For those who suggest that Georgia doesn't have much motivation for its Outback Bowl date on Jan. 2 against 12th-ranked Michigan State, senior cornerback Brandon Boykin says they couldn't be more wrong.
"It matters a lot," Boykin said Thursday. "We lost our bowl game last year, so that's definitely a motivator right there coming off that loss."
Junior wide receiver Tavarres King agreed.
The Bulldogs began their bowl preparations Thursday morning, the first of five straight workouts before breaking for Christmas.
Georgia reconvenes in Tampa, Fla. on Dec. 26.
"We know if we go out and lay an egg that something like that can affect the preseason ranking," King said. "We're going down there to take care of business."
The Bulldogs took care of another kind of business Thursday afternoon, as the team took part in a luncheon sponsored by the Outback Bowl at the local Outback Steakhouse on Atlanta Highway in Athens.
"We walked in and saw all that food, and it was like, 'Oh yeah,'" said offensive tackle Justin Anderson, who will graduate Friday morning. "That was awfully nice of the folks from Outback to do for us. We really appreciated it. I'm glad we practiced before we went over there. I ate so many ribs, there's no way I could have practiced later in the day."
Anderson wasn't kidding.
Thursday's menu read as follows:
• 170 steaks
• 120 pounds of ribs
• 600 grilled shrimp
• 100 pounds of chicken
• 120 steamed lobster tails
• 170 baked potatoes
• 60 Blooming Onions
• 170 salads and bread
• And 60 gallons of sweet tea
"It was a very exciting time; the entire Georgia Bulldog team showed up," Outback Bowl representative Glen Shamblen said. "This was a great way for us to kick off the game here locally and we're very grateful that the local franchise here stepped up and helped put this all together in a short amount of time before the team heads home for Christmas."
Thursday's practice session was in full pads, although the players said it wasn't easy getting back in the swing of things for the first time since their loss to LSU in the SEC Championship.
"We all felt a little bit sluggish and we had some people make some mistakes out there; myself included," Boykin said. "But it's like coach (Mark Richt) said, that's typical of the first day back and it won't take us long to get back in the groove. We'll get a lot smoother and lot cleaner as the week goes along."
Georgia is making its 47th all-time appearance in a bowl, and it owns a record of 26-17-3. The Bulldogs are 3-0 in the Outback Bowl including a 24-21 triumph over Wisconsin in the 2005 game. Georgia is 2-0 all-time against the Spartans, both coming in bowl games (1989 Gator in Jacksonville, 2008 Capital One in Orlando).
Richt agreed with Boykin that Thursday's first day back on the practice field went about as expected.
"I thought we started a little sluggish since it was our first time back in awhile, but the pace picked up when we got into our competitive drills," Richt said. "We were blessed with a great morning temperature-wise, and we got in some good work. We're excited about this opportunity to play a quality opponent like Michigan State in the Outback Bowl. We have a lot of respect for the Spartans, and we will keep focusing our energy on this game."
NOTE: Punter Drew Butler was seen sporting crutches during Thursday's luncheon, the result of what Georgia officials were terming an "ankle" injury.