Willing and ready: Sooners go to great lengths to prepare for Miami

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MIAMI, Fla. – The minute you step off the plane in Miami, it is easy to see that you are no longer in the Midwest.

Snow and ice have been replaced with palm trees and sunshine. Instead of winter jackets, the residents here wear shorts and t-shirts at the end of December.

Last year, the Sooners were treated to the warmer weather to end their year. However, the game did not turn out as planned.

“We have our own standard here, and we certainly understand what that is every time we step on the field and what’s acceptable and what isn’t acceptable. And certainly a year ago wasn’t very acceptable,” said Mike Stoops, OU’s defensive coordinator.

This year, the team says it isn’t taking any chances and is preparing for everything.

In this game, Clemson is considered the home team. Tigers’ coaches say they feel confident playing at the Orange Bowl because it is a place they have become familiar with over the last few seasons.

“It brings a lot of momentum. I mean, home field advantage is kind of for the team that knows the field the best kind of thing. Since we’ve played her three times, like you said, the last five years, we definitely know the field. We know everything about it. It was really good to have the young guys play in it this year. It will definitely be okay for us just being so close to Florida and stuff like that and South Carolina,” said Jordan Leggett.

Not to mention, the Tigers are much closer to home than the Sooners, meaning they will likely have a larger fan base at the game.

“I expect we’ll have a great crowd. Wherever we go, we have a great crowd,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said.

However, OU’s coaches say they are expecting the crowd and they’ll be ready for them.

During Wednesday’s news conference, OU head coach Bob Stoops said they have been piping in loud noises and music to all their practices.

“We’re used to that. We played in front of 105,000 at Tennessee,” Stoops said. “We’ve really been the most focused and played the best while on the road.”

In addition to loud noises, the Sooners are also being blasted by the heat.

“We turned up the heat in the indoor facility, but it’s a little different here though. [We put the thermostat] on as high as it would go,” Stoops said.

“It should help us out. Indoor was getting a little stuffy. They didn’t let us open the doors. I got off the plain and felt this heat and it was pretty similar to what we were practicing in, so I think it was good,” said wide receiver Sterling Shepard.

Despite the challenges facing the Sooners, the team feels confident in its preparation.

“I feel like everybody is locked in and focused. Everybody is just ready to get this game underway. Everybody is excited about it,” Shepard said.

“There’s always a challenge in these bowl deals. It always is. I like what we’ve done but we’ve done a ton of good on good here. We haven’t had them on the field just incredibly long, but the work has been a lot of quality work against obviously a very good defense. That’s been incredibly competitive. Our team period yesterday, you would have thought we were in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. I told them it was a blood bath and it was awesome,” said OU’s offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley.

That preparation will be put to the test on Dec. 31 in the Orange Bowl.