They have real playoff experience


The caveat was issued right up front.

Sure, the era of the College Football Playoff has arrived. And yes, there are a handful of coaches scattered across the game's highest level who have not only survived but also thrived in that format in their time in the Football Championship Subdivision, before they moved up to their current gigs.

But each of the three win-or-go-home experts solicited for advice on how to deal with the new postseason setup stressed one thing above all else before they dived into preparation methods, how to keep players focused and everything else that comes with claiming a championship over the course of more than one week.

"I don't know if there's any perfect formula," said former Montana and current UNLV coach Bobby Hauck. "You just have to grind, and somehow you've got to make it to the finish line."

For the first time ever, in January a team is going to break that tape in the top classification in college football.

And though the comparisons aren't perfect between an FCS model that currently includes 20 more teams than the College Football Playoff, there are lessons that can be applied from one format to the other. Hauck (three championship appearances), Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson (two titles with Georgia Southern) and Wyoming's Craig Bohl (three straight championships with North Dakota State) all offered a bit of insight they'd love to have reason to use again at some point with their current teams.

Stock up on caffeine

The grind is spread over more weeks at the FCS level, but the month after the pairings are announced is going to wear out coaches trying to prepare for the semifinal. More importantly than that, the short turnaround for the title matchup will leave coaches scrambling and trying to use every available second to prepare for the title matchup.

"A lot of Red Bull, lot of coffee and a lot of Diet Mountain Dew," Bohl said. "Your mind is working, you've got this [first] game, but if you're able to get through it, what is the makeup of the other two teams? What do we need to do if we're really going to win a championship?"

Getting an advance scouting report on the two potential opponents might be a job for graduate assistants, and they might be the ones guzzling the energy drinks twice as fast with a double workload. Although Bohl stressed the importance of having all the information ready ahead of time for a team he expected to win, almost every ounce of that extra energy during a practice week needs to be locked in on the task at hand for players and the coaching staff.

"I was superstitious, so I didn't ever look ahead," Johnson said. "As soon as we would find out the result, we'd be back in there either Saturday night or Sunday morning, and we'd break it down. But I think once you get to that point in the season, we were more concerned with ourselves than the opponents. We tried to make sure that we were going to be ready to play as good as we could play."

Keep the players fresh

The players might just be looking at one extra game, but given the pressure and what's on the line, ensuring that a roster is healthy and fully charged for maximum effort is no small feat.

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