Mizzou needs to avoid these situations, keeping their focus on that balance of rest and prep.
In the program Coach Odom has built, this team has a solid foundation to do what it takes to utilize their time off well. This first bye week offers a breath of fresh air, with the opportunity to focus on the things that make this team great in the first place. It starts with every player taking some time for reflection, remembering what led them to success in the first four games.
Nothing like some time off for the Tigers to prioritize what’s most important: getting back to winning.