DANIA BEACH, Fla.—The boardwalk at the beach in Hollywood was hopping with bike riders, walkers and those grabbing a bite to eat at pizza places, a taco food truck and ice cream shops in the late afternoon on Christmas Day.
Police escorts cleared a quick path not far away on Ocean Drive for buses carrying the Michigan football team from the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport to its team hotel.
Georgia arrived some 22 hours later on Sunday afternoon 27 miles away at Miami International Airport.
“You feel like the president,” Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett said. “Every time when you travel, there’s a motorcade leading you out.”
Orange Bowl week is here with the semifinal matchup in the College Football Playoff slated for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Hard Rock Stadium.
“Blue skies, very nice,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said after he got off a Delta plane.
“It’s warm 24-7 here,” Georgia nose guard Jordan Davis said on day when temperatures were in the upper 70s. “Georgia’s a little bit different, but we’ve been practicing in the hot indoor (practice facility) so they definitely think we can be acclimated.”
Coach Kirby Smart said most of the players napped on the plane before arriving to what he called “sunny south Florida.” Bennett said “hopefully we get to go to the beach and see what Christmastime and the holiday season is like down here.”
The coaches and players were interviewed after arrival not by reporters, but by Orange Bowl officials since the surge in COVID-19 cases due to the omicron variant prompted the CFP to move all interviews to virtual this week starting Monday.
Georgia will practice Monday afternoon at Barry University in Miami Shores, the site assigned to it. Michigan is taking over the Inter Miami CF Practice Facility in Fort Lauderdale to resume its on-field prep.
A portion of practice Monday and Tuesday is scheduled to be open to the media.
This will be the first time for reporters to see the Bulldogs practice in preparation for this game and eyes will be on the quarterbacks.
JT Daniels tested positive for COVID-19 last week, according to sources, and his status for the game is uncertain.
Smart said he planned to talk to the team before it arrived in Florida about his experiences with other teams during bowl trips where players ran into trouble.
“How important is it to you that you socially go out and go see these places that many of the stars that our players look up to, they frequent, how important is that to you?” Smart said in an interview earlier this month posted on YouTube by the Orange Bowl. “Is it more important then, ‘I get a chance to win a championship?’”
Defensive end Travon Walker said last week the Bulldogs will keep the focus on the task at hand.
“The No. 1 thing is we’re going down there for a business trip,” he said last week. “We have to handle our business on the field. Just being in Miami, you can just soak it in. We’re down there for a business trip—football.”
Bennett said the team will have a boat trip and a beach trip on its itinerary and a game room available.
He said that will offer a chance for fun while still being safe from COVID-19.
“We’ll get to enjoy Miami for a few days,” he said, “and then lock in.”