Oklahoma is always #1 at something, so why should football be any different? Now bring on all the backwoods Bayou folk from Swamp People to defend their team! Of course we will most likely need subtitles to understand what is going on and along with an interpreter to make sense of the spelling (a la our Bama friend from Sunday Night). As you all well know, Oklahoma is garnering most of the preseason hype in being the #1 team in the nation from plenty of sources. However, there are a few others who are stealing some of the thunder and making a real push at being #1 coming into September. Many have released a post-spring top 25 (<-- this article is a solid read on highlights and concerns as well as interests specifically pertaining to the Sooners) and a few of the top analysts do not have Oklahoma sitting atop their list whilst the top 5 teams are somewhat consistent across the board. Something that seems a little hard to fathom is that OU has only found itself in the #1 slot during the pre-season in 2003 since the start of the BCS era (1998). Yet, OU has found itself being ranked #1 in the BCS more times than any other university and has played in more BCS Bowls than any other football program as well. Now, that #1 slot is always the best spot to be since many teams quickly let it go to their head and follow the ranking up by losing a hand full of games and out of BCS contention. This only lends itself to saying that pre-season rankings mean nothing unless of course you ask the aTm Aggies who will say the pre-season rankings mean the world and is the only reason OU played for the Big XII Title this past season. But, why do the Oklahoma Sooners deserve to be called the best heading into the fall?
Oklahoma has proven to be a quarterback factory and this label is going no where in the near future. OU has pumped out two Heisman winners starting with Jason White and shortly followed up by Sam Bradford. Along side that, quarterbacks from the University have been finalists a total of four times since 2000. Landry Jones is looking to continue this trend on a highly potent offense.
As you can see, Landry had an incredible increase in production from 2009 to 2010 which should have been expected. If he can continue to make strides in working through his progression, he will once again be on pace for another record setting season. However, it is not just Landry that needs to be looked at in Reason #1.
A major part of why Jones has been successful is because of his connection with Ryan Broyles. Everyone knows just how good Broyles is and he is being labeled as the best WR in the nation. As the season begins to come to an end, I would not be surprised to see this duo topping the Heisman watch list.
You can also see the progression that Broyles has made each season. If Landry continues to use Broyles as his go to man, which should be expected, Ryan should be able to duplicate if not better the season he had in 2010. I'm not sure that any team outside of Oklahoma will have this type of connection between a QB and WR and it is going to be a major part of the offense and the offense is what carries OU into that #1 spot. Hard to outscore a team that is going to be able to score at will against any team they play against.
Reason 2 - The Scheduling
We had a look at the final schedule earlier this month but I am going to put another copy up for reference purposes.
2011 Oklahoma Sooners Football Schedule
While nothing is set in stone yet, this schedule looks to hold up to six pre-season top 25 teams. When it comes down to, OU will have one of the toughest schedules in the nation and already boasts the toughest in the conference. In recent years the SOS has become a very important factor especially in the Big XII. With this list of teams, I see no reason for anyone to say that Oklahoma isn't playing a tough schedule and consequently there is no reason not to give OU the go ahead nod for the #1 based solely on scheduling. The best teams in the nation are not afraid to play anyone anywhere and Oklahoma has repeated shown this with the non-conference scheduling, this year is no exception to that.
Reason 3 - Returning Starters
In a season full of expectations, experience is gonna be the key. Leadership had got to be there and when it's not the team suffers, a factor that was evident until the return of Austin Box in last season. The experienced players should be the ones to keep the team grounded and out of the clouds with a high pre-season ranking. They should also be the ones who know how to handle the pressure as well as having a target on their backs. I expect this team to rely heavily on it's upperclassmen not only for production but for stability if it plans on making a title run. But, let's not forget the 2010 freshman class that came in and had a huge year. Some of these will be starters for the first time as well as some returning but if they have a progression anywhere near what we expect them to have, this team will be off the charts.