Oklahoma’s ranking in the Associated Press preseason Top 25 poll is no cause for alarm.
Neither is Oklahoma State’s being left out.
The Sooners are No. 7 in the AP poll released Monday, which is too low to qualify for the four-team College Football Playoff, of course. It’s also lower than they rank in the USA Today coaches poll (fifth) and other publications.
But so far, the AP preseason Top 25 has been a mixed bag when it comes to determining teams that do end up in the playoff.
In 2014, the four-team field was comprised of teams that ranked 1, 2, 3 and 5 in the AP’s preseason poll.
In 2015, however, two teams from outside the preseason top five — No. 12 and No. 19 — made the playoff. In 2016, the No. 6 and No. 14 teams in the AP preseason poll landed in the Final Four. And last year, teams that ranked 7th and 15th ended up making the playoff field.
That team that started No. 7 last year and still qualified for the playoff?
The Oklahoma Sooners.
And that 2015 team that started the preseason at No. 19 and ended up in the Final Four?
The Oklahoma Sooners.
OU still needs to identify a starting quarterback (expect some news from Lincoln Riley today, or tomorrow at the latest), then manage a sneaky good non-conference schedule (FAU is good, UCLA has Chip Kelly, and Army is always tricky), stay healthy at key positions and win a fourth straight Big 12 Conference championship.
But pull all that off and the Sooners are back in the College Football Playoff for the third time in five years.
The Cowboys’ have different goals.
This is the fifth time since Mike Gundy really got things rolling in 2008 that OSU has begun a season outside the AP’s preseason Top 25. They’ve exceeded expectations in three of those years, and had opportunities to do it four times.
In ‘08, O-State started unranked and finished at No. 16. In 2010, they finished 13th. In 2014, they finished unranked but still reached as high as No. 15 in the regular-season poll. And in 2015, they ended the season at No. 20 in the final poll but actually cracked the top five after starting the regular season 10-0, coming in at No. 4 before losing to Baylor, OU and Ole Miss to end the season.
So being unranked won’t faze Gundy and his crew as the season begins. As they always do, rankings will shake out how they should.
The Cowboys host No. 22 Boise State on Sept. 15, but other than that have a remarkably easy path to what could be a 6-0 start. It’s those last six games — at Kansas State, Texas, at Baylor, at Oklahoma, West Virginia and at TCU — that will determine the Cowboys’ place in or out of this year’s final poll.
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “The Franchise Drive” every weeknight from 6-8 on The Franchise in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and appears throughout the day on other shows on The Franchise. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Hoover also covers the Big 12 for Sporting News and Lindy’s magazine and is a feature writer for Sooner Spectator magazine. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.