ATLANTA -- We've found something that Tommy Bowden and Steve Spurrier disagree on, although the subject matter probably has more to do with the state of their respective programs than anything else.
Bowden says the two weeks of additional practice time allotted for playing in a bowl game is not significant on its merits alone. Spurrier says he badly wanted extra time on the practice field, if for no other reason than to work with redshirt freshman quarterback Stephen Garcia.
It appears to be a case of the haves and have-nots. If you have the extra practices, as Clemson does for participating in Monday's Chick-fil-A Bowl, your program is probably established and those practices simply extend the season. If you do not have the extra practices, like USC, those extra practices could have been vital toward establishing lineups for next season.
"You do get some extra practice," Bowden says, "but you're practicing guys that are going to play, because the objective is to win."
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One area where Clemson could have begun to look to next season was along its offensive line. The Tigers will lose seniors tackles Barry Richardson and Christian Capote as well as guards Chris McDuffie and Brandon Pilgrim.
No matter. Bowden said none of his team's bowl practices were geared toward working younger players into the lineup, and possibly diminishing efforts to win the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
"We will not go work our young linemen," he says. "The time frame with bowl activities is pretty restricted, so we won't have four-hour practices where we'll work the bowl guys that will play ... and stay two more hours and work younger guys."
To that end, Bowden actually shortened his team's preparation for the Chick-fil-A Bowl. The NCAA allows a maximum of 15 practice sessions for a bowl game, and Clemson will use only 13.
The Tigers practiced seven times in Clemson and will work out six times at the Georgia Dome. The practices at home included full pads and some scrimmaging. The Atlanta practices are geared more toward preparing to play Auburn with less hitting and considerable fine-tuning.
Auburn, surprisingly, will use only nine of its allotted practice days. Bowden says he did a quick check among other schools and found that Georgia and Alabama are using their full allotment, and Florida State will use either 13 or 14 sessions.
Before the NCAA regulated postseason practices, teams would head to the practice fields nearly every day between the end of the season and a bowl game. Bowden says he remembers former Clemson coach Danny Ford using as much as a month of practice. Sometimes Ford split sessions for the "bowl team" and "next year's team."
Now, at least in Clemson's case this season, the bowl game -- and winning it -- is paramount in further building Bowden's program.
"This biggest thing is exposure, the television exposure and ratings of the Chick-fil-A Bowl," Bowden says. "That's probably a bigger advantage because it's right around recruiting, and the importance of being a bowl of that stature is the time slot with TV."
The Chick-fil-A Bowl has gradually grown to being among the best of the non-Bowl Championship Series bowls. Should the BCS expand beyond its current five bowls, many believe the Chick-fil-A would join the fold.
The Chick-fil-A pays out $5.83 million to the two participating schools, the highest amount of any non-BCS bowl. Beyond that, the bowl secures a TV time slot that has no competition, meaning college football fans will not be divided among two or more games on New Year's Eve.
"We're the only game on," Bowden says. "That's also important. The prospects want to see that."
Interestingly enough, Clemson starting quarterback Cullen Harper of nearby Alpharetta, Ga., solidified his commitment to attend Clemson after watching the Tigers defeat Tennessee in the 2004 Peach Bowl (now Chick-fil-A) at the Georgia Dome.
Whatever the reason, Bowden believes a bowl game of any kind is beneficial to a program. Every one of the 11 teams he has coached has qualified for a bowl game. His first Tulane team went uninvited. His second team turned down an invitation to the Humanitarian Bowl, and his 2004 Clemson team was not permitted to play in the postseason because of a brawl in the regular-season finale against South Carolina.
As Clemson learned in '04, and USC is again learning this season, no bowl game means no benefits whatsoever, even if the slightest of those benefits is a couple extra weeks of practice.
CLEMSON VS. AUBURN
• WHEN: Monday
• TIME: 7:30 p.m.
• TV: ESPN (cable channel 25 in Rock Hill)