Tigers, Buckeyes hit Miami to start Orange Bowl week

People walk in the Embassy Suites in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where Discover Orange Bowl logos are placed around signs for Clemson and Ohio State.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

People walk in the Embassy Suites in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where Discover Orange Bowl logos are placed around signs for Clemson and Ohio State.

MIAMI – Orange Bowl week is on – and the No. 7 Buckeyes and No. 12 Tigers could feel the difference stepping off the plane at Miami International Airport Sunday.

"It's good," Ohio State junior quarterback Braxton Miller said. "You can come out here with some shorts and a short sleeve shirt. Coming from Ohio, it's like 40 degrees outside (and) raining."

The Buckeyes wasted no time acclimating either.

"It was a good trip down," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. "We're ready to go. We'll practice today to get used to the humidity.

"You worry as a coach that fundamentally that you're not in shape and fundamentally behind a little bit. That's what we worked on (Saturday) and I'm going to run them pretty good today and get Christmas out of them."

Who didn't make the Ohio State flight is more the story than anything for the Buckeyes, as sophomore defensive end and leader in sacks Noah Spence (7.5) is still in Ohio.

"He's working through some personal issues at home," Meyer said. "I hope (he will be here)."

Spence is coming off a career-high six tackles in the Big Ten championship game. He is backed up by another sophomore, Jamal Marcus, who's totaled 15 tackles and a pair of sacks on the year.

After a morning practice in TigerTown, Clemson dodged rain drops as well Sunday and were all smiles arriving around 4 p.m. at their Miami Beach hotel, the Fontainebleau.

"Big stage, big venue, beautiful city, we're excited about it," Tigers senior quarterback Tajh Boyd said. "(Ohio State is a) great team we're going to play against and we get a chance to go out there and just lay it all out on the line."

Clemson will practice at Barry University in N. Miami in the afternoons from Dec. 30-Jan. 1 (closed to the public).

Leading up to the 8:30 p.m. kickoff Friday, both sides will have a good balance of football and festivities.

Monday, Chad Morris and Clemson's offensive stars meet the press in Fort Lauderdale for the first of two media day sessions (8 a.m.), which will feature Brent Venables and his unit on Tuesday bright and early (9 a.m.). For the Buckeyes, it's the flipside, with QB-RB duo Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde talking opposite the Tigers' defense.

New Year's Eve, Clemson hits the bowl week tradition like no other, chowing down at Brazilian steakhouse Texas de Brazil in Miami Beach.

The Tigers will celebrate 2014 with an afternoon practice and then head to Baptist Children's Hospital for a visit on Wednesday.

Thursday, Urban Meyer and Dabo Swinney get a double-dose of the speaking circuit, meeting the media back in Fort Lauderdale from 8-9:15 a.m. and then heading to the Miami Zoo's Jungle Island for a luncheon with their star players and guests later on.

Then it's the main event Friday, a long wait and a 30-minute trek from the team hotel to Miami Gardens' Sun Life Stadium, as Clemson seeks win No. 11 to cap another solid campaign.

Senior Tigers linebacker Spencer Shuey says his veteran squad isn't worried about distractions that could come with staying so close to the world famous party spot, South Beach.

"We all realize that it's a business trip," said Shuey. "We're definitely going to have a lot of fun and enjoy the hotel and enjoy the facilities and the different events they put on for us, but I think the maturity level on our team has showed that we know it's a business trip and we're definitely going to treat it as such."

Returning to south Florida for first time since the infamous 2012 Orange Bowl, Dabo Swinney is confident they will carry out on that.

"A win, that's what we hope to get accomplished," Dabo Swinney said. "We're excited and honored to get back to the Orange Bowl. This is a bowl that every player and college coach wants to be part of.

"It's just great to finally get here, but our goal is to win the game and have a little better performance than the last time we came down here."

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