FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — They boarded their flight in dreary conditions on the tarmac at Detroit Metro Airport and disembarked beneath beautiful blue skies and temperatures in the upper 70s in picturesque South Florida.
Merry Christmas, indeed.
Michigan football kept its travel plans intact and flew to Fort Lauderdale on Saturday afternoon to continue its preparations for a matchup with Georgia in the College Football Playoff semifinals. Coach Jim Harbaugh and his team will enjoy a forecast that includes nothing but sunshine and warmth from their arrival through Friday's game. When the Wolverines and Bulldogs take the field at Hard Rock Stadium, temperatures are expected to be in the mid-70s with perfectly clear skies.
“I think they’ll really enjoy the weather here,” Harbaugh said in a brief interview with Orange Bowl staffers after landing at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Members of the media were not permitted to attend the arrival after the CFP implemented new safety measures earlier this week in response to rapid spreading of the Omicron variant.
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Part of the reason U-M remained committed to its original travel schedule — even after the CFP offered teams the chance to arrive as few as 48 hours before kickoff — was to ensure players had adequate time to acclimate to conditions in South Florida. The Wolverines will have several practices this week during which heat management and identifying the proper footwear for a natural grass surface are expected to be stressed.
“I think I can play in any kind of weather,” quarterback Cade McNamara said shortly after landing. “I think me growing up in northern Nevada, I was able to see all four seasons, whether that was playing in 90-degree heat or that was playing in 20-degree snow. I think the rest of this team, just based on living in Michigan, we’re able to play in all types of weather. I know that during camp especially we got really good reps playing in the heat and the humidity. I think overall we’ll be confident, and we’ll be well-acclimated after a whole week of preparation.”
McNamara’s words echoed what players have said during interview sessions the last few weeks as preparations for the Bulldogs, who practice in warm weather all year, began in earnest following final exams and a brief respite given by the coaching staff.
Since then, Michigan has made use of both its indoor and outdoor practice fields to experience the array of conditions they could face in South Florida. Practicing inside the climate-controlled Al Glick Field House allowed the Wolverines to raise the temperature when desired. Practicing outside meant playing on natural grass while also facing the winds and rain that could play a role in an open-air stadium, though the forecast calls for idyllic conditions in Miami Gardens on Friday.
Heat is likely to be the only weather-related variable U-M faces. The point of emphasis should be simple: Hydrate, hydrate and hydrate some more.
“Definitely going to have to get used to it at first for a little bit,” edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson said. “But come Friday, I mean, we’re rolling and nothing is going to stop me.”
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan football: Ready for heat in CFP semifinal vs. Georgia