As the preseason Associated Press released over the weekend their preseason College Football poll and the USA Today's Coaches Poll was released a couple weeks back, both had the Sooners atop the rankings. This is the tenth time that the Sooners have been ranked #1 in the AP poll, most of any program in College Football. The Sooners have failed to win a National Title in over a decade but can they change that this season and live up to the preseason hype?
The last team to be ranked #1 in both the AP and Coaches preseason polls and eventually go on to win the National Title were the '04 USC Trojans, arguably the best team in the last decade.
The Sooners are very capable of winning their 8th national title with the return of many key players from their Big 12 Championship and Fiesta Bowl winning team from last season. The offense was more than dominate last season and they return many key players back from last years team, the leaders will be Heisman candidate Landry Jones and All American receiver Ryan Broyles. Jones will be joined by freshman Brandon Williams in the backfield while receiver Kenny Stills is a rising star after nearly a 800 yard season as a freshman. Up front the offensive line returns four starters from last year and will lead the way for first year starter Williams. The Sooners have the offense for a national title but many question if they have a defense that can keep up.
The defense faltered last season in giving up 36 points to a mediocre Missouri team, 33 to Texas A&M and also allowing Brandon Weeden and Oklahoma State to throw all over the place while giving up 41 points. If this team wants to win their defense needs to be improved. The loss of star linebacker and leader Travis Lewis to toe injury that will keep him out for at least the first month isn't a good start. Along with Lewis' loss they also lose FS Quinton Carter, DE Jeremy Beal and tragically lost LB Austin Box.
The defense will be young with only two seniors in the starting line up. The line loses Big 12 defensive lineman of the year in Beal but have loads of potential up front. If that potential translates into success on the field then this line could be a game changer, if not we could see offenses exploit them on the ground. The linebacking core was going to be an area of strength for the Sooners this season but with the tragic loss of Box and having Lewis out for at least the first four or five games it has become a concern. Defensive freshman of the year last season, Tony Jefferson, will anchor the linebackers while Lewis is out. The secondary should be the best part of the defensive unit come game one with two of the best corners in the conference. Their will be two first year starters at the safety position, which may not be figured out till the Florida St game comes around.
The Sooners will face tough competition early and often throughout the season. They play at ACC favorite Florida St in the second week of the season and will also have to face top 25 teams Oklahoma St, Texas A&M, Missouri and Texas throughout the rest of the season.
Bob Stoop's teams have been known to crack in big games, especially in BCS games (only 3-5), but with loads of senior leadership combined with young talent the Sooners will not accept anything less then to be holding the Coaches Trophy come January 9th in New Orleans.