Kevin Sumlin explains how to handle a long bowl layoff

It's been a heck of a month for Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin. There was Johnny Manziel's Heisman Trophy win and the requisite black-tie tour that comes for a head coach with a Heisman-winning quarterback. Then Kliff Kingsbury left Aggieland to become the head coach at Texas Tech.

Now, with a game approaching Friday, it's time to get back to business for the first time since Nov. 24. How has Sumlin handled everything that's occurred in his program in the 40 days between games while also preparing the Aggies for a big-time bowl game?

"The time factor with us playing the 4th, I think has helped us with all the award things going on and gave us some time," said Sumlin. "That four days past New Year's has helped us just because we had so many guys running around all over the place in early December. I think how you manage that becomes important."

Needless to say, playing in the New Mexico Bowl would have been a difficult turnaround for the Aggies. 

Sumlin worked on Oklahoma staffs that coached the Sooners in the 2004 Sugar Bowl and 2005 Orange Bowl, both national championship losses played on Jan. 4 of their respective years. Friday's Cotton Bowl isn't for the national title, but it does fall on Jan. 4. That experienced has proven crucial for the Cotton Bowl. 

"The players - which is something I learned when I was at Oklahoma - the later the game, if you do things too early, the players can get bored," Sumlin explained. "You've got to keep them interested."

Sumlin's counterpart and former boss Bob Stoops has solved his own set of bowl season problems. After five straight January losses, Oklahoma has ended its last three seasons with victories. 

In college football, piloting a long bowl layoff is a first-world problem, the consequence of a successful regular season. Luckily for Texas A&M, they have a pilot who has flown this route before. 


The Scoop on the Sugar Bowl

The BCS party continues tonight when No. 3 Florida faces No. 21 Louisville in the Sugar Bowl (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). 

To pull off the upset, Louisville needs to learn from the last time a Big East team faced a highly-ranked Florida squad in the Sugar Bowl, the Gators' 51-24 stomping of Cincinnati in the 2010 Sugar Bowl. In that game, the Bearcats didn't force a turnover (though they committed none of their own) and, most importantly, failed to get their offense off the ground in the first half. Florida put 23 on the board before Cincinnati broke its goose egg, and five of its six true possessions in the first half ended in punts, with four three-and-outs mixed in. Of course, Cincinnati played that night without head coach Brian Kelly, while Louisville enters tonight with its coaching staff intact.

To pull off the upset, Louisville must get the best game of the year from its special teams units. The Cardinals ranked 119th in net punting, 100th in kickoff return yardage defense, 106th in punt returns and 116th in kickoff returns. Florida's defense, ranked sixth or better in each of the four major defensive categories, is more than capable of matching its last Sugar Bowl first half, so Louisville's offense must get help from its special teams. 

Florida is far from pretty on offense, but it has succeeded in grinding opponents into dust behind explosive running back Mike Gillislee, most notably in his 34-carry, 146-yard, two-touchdown effort in the win over LSU. Offensive coordinator Brent Pease will likely employ a similar plan of attack against a Louisville rush defense that ranked seventh in the eight-team Big East. 

U.S. Army All American unis revealed

Here's a look at what the players in the US Army All American game will be wearing on Saturday courtesy of Adidas.

Notice the subtle camo pattern on the helmet and pants. Pretty smooth looking.

For those interested, here's a look at the roster for the game as well.


Buffalo Bills bringing analytics to the NFL

The concept of analytics has taken root in baseball in the last decade and gained acceptance in basketball in the past few years as well. Now, Buffalo Bills president Russ Brandon is bringing analytics to the NFL.

"We are going to create and establish a very robust football analytics operation that we layer into our entire operation moving forward," Brandon told the Buffalo News. "That's something that's very important to me and the future of the franchise."

When you are running a franchise that hasn't had a winning season since 2004, is based in one of the NFL's smallest markets and plays in the same division as the New England Patriots, you need to take any advantage within the rules you can get.

Brandon will task general manager Buddy Nix, assistant general manager Doug Whaley and football administration senior vice president Jim Overdorf with installing and applying the team's new analytics division.

"You know, obviously, I'm old-school in more ways than one," Nix also told the Buffalo News. "It'll be something I'll have to get used to because I go a lot on feel and what I see."

This is where the Bills can tear a page from the NBA's analytics manual. The Memphis Grizzlies recently hired longtime ESPN.com writer John Hollinger as its vice president of basketball operations and the Oklahoma City Thunder have tabbed former Grantland.com NBA blogger Sebastian Pruiti as a video analyst. 

The NFL is an ego-driven league, but reaching out to the right people, wherever they may be, can help ensure the Bills' step into this brave new world isn't a failure. 

The Bills, and football as a whole, gained some advantages by trailing baseball and basketball to the study of analytics. This new line of thinking created a civil war of sorts within the baseball community in particular, but all three sports have learned that analytics is not a be-all-end-all, but is most successfully implemented when paired with solid scouting. 

Analytics were long overdue for gaining an official foothold in NFL team offices and, for the Bills' sake, here's hoping this first step is a forward one. 

Update from Scott> Last Spring I participated in a meeting with Chip Kelly and Mike Thrower of Overtime Software in Chip's office. As you might expect, Chip already had the vision to build out a software application to analyze data from their current roster, historical players (and decisions) and prospects. The meeting was fascinating....think Good Will Hunting. Overtime software left that meeting and customized their software to Chip's specs (with plenty of input from the Ducks' staff along the way). This stuff exists and it's pretty impressive. OT has written customized applications for Oregon, LSU, Georgia, Arizona State, etc... If this is something your program is considering implementing, they would be a good first call. 

'When the game is on the line go back to day 1 install'

David Shaw admits that in the first half of the Rose Bowl yesterday, they did some stuff to get Wisconsin off balance a bit, but when the game was on the line he reflected back to a conversation he had with Joe Montana.

"For us it's always about getting back to the basics. I tell these guys a lot about a conversation that I had with Joe Montana. We talked about the Super Bowl wins and how Bill Walsh would always go back to day 1 installation when the game was on the line...the plays that those guys know and rep so many times."

"We say that all the time, we're going to go back to what we do because at the end of the game it all comes down to execution."

Keep that in mind the next time a game goes down to the wire. Go back to the plays you installed on day one that you've repped over and over again so that your guys are out there executing with confidence when it matters the most.

Also, notice Shaw's kids on stage with him after one of their biggest wins of the season. This isn't a guy who just preaches about a family environment at Stanford, he lives it.


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