By Marc Weiszer
LOS ANGELES — Kicker Rodrigo Blankenship on Monday night slipped on a red T-shirt given to Georgia players that declared the Bulldogs Rose Bowl champions with the message: “Just Won More. Natty Bound!”
There isn’t much time for Georgia to savor its 54-48 double-overtime triumph over Oklahoma in Pasadena.
Georgia flew across the country after the game and arrived back to Atlanta at about 4:30 a.m. Tuesday. The team pulled into Athens at about 6:30 a.m., a team spokesman said.
“We got a little nap in and back to work today,” coach Kirby Smart said Tuesday evening.
It’s a quick turnaround for Monday night’s College Football Playoff national championship game against Alabama at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
“A very emotional game last night, which concerns me, and talked to the players immediately afterwards about not burning any more energy or emotion on that game and moving on,” Smart said on Tuesday. “You know, 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 teams arrive in Atlanta on Friday and there is Media Day on Saturday with a head coaches press conference on Sunday.
“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 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.”
Alabama left New Orleans on Tuesday morning after its 24-6 Sugar Bowl win over Clemson. Saban would like an extra travel day in between semifinals and national title game.
“We spent the night and had to come back this morning, and this is like a regular Sunday preparation for us,” Saban said Tuesday afternoon. “I do think it’s a little quicker turnaround for the players, and obviously a pretty quick preparation for both teams, as well.”
Smart said managing the high of the Rose Bowl win to transition to prepping for the national title game is “critical.”
“Last year Clemson had nine days, but this is a seven-day, really a six-day turnaround to play a national championship game coming off a game in L.A.,” Smart said. “I think when you have one that emotional and you play an extra … two periods of overtime, you’ve got to be smart about your team and where they are.”
Smart said he is emphasizing rest and recovery, which means “getting your sleep, getting your dark hours, getting off your phone.” Classes also start back this week following the holiday break.
Two of Georgia’s top players didn’t sound overly concerned on Tuesday.
“We’ve won games around here, so we know how to handle situations like this,” running back Sony Michel said Tuesday. “We know our task at hand. We’ve got to move forward. We’ve got a big, good opponent we’re about to face.”
While players were given time to rest and adjust to being back in the Eastern time zone, the coaching staff worked on game planning before players begin Alabama work Wednesday.
“We know that if we’re not honed in and like doing everything we can in our power to prepare ourselves for that game, then we know we’ll be shorting ourselves,” inside linebacker Roquan Smith said. “I think we’ll be 100 percent, though, for sure.”