By Michael Kinney
MIAMI — The Oklahoma Sooners arrived in Miami Sunday, just six days before its Orange Bowl matchup with No. 1 Alabama. Despite the sun, warm weather and nice beaches calling their names, from the moment the plane landed the leaders of the team were making sure everyone knew what type of trip this was for them.
“We are down here to win this football game,” offensive lineman Ben Powers said. “I just try to stress to all the players that that’s the number one goal.”
The Fourth-ranked Sooners and Tide will tangle Saturday at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami in the semifinals of the College Football Playoffs. Alabama comes in as the defending champion, but Oklahoma comes in with something to prove.
“We have a chip on our shoulder,” defensive lineman Amani Bledsoe said. “We remember the hurt, the pain we all felt after the loss. It’s a new year and a new team, so… I’m excited about this group.”
After last season’s loss in the semifinals to Georgia in the Rose Bowl, the Sooners believe they know how to handle this week leading up to the game better.
“I would say just people’s mindsets when they come out here and attack these practices and just remember we’re here on a business trip,” Amani Bledsoe said. “It’s easy to get distracted at these bowl practices. We’re here at a new city and I just look forward to focusing on the job at hand.”
Oklahoma is very familiar with Miami. During its Big 8 days, they were a regular guest in the Orange Bowl under coach Barry Switzer.
However, the last two trips the Sooners have taken to South Beach have not gone well. That includes a 55-19 loss to No. 1 USC in the 2005 BCS Championship.
“We’re excited to be here. You know there is a long history of Oklahoma in this bowl game,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said. “This is like our second home. It’s great to be here. It takes a lot of hard work. A lot of things have to go your way just to get to this point but we’re certainly not satisfied with that, but we’ve had a good couple of weeks of preparation. Our guys were antsy getting down here, but we’re looking forward to starting our preparation down here.”
Just like in 2005, the Sooners are facing a team many analysts have already compared to some of the great of all-time. The undefeated Tide have had only one scare on the season, which came in the SEC Championship. Every other contest has been a rout.
Coach Nick Saban, who has five championships under his belt, isn’t planning to let his team get derailed from their goal.
“I don’t think that you prepare any differently. I think the field will be 53 yards wide and 100 yards deep and it will have the same markings on it as any field, Saban said. “I think it’s about trying to execute, block, tackle and do the things you need to do to play winning football against a very good team.”
However, Alabama did announce on their arrival that three players have been suspended from the team and will miss the Orange Bowl. That includes starting offensive lineman Deonte Brown for violating team rules. Brown, along with tight end Kedrick James and offensive lineman Elliot Baker, didn’t travel with the team.
However, none of that should affect the Sooner’s preparation. According to oddsmakers, Oklahoma is still a 14-point underdog.
“They’re excited. You get the chance to play a great team (Alabama); you get to play in the National Semifinal; you get to play in the Orange Bowl,” Riley said. “That’s one of the reasons you come to Oklahoma – to have a chance to win championships and have a chance to compete for a National Championship. We’re excited, but it’s also where we expected to be.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider