NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 02: A fan of Oklahoma Sooners cheers prior to the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 2, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

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The American-Statesman’s Top 25 countdown: No. 7 Oklahoma

The quarterback returns, but the star running back doesn't. Or the other star back. Or the star receiver. Or the head coach ...

Posted July 23rd, 2017

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Sure, it’s July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — our countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff. Last year’s CFP semifinalists were ranked Nos. 1, 2, 7 and 17 on our 2016 list.

Today’s team: No. 7 Oklahoma (Related coverage: Baker Mayfield: No Perine, Mixon or Westbrook? No problem)

Best-case scenario: The Sooners, offered fresh perspective by new coach Lincoln Riley, take advantage of 16 returning starters, including quarterback Baker Mayfield, a 2016 Heisman finalist, and return to the College Football Playoff.

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Worst-case scenario: Riley finds himself in over his head, and OU struggles to find consistency at tailback and receiver.

The key game: Sept. 9 at Ohio State. A year ago, the Sooners knocked themselves out of the national title picture in September. A win in Columbus would look really attractive to the playoff committee come December.

 

INSIDE THE SOONERS

Coach: Lincoln Riley (first year)

2016: 11-2, 9-0 in the Big 12 (beat Auburn 35-19 in the Sugar Bowl)

Returning starters: 9 offense, 6 defense

Goodbye: Head coach Bob Stoops (resigned), RB Samaje Perine (Redskins, 4th round), RB Joe Mixon (Bengals, 2nd), WR Dede Westbrook (Jaguars, 4th), LB Jordan Evans (Bengals, 6th).

Spring cleaning: OU folks wanted a clean transition from Stoops to Riley, who at 33 is the youngest coach in the country. Riley’s first hire was Ruffin McNeill, who will become the new assistant head coach and will direct the defensive tackles. McNeill, a former defensive coordinator at Texas Tech, hired Riley at East Carolina in 2010. It’ll be interesting to see how well McNeill works with Mike Stoops, the Sooners’ embattled defensive coordinator.

Quarterback Baker Mayfield of the Oklahoma Sooners celebrates a touchdown against the Akron Zips on Sept. 5, 2015 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Akron 41-3.(Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)

RETURNING LEADERS

Passing: Baker Mayfield, 254-358-3,965, 40/8

Rushing: Abdul Adams, 53-283-0 (3rd); QB Baker Mayfield, 78-177-6 (4th)

Receiving: TE Mark Andrews, 31-489-7 (4th)

Tackles: LB Emmanuel Beal, 81 (2nd)

Sacks: LB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, 9 (1st)

 

RETURNING ALL-CONFERENCE PLAYERS (12)

Offense: OL Orlando Brown (1st team, offensive lineman of the year), QB Baker Mayfield (1st team), TE Mark Andrews (1st), FB Dimitri Flowers (2nd), OL Bobby Evans (honorable mention), OL Ben Powers (hon. men.), OL Dru Samia (hon. men.), OL Erick Wren (hon. men.)

Defense: CB Jordan Thomas (1st), LB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (2nd), LB Emmanuel Beal (hon. men., defensive newcomer of the year), S Steven Parker (hon. men.)

Oklahoma head football coach Lincoln Riley listens to a reporter’s question during the Big 12 NCAA college football media day in Frisco, Texas, Monday, July 17, 2017. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

OKLAHOMA: FYI

Back for more: The Sooners have a whopping 16 starters returning this season, which is tied for ninth-best in the country. But within the Big 12, TCU and Texas, both bringing back 17, return more.

Revamped offense: Riley was OU’s offensive coordinator in 2016. After he was promoted, Riley elevated Cale Gundy and Bill Bedenbaugh to co-coordinators. Gundy is in charge of inside receivers and recruiting, and Bedenbaugh will focus on the offensive line.

Happy returns: The Sooners are looking for new returners. Last year, those duties were handled by Mixon and Westbrook. The two handled all 12 of OU’s punt returns and brought back 30 of the 35 kickoffs that were returned.

Oklahoma's schedule

DATEOPPONENTLAST YR'S RESULT (IF PLAYED)
Sept. 2UTEP
Sept. 9at Ohio StateL, 45-24
Sept. 16Tulane
Sept. 23at Baylor*W, 45-24
Oct. 7Iowa State*W, 34-24
Oct. 14Texas* (Dallas)W, 45-40
Oct. 21at Kansas State*W, 38-17
Oct. 28Texas Tech*W, 66-59
Nov. 4at Oklahoma State*W, 38-20
Nov. 11TCU*W, 52-46
Nov. 18at Kansas*W, 56-3
Nov. 25West Virginia*W, 56-28
* Big 12 game

The last 5 years

YEARW-L (CONF.)RANKINGBOWL GAME
TOTAL51-14 (37-8)2-3 in bowls
201210-3 (8-1)4th/15thL Cotton
201311-2 (7-2)16th/6thW Sugar
20148-5 (5-4)4th/NRL Russell Athletic
201511-2 (8-1)19th/5thL CFP semifinals
201611-2 (9-0)3rd/5thW Sugar

Note: Ranks are that year’s preseason/final ranking

 

2016 NATIONAL STAT RANKS

Scoring: 3rd (43.9 ppg)

Points allowed: T-68th (28.8 ppg)

Passing: 12th (318.0 ypg)

Rushing: 18th (236.8 ypg)

Total off.: 2nd (554.8 ypg)

Total def.: 82nd (432.0 ypg)

 

OUR TOP 25 SO FAR

No. 25: Boise State

No. 24: Oregon

No. 23: Tennessee

No. 22: Texas

No. 21: Kansas State

No. 20: Miami

No. 19: West Virginia

No. 18: South Florida

No. 17: Florida

No. 16: Stanford

No. 15: Louisville

No. 14: Georgia

No. 13: Wisconsin

No. 12: LSU

No. 11: Auburn

No. 10: Michigan

No. 9: Oklahoma State

No. 8: Washington

No. 7: Oklahoma

No. 6: Coming Monday. Want a hint? This school won the 1982 national championship game on a Hail Mary touchdown pass.

 

BY CONFERENCE

5 schools:

Big 12 (No. 7 Oklahoma, No. 9 Oklahoma State, No. 19 West Virginia, No. 21 Kansas State, No. 22 Texas)

SEC (No. 11 Auburn, No. 12 LSU, No. 14 Georgia, No. 17 Florida, No. 23 Tennessee)

3 schools:

Pac-12 (No. 8 Washington, No. 16 Stanford, No. 24 Oregon)

2 schools:

ACC (No. 15 Louisville, No. 20 Miami)

Big Ten (No. 10 Michigan, No. 13 Wisconsin)

Pac-12 (No. 16 Stanford, No. 24 Oregon)

1 school:

AAC (No. 18 South Florida)

Mountain West (No. 25 Boise State)

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