The Oklahoma Sooners are beginning their 2012 season Saturday night in El Paso, Texas, taking on UTEP, yet at Monday's press conference, there was nary a mention of the Miners.
Not a single question directed at OU head coach Bob Stoops had anything to do with the Miners. Instead, every inquiry was posed in an effort to find out what kind of team Stoops has on his hands this year.
Stoops answer: I don't know. We haven't played yet.
Same answer when asked about the personality of the team. Same answer when asked if defensive players were doing more reacting than thinking on the field, a problem defensive coordinator Mike Stoops mentioned early in August.
It makes sense Stoops would be hesitant to define his 2012 squad based on what he has seen in practice, but at the same time, he's got a good idea of what he's going to be able to put on the field this season.
The old adage, "You practice like you play," certainly holds true in any sports environment with very few exceptions. For the Sooners, all indications are there have been few, if any, issues when it comes to players showing up to practice and meetings and working hard to get better.
Granted, we don't know every single little incident that happens behind closed doors, but the only disciplinary action Stoops has taken since four players were suspended in May has been the indefinite suspension of defensive tackle Stacy McGee.
McGee was suspended for violating university policy, and the implication there is something that does not relate directly to football. Especially since Stoops said Monday McGee was going through the process of dealing with the violation.
Stoops began his opening statement Monday by praising the team for their hard work, and the way they had gone through fall camp.
Anyone can see there is talent aplenty on the Sooners' roster, but talent doesn't always equate to a successful season (see: Texas, 2010). Only performance on the field, combined with the attitude necessary to remain focused on the goal can produce success.
Last season, the Sooners came into the season with a flashy No. 1 ranking beside their name, and Stoops embraced it in a way that surprised most. This season, he's being much more cautious when talking about the Sooners' chances to be a great team.
However, the way Stoops has spoken about his team shows he likes the attitude they've brought to the practice field each day, and is confident they'll bring the same attitude into games with them.
That's all speculation of course, but it seems as if Stoops has a guarded optimism about the 2012 Sooners.
He's just not saying anything to confirm that.