A few days ago, Florida State didn't look like a team shooting to win a national championship.
"I was a little worried the first day we got here," offensive tackle Brett Williams said Saturday. "It seemed like everybody was kind of distracted. We were staying right there on the beach and everybody was looking at what we were going to do in Miami."
The first couple of practices were marked by mistakes and uncharacteristic sloppiness that had offensive coordinator Mark Richt concerned, questioning his players' effort.
"The last two days, the guys have really picked it up," Richt said following practice, the last in pads before Wednesday's showdown against Oklahoma. "If we keep the attitude and the effort level up and the concentration level up, I feel that we'll be ready to go."
Senior quarterback Chris Weinke, the Heisman Trophy winner and offensive captain, said the slow start didn't mean the underdog Sooners were being taken lightly.
"It's going to be a dogfight," he said. "We understand that. That's the way we're approaching it. We need to play our best football if we plan on winning this game.
"We've been in this situation before. We've had a taste of defeat in '98 (to Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl); obviously the taste of success in '99 (against Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl). The feeling in the locker room after that game obviously was much better than the '98 one. We don't want to repeat the feeling of the '98 game. As we get closer to the game, I think the focus has been a lot better and will continue to get better."
ONE OF A KIND: Sooners defensive players insist they have gone against passing teams in the Big 12, namely Texas Tech (11th nationally in passing with 295.7 yards per game) and Texas (14th, 293.2 yards), but defensive coordinator Mike Stoops conceded none compares to FSU.
"Florida State, they are in a league of their own when it comes to what they want to do," he said. "The problems they present are totally different than anybody we faced."
He added the time off, more than a month since the Big 12 championship game, has helped.
"We know what we have to do to win the game and we're going to go out there and do it," sophomore safety Roy Williams said.
INJURY UPDATE: FSU junior receiver Atrews Bell continues to nurse a sore right hamstring and was held out of contact again Saturday. Bell, counted on more heavily than ever with senior All-AmericanMarvin Minnis out for academic reasons, said he will be ready.
CHILDHOOD REUNION: A trip to Friday's Miami Heat basketball game was more than a bowl perk for Oklahoma's Williams. He got to see his old youth league football teammate, Heat rookie guard Eddie House.
WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Kevin Emanuel, one of the nation's top prospects out of Texas, visited Oklahoma before signing with FSU.
_ BRIAN LANDMAN