The Oklahoma Sooners, after getting bounced from last year's CFP semifinals by Clemson, are aiming for a return trip to football's Final Four in 2016. (Brett Deering/Getty Images)

Football

The American-Statesman’s Top 25: No. 4 Oklahoma

Posted July 27th, 2016

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Sure, it’s just July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — our eighth annual countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff. Last season’s four College Football Playoff semifinalists were rated Nos. 3, 6, 13 and 24 on our 2015 list.

Today’s team: No. 4 Oklahoma (Related coverage: Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine — letting his legs do the talking)

The Sooners will contend because … of running backs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon — if they keep the pressure off quarterback Baker Mayfield, who should be energized for a Big 12 championship run. The Sooners have gone 104-30 over the last 10 years. OU’s defense has been pivotal in recent seasons; last year’s defense led the Big 12 in points allowed (22.0). Linebacker Jordan Evans returns, as does most of the secondary. OU has two major tests early against Houston and Ohio State. Win those, and the Sooners will be CFP favorites.

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INSIDE THE SOONERS

Coach: Bob Stoops (18th season, 179-46)

2015: 11-2, 8-1 in the Big 12; lost to Clemson in the CFP semifinals, 37-17

Returning starters: 7 offense, 6 defense

The key game: Ohio State, Sept. 17

Hello: QB Baker Mayfield, RB Samaje Perine, WR Dede Westbrook, OG Jonathan Alvarez, OT Dru Samia, DE Matt Dimon, MLB Jordan Evans, FS Ahmad Thomas

Goodbye: QB Trevor Knight (Texas A&M), WR Sterling Shepard (New York Giants), WR Durron Neal (Denver Broncos), LB Dominique Alexander (Cleveland Browns), LB Frank Shannon (Denver Broncos), C Ty Darlington, CB Zack Sanchez (Carolina Panthers)

Spring cleaning: For some OU fans, the most exciting news was the completion of the south end zone project at Memorial Stadium. The new listed capacity is 82,112 — not that Texas fans will ever see it. The annual Texas-Oklahoma game is played in Dallas. … Speaking of the Red River Rivalry, that series is deadlocked at 6-6 over its last 12 games. Bob Stoops has 10 wins over Texas, the most of any coach in Sooners history. … QB Baker Mayfield now has two years remaining to chase championships. Big 12 officials voted in May to restore his lost year of eligibility after transferring from Texas Tech. Mayfield is now listed as a junior on OU’s roster.

Quarterback Baker Mayfield returns as the Sooners' starter in 2016. And, thanks to a Big 12 rule change this summer, can return to Oklahoma in 2017, too. (Brett Deering/Getty Images)
Quarterback Baker Mayfield returns as the Sooners’ starter in 2016. And, thanks to a Big 12 rule change this summer, can return to Oklahoma in 2017, too. (Brett Deering/Getty Images)

RETURNING LEADERS

Passing: Baker Mayfield, 269-395-3,700 yards, 36/7 (1st)

Rushing: Samaje Perine, 226-1,349-16 (1st); Joe Mixon, 113-753-7 (2nd)

Receiving: Dede Westbrook, 46-743-4 (2nd)

Tackles: LB Jordan Evans, 83 (2nd); S Ahmad Thomas, 75 (3rd)

Sacks: DL Charles Walker, 6 (3rd)

RETURNING ALL CONFERENCE (10)

Offense: QB Baker Mayfield (1st team), RB Samaje Perine (1st), TE Mark Andrews (2nd), OT Orlando Brown (honorable mention), FB Dimitri Flowers (honorable mention)

Defense: DE Charles Walker (2nd), LB Jordan Evans (2nd), S Ahmad Thomas (2nd), P Austin Seibert (2nd), S Steven Parker (honorable mention)

FYI …

  • It’s almost hard to imagine, but Stoops is closing in on two decades in Norman. With two more double-digit winning seasons, it’s possible that he could win his 200th career game sometime in 2017. Asked during Big 12 media days when he would consider retirement, Stoops said, “You know, that’s something you would ask a guy that’s maybe 65, but I’m only 55. So I don’t see myself anytime soon that being the question that I need to answer.”
  • Stoops still faces hard questions about running back Joe Mixon, and whether OU officials should have dismissed the player after he assaulted his girlfriend. Public advocacy groups are still fighting the Oklahoma courts to have the video released. Stoops said the year-long punishment was enough for Mixon, and that Mixon continues to meet OU’s expectations for off-field behavior.
  • Stoops said he’d be all in favor of playing Texas twice in a given season, if it means playing the Longhorns in Dallas and then again for the Big 12 championship. The league will restart its title game in 2017 although it’s unclear how the two participants would be decided. “Two is better than one, right?” Stoops said.

Oklahoma's 2016 schedule

DateOpponentLast yr's result (if played)
Sept. 3at Houston
Sept. 10Louisiana-Monroe
Sept. 17Ohio State
Oct. 1at TCU*W, 30-29
Oct. 8Texas* (Dallas)L, 24-17
Oct. 15Kansas State*W, 55-0
Oct. 22at Texas Tech*W, 63-27
Oct. 29Kansas*W, 62-7
Nov. 3at Iowa State*W, 52-16
Nov. 12Baylor*W, 44-34
Nov. 19at West Virginia*W, 44-24
Dec. 3Oklahoma State*W, 58-23
* Big 12 game

Oklahoma: The last 5 years

YearW-L/Conf.RankBowl
201511-2 / 8-119th / 5thCFP semifinals, L
20148-5 / 5-44th / —Russell Athletic Bowl, L
201311-2 / 7-216th / 6thSugar Bowl, W
201210-3 / 8-14th / 15thCotton Bowl, L
201110-3 / 6-31st / 16thInsight Bowl, W
Total50-15, 34-115 bowl games (2-3)
Note: Ranks are that year’s preseason/final ranking.

 

2015 NATIONAL RANKS

Scoring: 4th (43.5 ppg)

Scoring defense: 28th (22.0 ppg)

Passing yards: 17th (308.2 ypg)

Rushing yards: 22nd (221.1 ypg)

 

TOP 25 SO FAR …

No. 25: Washington State

No. 24: Boise State

No. 23: Louisville

No. 22: Oklahoma State

No. 21: Oregon

No. 20: North Carolina

No. 19: Baylor

No. 18: Iowa

No. 17: Washington

No. 16: Georgia

No. 15: Michigan State

No. 14: USC

No. 13: TCU

No. 12: Ole Miss

No. 11: Houston

No. 10: Notre Dame

No. 9: Tennessee

No. 8: Stanford

No. 7: Ohio State

No. 6: LSU

No. 5: Michigan

No. 4: Oklahoma

No. 3: Coming Thursday. Want a hint? This school has won three national championships and finished fourth or higher in the final AP poll for 14 straight years, from 1987 through 2000.

BY CONFERENCE

5 schools: Pac-12 (8-Stanford, 14-USC, 17-Washington, 21-Oregon, 25-Washington State)

4 schools: Big Ten (5-Michigan, 7-Ohio State, 15-Michigan State, 18-Iowa); Big 12 (4-Oklahoma, 13-TCU, 19-Baylor, 22-Oklahoma State); SEC (6-LSU, 9-Tennessee, 12-Ole Miss, 16-Georgia)

2 schools: ACC (20-North Carolina, 23-Louisville)

1 school: AAC (11-Houston); Mountain West (24-Boise State); Independents (10-Notre Dame)

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