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Stoops, Sooners Not Intimidated By Neyland Stadium

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There are plenty of different ways to intimidate an opponent.

Leading into this Saturday’s powerhouse matchup between the No. 19 Oklahoma Sooners and the No. 23 Tennessee volunteers, we’re seeing a few different tactics of how to do just that.

To set the scene for this war of words, we must look all the way back to 2013 when OU head coach Bob Stoops took his first shot at the Southeastern Conference.

“So you’re listening to a lot of propaganda that gets fed out to you. You’re more than smart enough to figure it out,” said Stoops. “Again, you can look at the top two, three, four, five, six teams, and you can look at the bottom six, seven, eight, whatever they are. How well are they all doing?”

Stoops alluded to the fact that the conference received a lot of hype, despite being mostly top heavy. At Monday’s press conference, Stoops was back to frustrating fans of the SEC with comments he made, particularly those who wear the bright Tennessee orange. When asked if his team would prepare differently when traveling to Knoxville to face a hostile crowd on Saturday, Stoops let his thoughts be known.

“I have a hard time understanding these questions about going to a stadium,” Stoops said. “We go to stadiums every week, and generally when we show up, it isn’t half empty. It’s always full so, no, we don’t do anything different…We’ve been on this stage before.”

Stoops’ comments at his press conference weren’t directed at the SEC as a whole, but anyone who’s paid any attention to this saga over the last three years can agree that Stoops’ response showed he was slightly offended by the question.

In his defense, Stoops was fairly mild in his comments, and in reality there’s not much to be made from a few defensive words about traveling to an opponent’s stadium. Let’s not forget that forget it was from 2009-11 when Stoops began getting heavily criticized for his team’s road woes. In that three year span the Sooners suffered ten losses, with seven of those ten coming on the road. Also, Stoops was right. In the last four years, the Sooners have hit the road and come back with wins against other prominent programs such as Florida State and Notre Dame.

That’s nothing to get upset about, right?

Try telling that to Tennessee fans.

Many of the Volunteer faithful believe that Stoops was dismissive of the atmosphere in Neyland Stadium, and those fans have every intent to make him pay for his subtle jabs towards school they love. One fan even called WNML radio station in Tennessee, and the caller was very confident that his Volunteers would put a beating on the Sooners. Then after his first proclamation, the fan promised his Vols would then take out some of their anger on Bob’s brother Mark Stoops, who coaches at Kentucky and faces a matchup with Tennessee on October 31.

While Tennessee fans are angrily awaiting their shot at the Sooners, Stoops’ comments have already trickled down confidence to some of his players. Defensive captain Eric Striker didn’t hold back with his thoughts on the SEC conference after practice on Tuesday.  

"Yeah, man, I don’t know why people blow gas up their a** all the time. I don’t understand why, you know what I mean? It sucks. ... I hope SEC players don't let it go their heads because this is how you get beat. I look forward to it. Gas 'em up. Bring 'em back down to earth." 

While Stoops and Striker have remained unruffled with their words, things have been different on the Tennessee side of things. Head coach Butch Jones has used the strategy of killing the opponent with kindness, and that was evident in his weekly press conference.

"Now we all also understand that the team we are about to face here in less than a week, I believe is a top five football team and a top five football program. I have a lot of respect for Bob (Stoops). I think he illustrates the difference between building a team and building a program. I think they're one of the most underrated football teams in the country. They're very skilled, they're physical, they're tough. And they're a complete football team in all three phases. So it's going to take anything and everything that we have to be able to compete with them on Saturday,” Jones said.

Jones was very kind and respectful with his assessment of the OU program, but there’s no doubt he believes his Volunteers team has what it takes to get the job done. Jones chose his words wisely and he’s well aware that a win against Oklahoma would do wonders for a program that’s already coming off of back-to-back top five recruiting classes.

So there you have it. Two legendary football programs will enter Saturday’s showdown with something to prove. Does it get much better than this?

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