Bulldogs are already focusing on Alabama


LOS ANGELES — Twelve hours after wrapping up their double-overtime victory over Oklahoma, the Georgia Bulldogs were back on the ground in Athens. But whether the players’ feet actually touched the ground emotionally was a real concern for Georgia coach Kirby Smart.

“I talked with the players immediately afterward about not burning any more emotion or energy on that game and keep moving on,” Smart said on a College Football Playoff championship teleconference call Tuesday afternoon. “Alabama had a little more sound victory, so they probably didn’t burn quite as much emotion, although I know it was emotional to beat a team that beat them last year. The focus going forward will be on preparing for Alabama and a great program that Coach Saban has got.”

While the Bulldogs needed two extra periods to dispatch Oklahoma in the most dramatic of manners, Alabama cruised to a 24-6 victory over Clemson in the Sugar Bowl. Add into that dynamic the fact that the Crimson Tide didn’t have nearly as far to travel and, accordingly, didn’t lose as much time to preparation therein, and there’s reason to believe fourth-seeded Alabama might be coming in with at least some semblance of an advantage.

But Smart intimated that a lot of their disadvantage came on the front end as the Bulldogs were preparing to face Oklahoma. Simultaneously, Smart and Georgia’s extensive support staff were preparing for both Alabama and Clemson, either one of which could have ended up their opponent in the national championship game.

And while Bama waited until Tuesday to leave New Orleans and make their way back to Tuscaloosa, Georgia went to the airport straight from the Rose Bowl to fly directly back to Atlanta. The Bulldogs were back in Athens at first light Tuesday morning.

“Our transition occurred through the night,” Smart said. “We got a little nap in and got back to work today.”

Both finalists are having to operate on shorter turnarounds than previous teams have had to prepare for a national championship game. Alabama and Clemson had nine days to get ready for their matchup last year. It’ll barely be six by the time this one kicks off in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“It’s very difficult to come from a bowl game and just have seven days to prepare,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said Tuesday. “I mean, they’re coming from the West Coast; we’re coming from New Orleans. Then we’ve got to be someplace else on Friday. I mean, I think that some kind of way, somebody has got to think about the players a little bit when it comes to these games and not just what’s convenient for the media or TV or whatever.”

Smart echoed that sentiment. But, then, both sides knew what the parameters would be, so they just have to manage them.

“You emphasize rest, recovery. You emphasize what we talk about all the time, which is getting your sleep, getting your dark hours, getting off your phone,” Smart said. “… We’re starting school this week, too, so that’s another deal on top of our kids that they get to deal with. When you start dealing with a lot of outside influences on your kids’ time, you’ve got to be smart as a coach and understand you’ve got to get the most out of them, but we’ve got to be smart with our practice time and our recovery time.”

Whatever Smart says at this point, he has his players’ full attention. Linebacker Roquan Smith and tailback Sony Michel were on the conference call Tuesday, and they downplayed the emotional turnaround aspect of the challenge facing them.

The Bulldogs are as fired up as they could possibly be for the opportunity that’s before them. They’re not going to let a little loss of sleep and jet lag negatively impact their experience.

“We’re very excited and there’s still a lot of excitement around this program,” said Michel, who was named Rose Bowl offensive MVP after gaining 222 total yards and scoring 4 touchdowns. “But we’ve won some games around here and we know how to handle situations like this. We know the task at hand. We just have to move forward now. We’re about to face a good opponent and I’m sure this team and this staff knows what we have to focus on.”

Said Smith: “You know, that game happened, there was a lot of excitement and what-not. But we just have to shift our focus back because the main thing is to win the national championship. We know if we’re not honed in and doing everything in our power to prepare ourselves for that game, then we know we’d be shorting ourselves.

“I don’t think that will happen. I think we’ll be 100 percent for sure.”

Get complete UGA coverage on Dawgnation.com


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Sports

UGA concludes spring practice with G-Day game at Sanford Stadium
UGA concludes spring practice with G-Day game at Sanford Stadium

The Georgia Bulldogs hit the field for the final time this spring at the G-Day intrasquad game Saturday in Athens. Check out the photos from today’s festivities and find out who were the five players who stood out for the Black team in its 21-12 victory over the Red team at Sanford Stadium.
LSU football: What Coach O said after Tigers’ 2018 spring game
LSU football: What Coach O said after Tigers’ 2018 spring game

BATON ROUGE, La. — The LSU football team held its annual spring game on Saturday, rotating all three of its quarterbacks and showing some looks from its new offense. After the game, LSU coach Ed Orgeron spoke to the media about what he saw from his players, including who he thought stood out and what areas he was most...
WATCH: Georgia players recap G-day
WATCH: Georgia players recap G-day

Georgia held it’s G-day scrimmage on Saturday, April 21st. The black team, led by Justin Fields, pulled out a 21-13 win over the red team, which was quarterback by Jake Fromm. After the game, several players, including Fromm, defensive star Deandre Baker and running back Elijah Holyfield broke down the game. Below you...
Arkansas swept at Mississippi State as SEC road woes continue
Arkansas swept at Mississippi State as SEC road woes continue

Arkansas entered the weekend in great shape to claim the regular-season SEC West baseball title. That is no longer the case after being swept by Mississippi State, a series which concluded Saturday in Starkville with a 7-5 Bulldogs’ victory. The good news for Arkansas is it will still exit the weekend at least tied atop in the division...
LSU football stock report: Deep passing game, pass rush shine in spring game
LSU football stock report: Deep passing game, pass rush shine in spring game

BATON ROUGE, La. — Spring games aren’t usually a great place to learn much about a football team, but a few nuggets of wisdom worked their way through the pomp of LSU football’s spring game on Saturday. Quarterbacks Justin McMillan, Lowell Narcisse and Myles Brennan rotated between the first and second teams, switching...
More Stories