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.
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.
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.)
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.
|DATE||OPPONENT||LAST YR'S RESULT (IF PLAYED)|
|Sept. 9||at Ohio State||L, 45-24|
|Sept. 23||at Baylor*||W, 45-24|
|Oct. 7||Iowa State*||W, 34-24|
|Oct. 14||Texas* (Dallas)||W, 45-40|
|Oct. 21||at Kansas State*||W, 38-17|
|Oct. 28||Texas Tech*||W, 66-59|
|Nov. 4||at Oklahoma State*||W, 38-20|
|Nov. 11||TCU*||W, 52-46|
|Nov. 18||at Kansas*||W, 56-3|
|Nov. 25||West Virginia*||W, 56-28|
|* Big 12 game|
The last 5 years
|YEAR||W-L (CONF.)||RANKING||BOWL GAME|
|TOTAL||51-14 (37-8)||2-3 in bowls|
|2012||10-3 (8-1)||4th/15th||L Cotton|
|2013||11-2 (7-2)||16th/6th||W Sugar|
|2014||8-5 (5-4)||4th/NR||L Russell Athletic|
|2015||11-2 (8-1)||19th/5th||L CFP semifinals|
|2016||11-2 (9-0)||3rd/5th||W 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.
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)
Pac-12 (No. 8 Washington, No. 16 Stanford, No. 24 Oregon)
ACC (No. 15 Louisville, No. 20 Miami)
Big Ten (No. 10 Michigan, No. 13 Wisconsin)
Pac-12 (No. 16 Stanford, No. 24 Oregon)
AAC (No. 18 South Florida)
Mountain West (No. 25 Boise State)
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