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Sooners Not Distracted By Hype Surrounding Notre Dame Game

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NORMAN, Oklahoma -

The hype around Saturday's game between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish continues to build at an unprecedented rate.

The game is a topic of conversation seemingly everywhere you look, whether it be on ESPN, in coffee shops, or on street corners around Norman.

After Saturday's 52-7 win over Kansas, OU head coach Bob Stoops immediately launched into conversation about Notre Dame, saying the level of anticipation for the game rivaled that of the 2000 game against Nebraska.

The numbers back up that sentiment. According to the Norman Convention & Visitor's Bureau, Norman's 2,831 hotel rooms have been sold out since mid-July. That was before Notre Dame rose all the way to No. 5 in the most recent BCS standings, a place few expected the Irish to be at this point in the season.

"It's great for college football," Stoops said Monday at his weekly press conference. "It's great for the community, the businesses in the community, the fans. They ought to enjoy it."

Quarterback Landry Jones said he and his teammates were excited when the Sooners scheduled the Irish several years ago. The prospect of playing a tough opponent has only increased that excitement level.

"It's not everyday you get to go play Notre Dame, not everyday you get to play a tradition-filled program like they are," Jones said. "It's going to be a fun game. I know everyone inside that locker room is really excited about it."

For center Gabe Ikard, Saturday's game is more than a matchup with a storied program. Ikard was in fact a Notre Dame fan growing up, and that was reinforced going to Bishop McGuinness, a Catholic high school in Oklahoma City during his high school years.

"I grew up in Catholic school my entire life, so always a Notre Dame fan," Ikard said. "Our high school fight song was their fight song. It's kind of like the Yankees, you either love them or you hate them."

Unfortunately for the players, all of the festivities and hoopla surrounding the game will be left to be enjoyed by the fans.

"In the end, we don't get to participate in all that," Stoops said. "We get to go to meetings, go to the practice field, go back to meetings, go back to the practice field, and get ready to play. That's what our job is."

The players are feeling the same way, understanding that neither ESPN's Gameday nor any of the attention focused on Norman this weekend will mean a thing if the Sooners can't come up with a win on Saturday.

"The hype will be more for the fans and the outside people, but once we get on that field, it's just 11 on 11," defensive end David King said. "Everything we practice in the week, (it's) just putting it in perspective. Guys will be jacked up for the game, but all that excitement doesn't do anything for the field."

Ultimately, the Sooners have taken the attitude that Saturday's game is just one in a list of six remaining games the Sooners must win in order to stay in the hunt for a national championship.

"Well it's a big game, but we can't let it change the way we prepare for any other game," King said. "We've done a great job on preparations throughout the week for these last three weeks."

However, even though the Sooners aren't participating in all of the festivities surrounding the game, or focusing on the history of past games between two storied programs, it doesn't mean they aren't enjoying the atmosphere.

"It's exciting to be a part of," wide receiver Justin Brown said. "You've got to embrace the situation, embrace the game, because you only get so many. You've got to live in the moment, soak it all in, and go out there and try to do your best."

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