MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The countdown to touchdown is officially underway as the Minnesota Gophers take off for Florida Thursday to play in the Citrus Bowl.

They face number 16-ranked Missouri. The two teams square off on New Year’s Day at noon on national television.

The coaches and players arrived on campus around 8:30 a.m. with their luggage in tow.

In the past, the Gophers have been passed over for more attractive bowl games because of a fan base that’s notorious for not traveling well.

But Athletic Director Norwood Teague says they’ve already sold around 8,000 tickets to their fans for the big game.

The team chartered about six buses to take them to the airport. The football players were all smiles Christmas morning, and they get ready to hit the field in the Sunshine State.

Thousands of fans will be cheering them on from the stands, many of them young children, including Riley Reeves. She’s the daughter of Rob Reeves, the Gophers’ h-backs and tight-ends coach. She offered some advice to her team.

“Just play their hardest and don’t be nervous, because I know that they can beat this team because we’re way better than them,” Reeves said.

The team chartered a plane to Orlando. Some of the players will fly commercial and meet the rest of the team in Florida.

The team will practice every day leading up to the Citrus Bowl. They also plan to visit some of the theme parks.

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