What Does Oklahoma Sooners Ranking in the Associated Press Preseason Poll Mean?
Another day, another poll.
With the release of the Associated Press' preseason college football poll, we have officially been rewarded with another two weeks of analysis and arguments. Until the first kickoff takes place, we will continue to make mostly unjustified rationalizations for why this team should be ranked higher, why that team is vastly overrated.
Preseason rankings are, for the most part, unnecessary. Their importance is completely dependent on our need for conversation. They are projections—a team's preseason ranking normally has zero effect on its final ranking. Teams have to earn their ranking through their weekly performances, not through a predetermined list.
Sooner fans are quite aware of this fact.
After being ranked No. 1 in last year's AP preaseason poll, the Sooners finished 10-3 and ranked outside of the Top 10 at year's end. There's really no merit in trying to find what's good or bad about where a team is ranked in a preseason poll...but I'm still going to try.
The Oklahoma Sooners are the fourth-best team in the country, according to the AP voters. They trail only the USC Trojans, the Alabama Crimson Tide and the LSU Tigers. No. 4 is the same ranking that the Sooners were given in the USA Today Coaches' Poll released just a few weeks ago. The Sooners were also one of five teams to receive at least one first-place vote.
Once again, the Sooners are loaded with talent, so the high preseason ranking comes as no surprise. However, a lot of the Sooners talent is unproven. When you couple that with the amount of suspensions and injuries that have already plagued the team, No. 4 seems like a gift.
Even before the injury of right guard Tyler Evans and the retirement of center Ben Habern, I still had the Sooners at No. 5 in my top 25—behind USC, LSU, Alabama and Oregon—and I still thought that was probably too high.
Don't get me wrong, I think the Sooners are more than capable of winning every game on their schedule en route to a national championship, but that's only if all of their unproven talent can step up in every game.
As was evidenced last season, the Sooners aren't perfect. Even talented players (and coaches) can have costly slipups.
However, being ranked No. 4 to start this season does have its advantages.
As opposed to last season, the Sooners won't start the season off with a huge target on their back. Being ranked No. 1 in the preseason is far from enviable. Every week, 24 other teams are waiting for you to slip up.
Holding the top spot in the rankings is much harder than wanting to hold the top spot in the rankings. At No. 4, the Sooners have something to shoot for without being under so much pressure.
The Sooners have three tough early season games (Kansas State, Texas Tech and Texas—in three consecutive weeks, mind you) that are really going to help determine what kind of season the Sooners will have. Going unscathed with impressive performances could be enough to push the Sooners to the top spot in the polls by Week 7.
Ultimately, though, the Sooners just have to take care of business. It's a good thing that the AP voters have enough confidence in the Sooners to rank them so high, but this No. 4 ranking isn't going to determine their season. Even if the Sooners were unranked, they would be able to climb up the polls by racking up wins.
So, if it's possible, don't buy into the hype of preseason polls. Yes, they're fun to look at and argue about, but that's really all they're there for.
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