As a fan, I'm a sucker for any "fans can make a difference!" argument, so I'll bite on today's quote from Bob Stoops:
Stoops feisty when asked about TN atmosphere "Come on, we’ve had Notre Dame and Florida St prior to that. We’ve been on this stage before."— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) September 7, 2015
Of course, it's Oklahoma. The Sooners are one of just eight programs to have won more games than Tennessee, which means they've been on this stage more than most and certainly more recently than the Vols. Tennessee is hosting just its second ranked match-up in the last nine years. Oklahoma hosted two last year. Tennessee has few players who have played in a game like this. Oklahoma has many players who have won them.
What the Sooners have not done, however, is play in front of a crowd like this before.
Saturday night will mark the first time Oklahoma has ever played in front of 100,000 people. The only times they have ever played in front of 90,000 have been the last seven years in the Red River Rivalry, a 50/50 neutral site venue. The largest crowds the Sooners have ever played in front of on the road are 88,119 at Ohio State in 1977, and 87,188 at Texas A&M in 2000.
The teams Stoops mentioned certainly appeared to be bigger threats than this Tennessee squad coming in. In 2013 the Sooners went to South Bend the year after the Irish played for the BCS title, facing #22 Notre Dame in front of 80,795. And in 2011 Oklahoma traveled to Tallahassee ranked first in the land, where they were welcomed by #5 Florida State and a crowd of 84,392. Both of those opponents ended those seasons at 9-4. Oklahoma did win both of those games by double digits.
The stage they'll know, and know it far better than Tennessee. But the audience will be new territory, larger and louder than anything they've faced yet. There is a noise 102,455 can make that 85,000 simply cannot.
It'll be up to the Vols to sustain that noise, and up to the Sooners to silence it. Plenty of others have in the last eight years. But when toe meets leather a little after 6:00 PM eastern on Saturday night, it will be some form of a new experience for both teams. And which team handles it best could make a difference. However little or however much it's worth, Neyland will be ready to do her part Saturday night.