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December 26, 2008The 16th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs arrived in Orlando Friday all present and accounted for their Capital One Bowl date against 18th-ranked Michigan State.
Now it's time to get to work.
Following a 6 p.m. team meeting, the team held its first practice at Olympia High School, the first of five workouts for the Bulldogs (9-3) before Thursday's 1 p.m. kickoff (ABC).
"I think everybody's excited but we're all looking at this as a business trip," linebacker Rennie Curran said. "Getting that 10th win is important to all of us, and we're going to do our best to make that happen."
That said, Georgia's nearly week-long stay in Florida won't be devoid of fun and games.
Following Saturday morning's workout at Olympia High School, the team will depart the team hotel for Disney World, where they will have the opportunity to visit the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom.
Trips are also planned to Sea World and Universal Studios.
Oh, and don't forget one of the biggest attractions of all. Part of the $500 gift packages given to each player by the sponsors of the Capital One Bowl includes a $400 shopping spree to Best Buy.
Sunday, the players from both Georgia and Michigan State will gather at Disney's Winter Summerland Miniature Golf to interact with some of the area's underprivileged children.
The Bulldogs arrive in Orlando in relatively good shape; at least considerably better than they were a week ago.
Wide receiver A.J. Green (leg), fullback Brannan Southerland (foot), safety Bryan Evans (foot) and tight end Tripp Chandler (shoulder/knee) are back practicing after sitting out the past three weeks worth of workouts in Athens.
"Those are some of the guys who will be back at practice, and there are a few more," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "Compared to (last Friday), counting the (10) guys we had a graduation, we'll have about 15 guys back. We'll be OK."
Defensive tackle Kade Weston is also back practicing after sitting out the Bulldogs' final Athens workout last Saturday.
Weston's health is of particular importance in regards to stopping Spartan running back Jevon Ringer, but Richt warns Michigan State's offense is much more versatile than many might think.
Quarterback Brian Hoyer has completed 162-of-319 passes for 2,235 yards and nine touchdowns. While those numbers don't compare to Georgia's Matthew Stafford (215-of-352 yards for 3,209 yards and 22 touchdowns), the Spartans boast five receivers with catches of at least 42 yards, three better than 52.
"The more you study their offense, you see the games they really threw the ball very well and they made some big plays," Richt said. "They made many more big plays in the passing game than the running game. Their running game is very methodical, they just pound you."
Ringer can certainly do that.
Although he's got a season-long 64-yard touchdown run to his credit, Ringer is the proverbial workhorse who likes to pound an opponent's defensive line of scrimmage.
"Ringer hasn't had a lot of long runs this season, he's mostly 3-. 4-, 5-, 6-yard runs and drive-sustaining runs," Richt said of Ringer, who has averaged 4.3 yards per carry. "Not that he's not capable, but with 31 carries a contest, he's had a lot of good, solid games."