TAMPA — Teams walk a fine line when it comes to bowl games. Their mere presence is supposed to be a reward for a season of hard work and at least moderate success. But they’re also expected to win the game.
Georgia and Michigan State are walking that line here at the Outback Bowl this week. Both teams’ players have taken full advantage of the many extracurricular opportunities presented to them this week.
But both squads claim a desperate desire to be the victor Monday afternoon.
“I like how things are going,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “Sometimes you go to a bowl, and you start out a little sluggish. Sometimes guys got an excuse why they can’t go in practice and things like that. But we haven’t had any of that.”
Their itinerary outside of practices has been full. They’ve been to hockey games, been bowling, been on hospital visits and out on their own. On Wednesday, players got VIP treatment at Busch Gardens, the expansive amusement park and wildlife refuge.
The Bulldogs danced with belly dancers and hand-fed giraffes at the park’s expansive Serengeti wildlife exhibit. They also got front-of-line passes to ride some of Busch Gardens’ world-famous roller coasters, including the gargantuan SheiKra.
It was a trip highlight for a lot of players.
“I’d have to say so,” Georgia linebacker Christian Robinson said. “We really had a great time, and they set us up so well. We got to skip the line a little bit, and that’s never happened for me. We got to ride the roller coaster that had a two-hour wait like twice in five minutes. So it was nice.”
But Robinson assured one and all that the players are spending the majority of their time preparing for Monday’s game.
“It’s all football right now,” he said. “We don’t have school, and the coaches have done a great job of planning out our day. The park was the most physically draining thing we’ve done. Besides that we’ve been practicing and have a little free time in the evening.”
Georgia players have had a curfew since arriving in Tampa. It started out fairly late, but has gotten earlier with each passing day.
“We’re obliging the curfew,” nose guard John Jenkins said. “It’s a pretty reasonable curfew. We’re going to have a good time within the rules.”
Robinson doesn’t expect any problems.
“That’s one of the things about this team this year,” he said. “We’ve been pretty much self-controlled and have good leaders. We don’t have to worry about what people are doing and what they’re going to do.
“We’re going to be ready for this game.”
Rambo still ‘50-50’
Junior safety Bacarri Rambo sounded disappointed Thursday when he shared that he had received a “third-round grade” from the NFL’s draft evaluation board. But he also sounded somewhat determined to prove them wrong, adding that he’s still “50-50” on the decision whether to return for his senior season.
“It just makes me work even harder,” said Rambo, who leads the SEC with seven interceptions. “They just watch film. They don’t know my character. They don’t know what I could do.”
Rambo said he knows he could improve his status by playing another season with the Bulldogs.
“If I came back there’s still plays to be made,” Rambo said. “So, of course, I could work myself into the first or second round.”
The Bulldogs practiced a third consecutive day at the University of Tampa’s Pepin Stadium. “You couldn’t beat the weather at practice today, and I thought everyone did a nice job on their assignments,” Richt said. “Just like our first two days of practice, I thought we got better today.” ... One of the visitors to Thursday’s practice was former Bulldogs running back Kregg Lumpkin, who currently plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. ... Georgia will resume practice Friday morning. The players will attend “Clearwater Beach Day” in the afternoon.
About the Author