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Just how beneficial is the bye week?

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History says: not very

Rice v Texas A&M Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

We’re entering the final days of much ballyhooed bye week on the Texas A&M football calendar. While this annual event is generally met with impatient thumb twiddling from fans, it’s also routinely positioned as a big opportunity to correct whatever has been going wrong in the team’s season thus far. Have injury problems? Our team can finally get healthy! Been suffering from a slew of sloppy mistakes? We can go back and focus on fundamentals? Have a big opponent coming up? Extra time in the film room!

I get it. It makes sense that a week without a looming opponent would be a great opportunity to get in some extra practice, rest, film study or whatever the team needs in order to refine their craft or right the ship. But the question is, how much does it really help? Does the extra week off translate to better performance on the field?

Since joining the SEC, the data doesn’t look good.

Texas A&M after the bye week

Date Opponent Opp bye? Result
Date Opponent Opp bye? Result
Oct. 12, 2013 @ Ole Miss No W 41-38
Nov. 23, 2013 @ LSU Yes L 34-10
Nov. 1, 2014 Louisiana Monroe No W 21-16
Nov. 27, 2014 LSU Yes L 23-17
Oct. 17, 2015 Alabama No L 41-23
Oct. 22, 2016 @ Alabama No L 33-14
Oct. 28, 2017 Mississippi State No L 35-14
Oct. 23, 2018 @ Mississippi State No L 28-13

No matter how you slice this, it doesn’t look good. A&M is 2-6 the week after the bye since joining the SEC, and one of those two wins was a 21-16 win over Louisiana Monroe. A&M has only beaten an SEC team coming off the bye week once since joining the conference and that was Ole Miss in 2013. The Aggies have lost two times each to Alabama, LSU and Mississippi State despite having a week longer than normal to prepare. And these weren’t narrow losses either, with the average margin in the six losses rising above 17 points.

OK, Robert, we get your point. But those are all pretty darn good teams we lost to. Teams who might have beaten us no matter when we played them. But the benefits of the bye week surely pay off in subsequent games, right? Wrong. In 2018, the Aggies followed up their lost to Mississippi State coming off the bye by losing to Auburn the next week. They did the same thing in 2017 as well, beating only one Power 5 team (Ole Miss) in five tries following the bye week. Things were even worse in 2016, when A&M went 0-4 against Power 5 teams following their bye week.

I honestly didn’t plan for this article to be doom and gloom. I remembered that we’ve fallen flat from time to time coming out of a bye week, but I had no idea the numbers were this bad. It took me from “maybe the bye week isn’t quite as beneficial as we make it out to be,” to “we need to not mention this as a potential positive ever again.” The bottom line is this: As much as we all want to see improvement, by this point in the season, your shortcomings aren’t likely to change. Whether it’s coaching, talent, or some combination of the two, the issues that caused the problem are likely the same issues that will ensure it persists.

I’m not telling you not to hope. College football hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies. But as we wrap up the bye week and head into next Saturday’s matchup with juggernaut Alabama, keep in mind that an extra week isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Especially when your opponent has that extra week too.

Happy Friday!