METAIRIE, La. -- Bob Stoops made his way toward a crowded sideline in the middle of Oklahoma's final full-pads practice before the Jan. 2, Sugar Bowl. As he approached the sideline, Stoops looked like a head coach who was preparing a double-digit underdog to take on a two-time defending national champion.
He looked intense.
Then his expression quickly changed as a big smile took over his face as he reached his destination. He was headed for former OU All-American Gerald McCoy, who attended practice Tuesday afternoon dressed to the nines.
Stoops reached out his hand to shake McCoy's hand and then the two immediately transitioned into a big hug. One of OU's most important practices of the 2013 season came to a stand still as Stoops and McCoy caught up for a few minutes.
SCOOPHD: BOB STOOPS TUESDAY POST PRACTICE
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"I wish I could play him. We could use that guy," said Stoops following the practice. "I'm proud of Gerald. It's good to see him here. He always has that big smile. He's a wonderful young man. I'm proud of the way he's played. He's had another super year."
Stoops and McCoy shared a few more words before the Tampa Bay Buc was ushered off by sports information officials.
Stoops' scowl quickly returned as he sauntered off in preparations for Alabama.
The OU head coach even acknowledged how this game against Alabama will serve as a benchmark moment for his program.
"They're a team that people should still talk about as the best team in the country," said Stoops. "They were for the last three years up until the last play of the regular season. What an unusual play that was. They've been the top team in the country for the last three years, so it's definitely that."
Distractions were a big topic early in the week, but it appears the Sooners have made it through their week in New Orleans suffering few distractions with just two days before they hit the field inside the Louisiana Superdome.
"The players haven't missed one thing. I don't have one complaint. Everyone has done what we've asked them to do," explained Stoops. "They've practiced well and everyone has been on time and everyone has been sharp at meetings.
"It's been a positive experience. The people here have been amazing. All the accommodations here at the Saints facility couldn't have been better. All the bowl people and the people at the hotel - it's been a great experience."
Stoops reiterated his team is intact heading into the Sugar Bowl. At least as intact as it was coming out of Bedlam two weeks ago. He said both Trevor Knight and Blake Bell have looked good during their practices at the New Orleans' Saints indoor facility and both are prepared to go Thursday night.
The Sooners could use a positive bowl experience in New Orleans because it's likely to replace Phoenix/Scottsdale/Glendale as their future destination following successful seasons.
The SEC and Big 12 will enter into an agreement to hold The Champions Bowl here in New Orleans. It will become the premier bowl game for both conferences and would matchup the top two teams from both conferences as long as they aren't playing in the newly formed NCAA Football Playoff.
"I think it's great. This is an amazing bowl game," said Stoops. "The people here have been incredible. Great facilities, everything about it has been positive."
Stoops did say there was one caveat to a potential matchup in the upcoming Champions Bowl.
"When you have to LSU it might be a little different, but fortunately this year we don't," he joked.
Stoops was then reminded by a local media member that people around these parts hate Nick Saban. Saban coached at LSU and won a national championship for the Tigers over Bob Stoops in the 2004 Sugar Bowl. Then he left for the Miami Dolphins, spurning the local fanbase.
"Hopefully, we'll get that neutral crowd out there and they can help us a little bit," offered Stoops as the room had filled with laughter.
The Sooners have had a chip on their shoulder since the end of the regular season. They seem to be motivated to play well against the Crimson Tide Thursday night after being named double-digit underdogs. Stoops was asked if he's seen that this week in practice, and if he feels it will give his team a boost.
"I can't always gauge that," said Stoops. "But I can gauge their attitude in practice and how they're preparing and that kinda thing. It's been positive. They've worked and prepared well."