FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Georgia football held a Sunday morning practice before loading up on the team buses and heading to the airport for the team flight to Miami, scheduled to leave Athens at 2:10 p.m. and arrive at 3:55 p.m. later in the day.
The next big news for the No. 3-ranked Bulldogs (12-1) will involve learning which Georgia players, if any, did not make the team flight amid travel complications brought on by the recent COVID-19 surge related to the Omicron variant.
Michigan didn’t take any chances, the No. 2-ranked Wolverines (12-1) locked in on their first-ever College Football Playoff appearance to the extent of not taking a break for the holidays.
Coach Jim Harbaugh and Michigan arrived on Saturday night.
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“Blue skies, very nice,” Harbaugh said per the Orange Bowl officials, the team’s arrival closed off to the media as a result of the CFP’s tightened COVID-19 protocols. “It’s a great honor to be here. It’s a great privilege.
“We get to entertain America on the 31st.”
Georgia plays Michigan at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.
UGA is a touchdown favorite, but many still wonder which Bulldogs team will show up, literally and figuratively.
In a figurative sense, the deep and experienced Bulldogs dominated throughout the regular season, only to get outclassed by Alabama in the SEC Championship Game in a deflating 41-24 loss after Georgia fans took over Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
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The Bulldogs defense, which achieved historic success throughout the regular season by limiting opponents to an average of 6.9 points per game, was shredded for a record 421 yards passing by Tide quarterback Bryce Young.
Offensively, Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett was sacked three times and threw two interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown. The Bulldogs scored 7 points in the second half on six possessions.
Coach Kirby Smart, who allowed his players off to see family members last Wednesday, indicated he believed the Bulldogs would manage the COVID and travel risks responsibly.
“We’ve got a large portion of our team that’s been vaccinated and continues to be diligent about that,” Smart said. “We ask the guys that aren’t to be extra safe. "
From a preparation standpoint, the Bulldogs’ players indicated last week that they have put their loss to Alabama behind them and are ready for a fresh start in the four-team College Football Playoffs.
“The challenge is there and we have really worked hard on ourselves, fundamentally and to self-scout, ' what are we giving up? What are people seeing on us? What changes can we make that would be beneficial for us?” Smart said.
“That has all been our focus, is how do we get better fundamentally not about the last game.”