Wolverines arrive in Florida ready to ride momentum into Orange Bowl

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan has arrived in south Florida, and quarterback Cade McNamara believes the Wolverines haven’t allowed their late-season momentum to take a break.

The Wolverines are the No. 2 team in the College Football Playoff and will face No. 3 Georgia in the Orange Bowl national semifinal on Friday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Lakes. They arrived in Fort Lauderdale on Christmas Day.

Michigan's players embark from their flight to Fort Lauderdale.

They will pick up where they left off in Ann Arbor and will continue preparations for the game, the winner of which will play in the national championship game. After losing at Michigan State on Oct. 30, the Wolverines (12-1) won their next five games, including snapping an eight-game losing streak to Ohio State in the regular-season finale and then beating Iowa in a 42-3 rout in the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 4.

“I think we’ve honestly done a really good job of picking right up where we left off at the Big Ten Championship over the last couple of weeks in practice,” McNamara told Orange Bowl representatives who provided the comments to media. “I think as we come back here as the environment shifts just a little bit, I think myself and the other leaders on this team are just going to do the best we can to make sure that that momentum carries into practice because however we practice it’ll reflect to how we play in the game.”

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Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, in his seventh season coaching the Wolverines, called it an “honor” to be in south Florida for the national semifinal.

“We get to entertain America on the 31st ,” Harbaugh said.

Aidan Hutchinson, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and Heisman Trophy runner-up, was injured in the third game of the 2020 season, required surgery on his ankle and decided to return to Michigan this season.

He was asked upon arrival if this is what he envisioned when he made the decision to return.

“Yeah, 100%,” Hutchinson said. “This was the last part of it. These last two games that we have, this is part of my legacy, this is a part of everybody’s dream here on this team. To get this thing finished up and beat Georgia and then go on to the National Championship.”

This game will feature two top defenses.

“They have a talented offense and a lot of solid players,” Hutchinson said of the Bulldogs. “But I think if we just execute and just do our jobs and don’t get too hyped up in the moment we’re going to be just fine, and I think we’ll have a lot of success if we just hone in and focus on our jobs and don’t let the moment get too big.”

The CFP announced last week that the national semifinalists could arrive at the bowl sites — No. 1 Alabama plays No. 4 Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl — two days before the game because of COVID concerns. All news conferences will now be held virtually.

Michigan decided to stick with its plan and flew on Christmas day.

“This is the best Christmas gift I could ask for right here,” Hutchinson said. “Just being here and having this opportunity with all of my teammates. I can’t wait to play with them, I can’t wait to strap it up with them and give it everything we’ve got.”

angelique.chengelis@detroitnews.com

Twitter.com: @chengelis