In most football seasons under coach Mark Richt, the Georgia Bulldogs have qualified for a New Year's Day bowl and reported to their postseason destination the day after Christmas.
This is not one of those years.
Georgia is playing Louisville in the Belk Bowl on Dec. 30, with the matchup taking place at Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium. An earlier playing date has resulted in an earlier schedule, and the Bulldogs are having to reconvene in Charlotte today and will hold their first practice on Christmas Day.
"You hate to not be home for Christmas and you hate for your players not to be home for Christmas," Richt said, "but with the date of the bowl I don't think we had a choice. I don't think we could have gone there, reported Christmas night and started practicing the next day and truly been as prepared as we need to be."
The Bulldogs will practice Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Charlotte Country Day School. This is the earliest bowl for Georgia since the 2009 Independence Bowl, which was held on Dec. 28 and also required the team being away from home on Christmas.
"Christmas is all about spending time with your family," junior defensive end Josh Dawson told reporters last week, "but I feel like us as a football team, we're a family, too."
The Southeastern Conference has a record 12 bowl participants, and Georgia will be the fourth league member to play. Texas A&M plays West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl and Arkansas plays Texas in the Texas Bowl, both on Dec. 29, and LSU meets Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl earlier in the day on Dec. 30.
Getting four practices in at Charlotte will enable the Bulldogs to simulate a regular-season game week.
"We know that it's very important to be prepared," Richt said, "and considering the date, we felt like and I felt like this was the only time and the only way we could do it and truly be prepared for this ballgame."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.