Weeks like this should make Oklahoma fans appreciate the mental toughness of football coach Bob Stoops. And how it permeates to his players.
The top-ranked Sooners' national championship hopes will be on the line Saturday in Tallahassee, Fla., against No. 5 Florida State. If any coach could play the off-field-distractions card this week to try and create a soft landing spot in case of future disappointment, it would be Stoops.
But he'll have none of it, despite OU being at the epicenter of ongoing speculation about administrators' desires to join the Pac-12 -- a move that could trigger widespread realignment in college athletics.
Instead of complaining about the incessant chatter, Stoops said he will be excited by whatever league OU administrators select.
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"It isn't bothersome to me because that isn't what I do," Stoops said. "My job is to win football games."
Asked about players' interest in realignment news, Stoops said: "I think it's close to zero."
He also discounted concerns about his defense playing without linebacker Travis Lewis (broken bone in left foot), the team's top tackler last season, while preparing for its first road trip without linebacker Austin Box, a projected starter and team leader who died in May.
"I feel strongly that we will... go down there ready to play a great game," Stoops said.
The Sooners (1-0) have had two weeks to prepare for Saturday's showdown with the Seminoles (2-0). During those two weeks, Stoops has heard plenty about his team's perceived vulnerability on the road.
Although the Sooners own the nation's longest home winning streak at 37 games, OU is 8-7 the past two seasons in games played outside Norman, Okla.
Sooners quarterback Landry Jones, a third-year starter, has struggled in multiple road venues, including 2010 losses at Missouri and Texas A&M. But he's 4-0 in his last four starts away from Norman, all in victories against 2010 bowl teams (Baylor, Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Connecticut). The Sooners averaged 42.8 points during those four victories, elevating Jones to Road Warrior status on the Stoops meter.
"I feel more secure and comfortable with a guy that has the experience Landry has," Stoops said. "What Landry did a year ago, those were key to me. His fourth quarter at Oklahoma State was big. He is a pretty calm guy... Our players like playing for him."
That covers the primary pre-game distractions facing OU this week. And players vow they will not be overconfident based on last year's 47-17 rout of the Seminoles in Norman.
"We have been hearing about this game all year and all summer," said defensive back Aaron Colvin. "It is going to be one of the biggest games of the year, so we need to be ready to play."
After two weeks of focusing on FSU, defensive end Frank Alexander said OU should be ready for anything that happens Saturday.
The Sooners, as well as their coach, envision no off-field reasons for coming up short against FSU. That is why I expect OU to clear its biggest road test of the 2011 season Saturday.
Follow Jimmy Burch on Twitter @Jimmy_Burch.
Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760