GAINESVILLE — If you're not playing in the national championship football game, the next best bonus to playing in a January bowl game — besides pride and adding to your win column — is the chance to get that extra practice time in during bowl preparations.
It's like having an extra spring football season in December.
The No. 4 (No. 3 in BCS standings) Florida Gators got back on the practice field for light workouts this past weekend and will conclude their final workouts next week before breaking for the holidays.
"Our first four or five bowl practices will be absolutely no work on the opponent, it will be all working on ourselves, getting our guys back in the swing of playing football again and working on developing our young players," coach Will Muschamp said.
"The last four practices before we break for Christmas will be dedicated to the opponent, no different than game week. And when we get to the bowl site, we'll go back to the normal game preparation week. So you get two weeks to really prepare for those guys. Sometimes our guys will forget over Christmas the game plan. So we've got to review that."
Muschamp said the delicate balance lies in working out enough to get young players some valuable extra practice, but not overworking your players at the end of a long season.
"I think you go back, and you can practice too much," Muschamp said. "You can prepare too much, and you become stale as a team. I've always looked at it as practicing seven or eight times here in Gainesville, and you go to the bowl site, and you will get another five or six practices. You're looking at another spring ball. You've got to keep it interesting for your guys."
FRESHMAN HONORS: Florida freshman G/F Sydney Moss on Monday was named SEC women's basketball freshman of the week. Moss was the Gators' leading scorer in their two victories this past week, averaging 16.5 points and a team-best 66.7 percent shooting from the field. She also had a team-high eight assists to just three turnovers. Moss scored a career- and game-high 18 in a win against Troy that snapped the Gators' two-game losing streak and began a two-game win streak, which included an 89-82 win against a Pacific squad that had entered the game as one of 17 undefeated teams in the country.
The Florida women return to competition Dec. 16 with a game against LaSalle in Philadelphia.
ON THE RISE: The Florida men's basketball team remains undefeated and on Monday moved up one spot in the AP poll to No. 5. The Gators remained at No. 5 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll. Coach Billy Donovan said he's trying to keep his team from becoming overconfident after defeating every opponent this season by double digits, including last week's 72-47 victory over Florida State.
"There's a fine line in understanding who we are," Donovan said. "You win a game by a large margin and you come back to practice the next day and it ends up being a mind-set of, 'We've got this figured out and we know what we're doing.' And that's where I think slippage starts to occur. So we've talked about that a lot. Everything that's happened up to this point and time is really all in the past."
The Gators (7-0) will play at No. 8 Arizona (7-0) Saturday at 10 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN.
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]