Alabama locked up a spot in the national championship game Monday, less than an hour before midnight. The Crimson Tide then spent the night in New Orleans and caught an early flight back home to Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Georgia emerged from an emotionally draining overtime Rose Bowl win before making a cross-country flight home to Athens, Georgia.
Friday, both teams will arrive in Atlanta with precious time to spare on their plans for the biggest game of the season.
“They're coming from the West Coast; we're coming from New Orleans,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “Then we've got to be (in Atlanta) 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.”
The national championship game kicks off at 7 p.m. Monday, one week after the semifinal games.
Saban didn't go as far as to say an extra week is necessary, but he said an extra day wouldn’t hurt. This, he noted, is not quite the same as a standard regular-season game.
“When you go to a bowl game and you're there for a week, it's really kind of hard to pack up and leave at 1 in the morning to get home,” Saban said.
“We spent the night and had to come back this morning, and this is like a regular Sunday preparation for us. I do think it's a little quicker turnaround for the players, and obviously a pretty quick preparation for both teams, as well. I don't think you need two weeks. I think just an extra day, just put a travel day in there.”
Knowing his team was playing for a chance to continue its season, Georgia coach Kirby Smart said his team tried to mitigate the effect of spending a week in the Pacific time zone, encouraging players to operate as if they were still in their home time zone.
Smart said he plans to manage the quick turnaround by emphasizing rest and recovery — which he admitted is a challenge in modern days with everything that demands a young person’s attention.
“What we talk about all the time is getting your sleep, getting your dark hours, getting off your phone,” Smart said.
Smart echoed Saban’s suggestion that an extra day or two would be beneficial.
Alabama was in the mood for a throwback to the days when it sucked all the drama out of a place and replaced it with that good ol’ fashioned C…
Off the top of his head, Saban ranked Alabama's defensive performance against Clemson in the Sugar Bowl on Monday ranked right up near the top of his personal list.
The only comparable game he could think of occurred on the same field, a night many Louisiana locals won’t soon forget.
“There's only one that I remember, and that was when we played LSU in the championship game in New Orleans in ... 2011,” Saban said. “I thought the defense played with sort of a ferocious, relentless sort of I-won't-be-denied attitude in the way they competed in the game.”
Alabama allowed 188 yards from scrimmage in a 24-6 win against Clemson in Monday’s semifinal game — not quite the same level of dominance as when it held LSU to 92 total yards in a 21-0 shutout in 2011.
The first chants of "S-E-C! S-E-C!" started in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with 3:45 left in the first quarter of Monday night's Sugar Bowl.
Georgia rallied from a 31-14 deficit in an adrenaline-fueled overtime victory against Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl.
Smart admitted he was concerned about the emotional toll that took on his team with just a week to prepare for the biggest game of the season.
“A very emotional game last night, which concerns me, and (I) talked to the players immediately afterwards about not burning any more energy or emotion on that game and moving on,” Smart said. “You know, Alabama had a little more sound victory, so they probably didn't burn quite as much emotion.”
Senior running back Sony Michel, who scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime, did not sound concerned about his team’s focus after the Rose Bowl win.
“We won games around here, so we know how to handle situations like this,” Michel said. “We know our task at hand. We’ve just got to move forward.”