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SPORTS: University of Oklahoma

All Business: Sooners Traveling To Notre Dame To Win, Not Sight-See

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NORMAN, Oklahoma -

The Oklahoma football program is no stranger to big games, so the team is not exactly star-struck with the prospects of playing at Notre Dame this weekend, one of the most historic venues in all of college football.

"Just two years ago, we walked into Florida State; we're going to walk into Tennessee in a couple of years," OU coach Bob Stoops said Monday. "We've been all over the map. We've been out to Oregon, we've been to Alabama, we've got Ohio State at some point coming up, so it's just another game and all that matters, again, the fields are pretty much the same."

As fans of the game, that kind of language doesn't make any sense to us. Games like this are what make college football special: Two foundational powers, which have only met 10 times in history, colliding at one of the most iconic stadiums in the country. Most of us are left drooling by a trip to South Bend and are incredulous that it's impossible to appreciate the campus or the stadium when you're there to play.

That's not to say the Sooners aren't excited about playing the Fighting Irish on their home turf. On the contrary, the team is very excited, but that excitement is fueling their focus on the task at hand, not creating a list of must-see sights around the campus.

"It's really exciting," Jalen Saunders said about playing at Notre Dame. "They're a real traditional program. A lot of people know about Notre Dame from when they were growing up. I'm excited to visit their campus and stadium but it's a business trip so we're going to make it that way."

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Whenever traditional powers collide, it's great for the fans and for the sport of college football as a whole, even the players. However, for the players, the level playing field in a historical sense helps to alleviate some of the awe.

"You just know that team has the same tradition behind them and they play with that type of confidence," fullback Trey Millard said. "We will as well."

Those who play and coach these highly touted matchups aren't the ones pushing the magnitude of the matchup. All week we've heard how the Fighting Irish are the next opponent on the schedule and nothing more. Yet, it's impossible for the Sooners to ignore the special atmosphere the fans—which push the magnitude like nothing else—create.

"When you go to historic places like Notre Dame, Florida State and Alabama it creates a different type of atmosphere," linebacker Corey Nelson said. "There's a different type of feeling inside of the players and I'm sure the fans as well.

"You always want to keep your composure. I've been here for almost four years now and you want to keep your composure when you go to big places like that and try to remain as calm as possible so you can remain focused."

OU center Gabe Ikard has already experienced the pageantry of the Notre Dame campus during the recruiting process, but he's in the minority on this team. Composure once the game starts will be key, despite the Notre Dame crowd not being known as a particularly hostile bunch.

"We're excited to go play there and once you step in between the lines it's got to be the field and the other team," Ikard said. "You can't really get consumed by the stadium and the atmosphere. We appreciate the history that building has but what it comes down to is that we have to go there and just play football."

Saturday's game will be all business for the Sooners, as it should be if OU wants to come out of South Bend with a big win. It's hard to imagine a matchup such as this being treated as nothing more than a business trip when it offers such immense entertainment for fans of college football everywhere.

That's simply part of college football. The ones who do so much to make it so special are the ones who get to appreciate it the least. However, if sacrificing sight-seeing means the Sooners are able to focus enough to come home with a win, I'm sure they won't be complaining.

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