A day after arriving in Los Angeles for Rose Bowl preparations, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said he was hoping for a "good problem" to emerge.
That was figuring how to cope with spending a bowl week on the West Coast and turn around in one week's worth of time to play a national championship game. That scenario played out with Georgia defeating Oklahoma 54-48 in the Rose Bowl. But now, with all the emotion and energy spent in such an exhilarating game, Smart said his team is tasked with a quick turnaround while adjusting three hours ahead of what it has been used to for the past seven days.
"We encouraged them while they were out there to kind of try to stay around Central Time if they could because you go to bed a little bit earlier, get up a little bit earlier so the transition coming back wouldn't be real bad," Smart said. "Of course, a lot of our guys were getting tired early in the night, so they wanted to go to bed earlier, and their bodies were naturally getting up earlier. So if you just let that flow happen and you remain a little bit neutral, it's not as big a transition when you get back."
But given the nature of how the game played out, there is a lot more to worry about when it comes to traveling from one coast to the other. In the post-game locker room, Georgia's players showed signs of both jubilation and exhaustion. It was a game that needed a 17-point rally and lasted roughly four hours.
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Georgia, however, didn't have the luxury of going straight back to a hotel to get some immediate sleep. The team had to catch a red-eye flight back to Atlanta and then bus to Athens. The Bulldogs didn't arrive back to campus until 6:30 a.m. Tuesday and took the rest of the day to rest. Georgia will reconvene for practice Wednesday to prepare for a championship that will take place in only six days.
It was one reason why Smart wanted to get out of Pasadena, California, as soon as possible.
"I was running across the field as fast as I could to shake (Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley's) hand so I could leave," Smart said. "I was ready to get back. Emotionally I'm excited about the opportunity. You can coach a long time and not get opportunities like this, and I've been blessed to be part of games of this magnitude and nature before."
Smart did express concern over the scheduling for this year's national championship.
A year ago, Clemson and Alabama had nine days between games. This year's it's seven. While Georgia, the No. 3 seed, had to go to California to play its semifinal game, Alabama, Georgia's championship game opponent and the No. 4 seed, got to stay in its Central Time zone by playing in the Sugar Bowl.
"I know it's probably a little easier on the other two being in New Orleans, but it's tough on anybody," Smart said. "It's tough on these players when you add in the fact that we start school earlier than anybody in the country this week, and a lot of those other schools are not going back to school, so they won't have classes, they'll be able to have the kids over there all day, and we've got kids taking classes."
Regardless of the circumstances, Georgia understands the hand it was dealt.
Inside linebacker Roquan Smith, who was named the Rose Bowl's defensive MVP, said he doesn't envision any scenario where his team isn't able to get up for next week's national championship.
"There was a lot of excitement around but we just have to shift our focus back because the main thing is to win the national championship," Smith said. "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. I definitely think we'll be 100 percent, though, for sure."