This Saturday, Oklahoma is likely to find themselves at the top of the AP preseason poll.
They have begun the season in the top 10 every season during the past decade.
Though they had an undeniably successful decade—fifth-winningest team in the country and fourth-winningest amongst AQ-teams—they have failed to live up to the hype when they reach the big games.
Though the polls are not supposed to be "official" until Week 8, a team that begins the season in a high spot is difficult to leapfrog, no matter what the teams behind him do.
In short, Bob Stoops has a great team and has compiled an incredible record in Norman.
But do his Sooners deserve to be preseason No. 1?
Former Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson has taken his share of heat over the years, but that goes with the territory of being an offensive coordinator.
Despite any criticism he has faced, there is no getting around the fact that Oklahoma had a top 20 scoring offense in four of the five seasons he was the OC.
They were No. 28 in the one season they didn't have a top 20 offense (2009).
They were in the top 10 twice over that period of time, and in 2008, they set an Oklahoma record as they averaged 51.1 points-per-game.
The new coordinators are Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell. Heupel is new to being a coordinator and Norvell called the plays at Nebraska 2004-2006 and UCLA in 2007. Only one of those offenses—Nebraska, 2006—finished in the top half of the conference scoring offenses.
Moreover, everybody knows that Bob Stoops calls the shots on defense for the Sooners, regardless who is coordinator is. The same cannot be said on offense.
Maybe Heupel and Norvell will pick up right where Wilson left off. They certainly have the personnel.
But the AP voters might want to wait and see what they can do before putting them at No. 1.
The chances of beating Oklahoma in Norman are really slim. In fact, outside of the Boise State Broncos' many wins over Louisiana Tech on the blue turf, the Sooners have the best home record in college football over the last decade.
In the last 10 years, OU has two home losses. One was to TCU in 2005 and the other was to Oklahoma State in 2001.
However, they are vulnerable on the road. In fact, they've lost 24 roadies since 2001. While that average of 2.4 road losses per year is still pretty good, it's not going to get Oklahoma to the national championship.
Looking at Oklahoma's schedule, two of their four biggest contests are on the road. Specifically, an early out-of-conference matchup at Florida State will tell a great deal about both teams' fates.
Also, the end of the year Bedlam game is at Oklahoma State, who, incidentally, is also returning a slew of talent, and will begin the season as a top 25 team.
If Oklahoma is going to lose, it's generally going to happen on the road, and this year's slate sets up for some challenging road games.
Oklahoma has talented running backs. This is not up for argument.
But replacing DeMarco Murray may be more difficult than many are considering.
In 2010, Murray had 363 touches. The only non-quarterback that touched the ball more was Western Kentucky's Bobby Rainey.
One can then make the argument that Murray was simply that good and that was why OU wanted him on the field. I agree, but that brings us to Murray's likely replacement, sophomore Roy Finch.
If Finch could easily step in for Murray, wouldn't they have put him in more often. In the end, there was a reason Murray did touch the ball 363 times.
In closing, I'm not saying Finch can't and won't be a solid tailback and contributor. I'm saying that replacing Murray's production is going to take a lot.
Isn't seeing Oklahoma at the top or near the top of the preseason rankings getting old?
In the last 10 years, Oklahoma has been in the preseason top five eight times. They have been in the top 10 every year.
Some might say this is an honor they have earned and I agree. Oklahoma wins games and with wins come rankings.
Nonetheless, unlike most of the other teams that have milled about the top 10 for the past decade, Oklahoma tends to choke when the chips are down.
Yes, they're worthy of being a top 10 team, but three straight national championship losses, coupled with five straight BCS bowl losses—a streak that only ended with the beat down of a Big East sacrificial lamb—go to show that there are a number of other teams that will not squander an early bump in the rankings.
In other words, if the Sooners are to get back to the national championship, really make them earn it. Make them jump over other worthy teams.
Nebraska took off, despite being one of the building blocks of the conference, and having a deep and long history with multiple Big 12 teams.
Colorado took off.
Missouri made it well known they wanted out during the Big Ten expansion.
Iowa State and the Kansas schools would gladly bolt if any AQ conferences would take them.
In the end, everybody hates Texas and their draconian influence over the conference. Somehow, Texas will find a way to benefit from Oklahoma's success.
This may seem petty (it is), but I see no reason to reward Texas for anything, and by having OU at No. 1, that is exactly what is happening.
LSU is the best team in the country.
Yet, they are suffering for a vicious schedule that includes a neutral field game against Oregon, an away game at West Virginia, conference away games at Mississippi State, Tennessee, Bama and Ole Miss; and conference home games against Florida, Auburn and Arkansas.
Every one of those teams is a potential top 25 team, with at least four of them being potential top 10 teams.
LSU will be ranked in the top five. If both they and Oklahoma run the table, will they jump over the Sooners? With that schedule, could they get left out of the national championship game? Should teams suffer due to having a competitive schedule?
I am a big fan of Phil Steele. He is one of the few national analysts that invests time and effort in his analysis. Whether I agree with him or not, I know his predictions have been researched and heavily considered. With this in mind, he has devised a number of interesting and proven theories.
And he has the Sooners at No. 1. The thing is he does this despite a number of intangibles that seem to be working against them.
First of all, there is the theory that turnovers equal turnaround. Briefly, the theory is that teams that have an excessive turnover margin of either plus or minus-12 will have the same or worse record the following year. Last season, OU had a turnover margin of positive-12.
Then there is the theory that teams that are egregiously healthy or egregiously injured turn around the following season. Basically, teams that lose over 32 starts in year A, have the same or better record in year B. Conversely, teams that lose less than six starts in year A, have the same or worse record in year B.
Oklahoma lost four starts in all of 2010.
Finally, there is the net close win theory. Unfortunately, I can't find a link that explains it in detail, but basically, a team that wins the close games in any given year, tends to go in the opposite direction the following season.
In 2010, the Sooners went 3-0 in games decided by three points or less.
I will also note that Steele picks the Sooners as his No. 1 team, despite so many intangibles working against them.