Georgia team arrives for Rose Bowl with a goal in mind

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Georgia team arrives for Rose Bowl with a goal in mind

The Georgia football charter plane touched down in Los Angeles Tuesday as the sun was setting. Players packed on four buses, which got a police escort to their hotel and home for the next week.

Silently, Jake Fromm, Roquan Smith and others got out of their buses and headed to a side entrance, where they walked up stores that had logos of the Rose Bowl and Georgia. They saw a sign welcoming them to the College Football Playoff, then were asked to “watch your head” as they walked under a low overhang, with a sign featuring a picture of the late Mike “Big Dawg” Woods.

And so the Bulldogs arrived in Los Angeles for the program’s most important week in decades.

“Be where your feet are,” coach Kirby Smart had told his players last week, as a reminder not to be thinking about being in California until they got there. Well, now they’re here.

For the first time since 1960, a Georgia football team landed in Los Angeles for a game. The players flew together on a charter, as they did last year to Memphis but haven’t for most previous bowl games.

“We’re going to travel together,” star tailback Sony Michel said earlier this month. “We’re going to try to make it seem like an away game. The best situation as possible. And just try to make it another away game.”

According to the Atlanta airport’s Twitter account, the Delta plane that took the Bulldogs to the Rose Bowl is the same plane that has carried the past two national champions during the College Football Playoff — Alabama in 2015 and Clemson in 2016.

Before this game, however, lies a week of preparation and intensely so. Last year before the Liberty Bowl Smart talked about enjoying the bowl week activities and how players don’t usually remember whether they won a bowl game but do have fond memories of the good times they had during the bowl week.

This time, suffice to say, is different.

“This isn’t a trip where you go to enjoy the rides,” Smart said.

The practices in Los Angeles will feature intensive prep for Oklahoma, unlike back in Athens. That’s fairly normal and how it was handled at Alabama when Smart was an assistant with the Crimson Tide. The reasoning is coaches have found there’s only so much prep a team can do for one opponent, that six-to-seven practices is about the limit until it gets old for the players. So the bowl practice in Athens resembled a preseason camp atmosphere, back to the basics.

But the game plan largely has been in place before the team flew to L.A. Now it will be installed and practiced.

“It’s gonna be a great atmosphere, and it’s a huge honor to be playing in the Rose Bowl,” senior receiver Javon Wims said last week. “We’re gonna enjoy it.”

While Oklahoma comes in as the higher seed and thus will wear its home jerseys, Georgia arrived here as the slight favorite. The people setting the line a few hours away from here in Las Vegas have the Bulldogs favored by a couple of points, a reaction to the early money going towards them.

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