CORVALLIS — How much practice is too much?
It's one question on the mind of Oregon State football coach Mike Riley. He must balance bowl game preparation with development and boredom.
The Beavers (9-3) began workouts for the Dec. 29 Alamo Bowl against Texas Monday. They had last week off to rest, heal, recruit and finish finals.
Now it's on to the Longhorns and a matchup of two teams that finished in the top 25 of the Bowl Championship Series standings.
Texas (8-4), despite being down a bit the last two seasons, is a premier program. The Longhorns won a national championship in 2005 and were in the national title game in 2009.
A win over the Longhorns would go a long way for OSU as far as gaining national attention.
"It's awesome right now," Riley said. "It's great to play in a great bowl game. Getting to play the University of Texas is a great opportunity for the Beavers."
The Beavers have two weeks of practice in Corvallis and another week in San Antonio leading up to the game.
Early bowl practice workouts are relatively light for the veterans. They go through their drills and scrimmage against each other.
Focusing on the specifics of what Texas likes to do will increase as the game gets closer.
Before practice normally ends, the veterans are typically dismissed and the workout continues for the younger players. Freshmen who redshirted and reserves who didn't play much become the focus as they run through the OSU playbook.
Most of those players worked on scout teams all year and have been running opponents' plays. It is an extra opportunity to get them ready for spring practice and next season so they can compete for playing time.
"We'll get ready for the game and develop our younger players," Riley said. "We will go hard some times and not so hard other times. I look at this as another spring ball."
This year's seniors experienced bowl preparation as freshmen in 2009. They saw the value of the extra work and how it helped them in their development.
They missed that opportunity the last two years.
"Those young guys, you want them to get better," senior receiver Markus Wheaton said. "When they see the guys producing on the field they know what they have to do to get where they want to go. They'll make sure there's no dropoff after we leave."
The Beavers will practice in the usual 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. slot most days during the week. Riley will give the team some days off so players remain mentally and physically fresh.
With the winter break, players will put in extra time in the weight room.
There's only so much you can do to prepare for one opponent on the field, but there's plenty of time to study video on Texas.
In a way, the next two weeks are a return to training camp with the Alamo Bowl waiting at the end.
OSU has experience with long stretches of practice from the beginning of the season.
Training camp is supposed to be four weeks, but it was five this year when the original season opener against Nicholls State was postponed.
Riley believes the players will stay focused leading up to the bowl just like they did at the beginning of this season.
Riley, 5-1 in bowls, knows how to balance his team's time and prepare players for them.
"It's all exciting right now being selected to a bowl game," Riley said. "When it all comes down to it, you want to win the game. So we'll apply the usual preparation of the game."