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Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart speaks during a coaching luncheon ahead of the Orange Bowl NCAA College Football Game on Thursday, December 30, 2021, in Miami. Michigan will face Georgia in the Orange Bowl on Friday, December 31. (AP Photo / Rebecca Blackwell)

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Alabama coach Nick Saban had a message for his players ahead of their week in Texas to prepare for the college football playoffs.

“You won’t remember what you did on Tuesday night in Dallas in three months, three weeks or three years,” Saban said. “But you will remember what happens in the game for the rest of your life.”

For years, college coaches worried that players were partying too much before big games. The pandemic has added another thing to worry about.

The latest surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the omicron variant has resulted in the cancellation of five bowl games in the past two weeks and has forced two more to find replacement teams after one of the selections was withdrawn original due to virus issues.

The biggest games of the playoffs appear to be going as planned on Friday. Alabama’s No.1 will face No.4 Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, and No.2 Michigan and No.3 Georgia will face off in the Orange Bowl from Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.

“We had a little fight over the last couple of weeks where we lost guys, and we got most of those guys back, and really the most important thing is to be at full power. when you need to be, and that’s what we’re ‘aiming for,’ Georgia coach Kirby Smart said.

The virus has shaken college basketball with dozens of games postponed or canceled. Professional sports have also had all kinds of issues and have adjusted protocols to try and get players back into action faster.

The CDC’s recently revised recommendations, shortening the time in isolation for those who test positive, have also helped sports leagues.

It looks like college football has been relatively lucky, but the explanation might have more to do with protocols and transparency.

The details of the policy vary from school to school and conference to conference, but most schools have only tested unvaccinated athletes for COVID-19 on a regular basis throughout this season.

The exact number of players vaccinated on each team is unknown, but Jim Harbaugh of Michigan was among the first coaches to boast this summer that all of his players had gotten their shots.

Saban said last week that all Alabama players have received a recall. Smart said his players have all been offered boosters, but gave no indication of how many have taken it.

“We don’t usually get tested unless we have symptoms,” Alabama receiver Slade Bolden said.

Screening of vaccinated athletes could be triggered if they have been in close contact with an infected person.

When it comes to transparency, college football coaches are notoriously low-key when it comes to information about player injuries. So it’s no surprise that they didn’t talk about players who tested positive.

The result is that speculation replaces information.

For example, Harbaugh confirmed on Thursday that Michigan defensive back Dax Hill had not traveled to Florida with the team and that junior’s status for the game was questionable, but gave no details as to why.

“He’s working on something right now,” Harbaugh said.

All media availability for the playoff teams this week has been moved from person to online.

Cotton Bowl officials have made other activities and outings for players optional.

Cincinnati attended the Cowboys game on Sunday, the day they arrived in town.

Alabama players said they voted to skip everything.

“We’re really around the hotel,” said linebacker Christian Harris. “Playing a game or just chilling out, watching a movie or recovering, get some treatment. It’s time for us to really bond with the team, we’re just a lot here and can hang out with each other. the others a little more.

Defensive tackle DJ Dale said: “I don’t feel like we’re missing out on anything, but I feel like for us we came here to play a soccer game and to win. a football match. So everything else, it really doesn’t matter to me.

In South Florida, players appear to be more active, with both teams staying close to the beach and a few bowling events taking place outside.

“I mean sure there’s anxiety, but I mean we’re all doing the right things so it’s not really that deep for us,” Michigan defensive back Brad said. Hawkins. “We just keep doing the right things and following all the rules the right way, and everything will be fine.”

Georgia offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer had the big picture when asked to stay clear of COVID-19 ahead of the big game.

“COVID affects everyone, and my hearts go out to all affected families,” he said. “Yeah, it was really tough, but we handled it the best we could. I have some of the best athletic coaches in the country, our staff. They do a really good job of making sure we are all safe and healthy. Yeah, it’s been tough, but we’re doing pretty well.

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