NEW ORLEANS — Bob Stoops has said many things since Oklahoma accepted the Sugar Bowl’s invitation to meet Alabama tonight at the Superdome.
Wednesday, in a final pre-game press conference, the Sooner skipper made one the most definitive statements he’s ever made since arriving in Norman, particularly for him.
“I think everybody would say they’re as good a football team as we’ve played in 15 years,” Stoops said. “How can you not?”
Consider that when considering the Sooners’ challenge tonight.
That makes Alabama as good as or better than not only the Florida team that beat OU 24-14 to claim the 2008 national championship, and the LSU team that beat OU 21-14 to claim the 2003 national championship, but also as good as or better than the Southern Cal team that throttled OU 55-19 to claim the 2004 national championship.
Alabama coach Nick Saban, as though following script, heaped praise upon his opponent.
“They certainly present a lot of challenges in terms of the things they do offensively and defensively,” he said. “So it’s going to take our best effort as a team to play the kind of football that we need to play to have success in this game.”
Or, perhaps, in other words, blah, blah, blah. After that, though, the Crimson Tide coach segued into something that sounded a little more genuine.
“There’s lots of lessons to be learned for every team when you have adversity, and certainly we had adversity in our last opportunity as a team to play,” Saban said. “So how we respond to that adversity will say a lot about our football players individually and collectively as a group.”
That’s more like it.
The Crimson Tide, a 16-point favorite, is in position to frame the game in terms of itself. The Sooners, 16-point underdogs, cannot. They must figure out some way to turn the tables on the team Stoops still refers to as “… still the best team in the country.”
The Sooners haven’t been an underdog like this, in a game of this magnitude, since playing Florida State for the 2000 national championship.
As 13-point underdogs, OU shocked the college football world that night, beating the Seminoles 13-2 in only Stoops’ second season.
Few are expecting such an upset tonight, yet even Saban had something to say about that, answering a question about his team’s ability to be focused on OU.
“You can ask me to predict what that’s going to be and you an can ask me all kinds of questions about where we are, but really, until we go play, nobody knows for sure,” he said. “And that’s why we play.”
Anything can happen.
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