Did we peak too early?

As a fan of professional road cycling and having done some endurance riding myself in years past I have some sort of an idea about long term conditioning. When it comes down to getting a single rider in condition to peak during the Tour de France for example, they know how to step up the training so they peak at just the right moment.

For as long as we’ve been in the PAC-12 we’ve had some sort of drop off and I feel like we’ve seen that again this year and it started right around the Washington game. I’m wondering if our guys are just simply worn out by this point of the season - and we got this far this year simply relying on our athletic superiority.

In conditioning there is definitely a point of diminishing returns and there is also the possibility where you overtrain and actually get worse despite similar efforts. It is tough because it seems counterintuitive to start to rest more and work out less when you reach those points, or to even taper down your workouts dramatically towards then end of your targets and goals.

I know we pay hefty sums for strength and conditioning coaches and they likely know far more than I do on this subject, but each year I find myself asking this question.

I don’t believe this team lacks discipline nor do I believe they don’t care, but we saw one of the most physical teams we’ve ever had get out-physicaled twice in a row now. These guys have a ton of pride, that doesn’t just happen. I can believe however that their sizable work ethic could contribute to worsening conditioning (through overwork) as the season wears on.

Our annual November Swoon has become a December Swoon. But I don’t think we peaked too early. We had to buy this year. We just played better teams at the end with more physical offensive and defensive lines. The players didn’t respond in the coaches didn’t know how to respond

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In remembrance of the words of John Wooden and Urban Meyer looking at the tightrope we walked to win the South, and sitting through the horror of the last few games, we simply went flat. After the U$C loss, these kids stepped up so big and hard. Add to the mix some of these kids played too deep in the blowouts, and if would be fair to say, the tanks were empty. The performances against Arizona and Colorado, though wins were not as high energy as the previous games.

At the end of the day, this season ended just like the NCAA Championship game a couple of decades back…we simply ran out of gas.

This was a really good team. It was an exciting season that ended with a thud. I am sure the kids feel sick about it.

On to basketball season and the next football season.

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Their motivation peaked in the second half of the CU game. This had nothing to do with being worn out. Remember, all season long Whitt was bragging how few plays the team had been in. He was clearly managing the pitch count for the team. They largely made it to the PAC 12 CCG with no injuries to starters. They failed to show up in the first half of the UW and CU games, but miraculously adjusted and won the 2nd halves and the games. They did not show up to the PAC 12 CCG. Lots of execution problems on display. They got clobbered and all motivation drained right there.

They thought Texas would be a cake walk owing to their mediocre record in the Big 12. Few focused on the fact that all of those Texas losses were by one score, including to LSU. I was calling this a trap game. I was concerned about the motivation. After going to the PAC 12 CCG on a bad foot, postponing scheduled surgery until after the game, I was clearly not going to risk the foot by traveling to San Antonio for the game based on what I was seeing. There clearly was a drop off in effort. Then Jaylon Johnson (who got torched on a long pass against Oregon) announced he wasn’t even going to play, opting to prepare for the NFL draft, the ultimate non-team oriented decision one could make. Sorry but if the whole team can’t make it, neither can I. Hope he enjoys the NFL, because in the end it’s a business and you’re an employee working a the whims of ownership and on display for the fans. Way different than college where everyone fawns over you.

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Remember, we were favored in both games (UO and UT). The folks in Vegas know what they are doing, so it wasn’t like we had no chance due to the talent mismatch, as some people are saying. There are reasons for the UT debacle but no excuses. I could see a close loss in both games but not two consecutive blowouts.

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Interesting analogy with the cycling metaphor. As you all know I’m a cyclist. I used to race (as a decent regional amateur, never great), so I can give my experience on the peaking. IMO there is as much mental peaking as there is physical peaking.

When I raced I usually started in late February or early March. I had trained hard over the winter, but was mentally ready for racing once the season started. Around mid-May I’d start feeling burned out, and would stay off my bike for 2 or 3 weeks. I’d then race myself back into the condition that I’d lost, to be ready for my later season races and goals. Other racers would do similar, but at different times throughout the season.

So, IMO they team may not have lacked physical endurance, but may have lost the mental side sometime earlier in the season. As someone stated, sorry, I don’t recall who. The team seemed a bit flat against Arizona, and Colorado. We know what happened in the PAC CCG. I guess, I’m not a sports psychologist or anything, there was a carry over effect from the CCG to the Alamo Bowl.

If you follow pro sports, you can see similar results through their respective seasons. Most of us watched, followed, or still follow the Jazz while we attended the U. They had issues, every year where they’d go flat for a period of time. It’s really hard to stay sharp mentally, in a sports sense, over a long period of time.

@RockerUte brouogh up pro cycling. We see most riders in great form mentally and physically for about 4 to 5 weeks. This coincides for many at the Tour de France, or Giro d’Italia. If you want an example of how tough that can be. Nobody since Miguel Indurain has won both the Giro and the Tour in the same year. It just too hard to keep yourself mentally and physically sharp for than long of a time. You can’t recover from the Giro in time to be ready to race the Tour anymore.

Alright, sorry to bore most of you with my cycling metaphor. I think the same idea can, and probably does carry over into football. Remember these kids are taking classes, stressing over midterms, finals, trying to have a social life. They’re also trying to be good people. They have a lot on their plates mentally and emotionally. They’re all trying to figure out how to live life all at the same time.

Yes, we’re all disappointed. But this was a good season for the Utes. Was the loss embarrassing for the program? I suspect so. Fortunately I don’t know many folks in this part of Ea NC who follow college football. College BBall and the Panthers yes, college just not college football. Personally I’ve avoided BSPN today. Probably will for the next few days, at least in regards to college football.

Alright, I’ll get off the old soapbox. Thank you for reading.

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The burnout concept is very interesting. A year or two ago Andy Phillips and Tom Hackett said on their old podcast the they thought the team was physically shot by November. That didn’t seem to happen this past season or the one before. Anyway, it seems to me that emotional burnout must be something all good teams face. What do other programs do to avoid that?

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@LAUte you ask a good question. How do we avoid burnout? I don’t know. I wonder if some of it is learn how to win the big game. I wonder if some of it might be that we’re still working on recruiting better and better players. Or maybe even after 9 years or so in the PAC we’re still learning how to be in the “big” leagues. Maybe some of it goes back to the number of conference games. I really don’t know. I’m just speculating right now.

I think it is likely that everything you list is a factor.

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If they think life gets better in the NFL, they’re in for a rude awakening.