4-Down Territory: Early Signing Day Reminders, Shortened Bowl Preparation & An Epic Bowl Gallery

1st Down: Early National Signing Day Is Just a Beginning: The over-done promotion level of all signees as the next great thing rises each year. Many fans make signing day a huge deal and many of these players buy into that hype. But signing day is not a destination. It is a gate, a starting point of a journey that will be a tough uphill climb on many, many days. There will be stumbles and failures and all the signing day hype in the world won’t do anyone any good once the ink is dry.

2nd Down: Reality Check: For all the fans inflating the egos of 17 and 18 year olds because of their potential will you be there to support them when their NFL dreams fail? Remember that the vast majority of these "can’t-miss" guys will not make an NFL roster. So when they are looking to network in their career after football be sure to be available to them. Their education and their school's alumni network after college will be more important to them in the long run.

3rd Down: The New Bowl Schedules: One of the drawbacks to the new bowl schedule format is the condensed period of bowl prep time. It is particularly pronounced with Thanksgiving being so late this year. Teams found out their bowl opponent on December 8th and the College Football Playoff semifinals will be played on December 28th. That is a full four days earlier than New Year’s Day. Also key players in those games went to the College Football Awards show with a day or two traveling on either side. And four Heisman Finalists then flew to New York for a couple of days. Those are missed practice opportunities. Throw in their coaches’ early-signing day recruiting sprint to the finish, a week of finals and you see that the prep time has been dramatically cut. In years past on Penn State staffs I was part of we had roughly 15 practices and a couple of walk-throughs between the end of the season and the bowl game. We even got to the bowl site early enough to have two or three days of two-a-day practices. In the Big Ten era under Joe Paterno, Penn State used that practice plan fourteen times amassing a 10-4 bowl record including a 7-3 mark against current SEC teams.

4th Down: What The New Schedule Could Mean: You may see fewer new wrinkles in bowl games, the kinds of things that in the past gave an underdog an element of surprise. There may be some sloppy play and the timing of the pass game for some teams may be off. That is one of the hardest things to keep sharp for a bowl game. The best remedy for the bowl layoff is full speed competition that comes with practicing good on good before the bowl games.The other element of fewer practices is less time developing younger players. Many teams took time during those extra practices to work with younger players to help develop them for the following season. Those extra 15 practices we had at Penn State, a few of them were strictly developmental, often held before we even knew who our bowl opponent was going to be. Those enabled more time to evaluate and develop talent long before the next season.

College Football 150 Relics: A 1978 Press Conference Photo of Joe Paterno and Paul Bryant before the epic National Title game in the 1979 Sugar Bowl.Check the gallery for more Penn State Bowl memories as well as couple more pictures of Coach Bryant.

Picture 1: Alabama Coach Bryant Takes a drag off a heater during a 1975 Sugar Bowl Press Conference

Picture 2: Penn State Coach Rip Engle and Alabama Coach Paul Bryant at a 1959 Liberty Bowl event

Picture 3: Penn State's Lydell Mitchell Scores in Penn State's 1972 Cotton Bowl rout of Texas

Picture 4: Penn State defeated Baylor in the 1975 Cotton Bowl

Picture 5: Penn State's prolific offense secured a National Championship win in the 1983 Sugar Bowl

Picture 6: Penn State's Defense held Miami to just 10 points to clinch the National Championship in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl

Picture 7: Bobby Engram with the ball in Penn State's 1995 Rose Bowl win over Oregon

Picture 8: Penn State's Michael Robinson yelling to his teammates during a 3-Overtime win over Florida State in the 2006 Orange Bowl

Picture 9: Penn State's Sean Lee makes a tackle in Penn State's Capital One Bowl win over LSU

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