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Preseason #1 Reality Check

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As the table above shows, there has not been a great "championship rate" for teams ranked at the top of the preseason Coaches Poll, as the Oklahoma Sooners are this season. Only one team in the last 9 years ended the season as the BCS National Champion, and that team had their championship vacated.

Between 2002 and 2006, however, every team that was the "Preseason #1" qualified for the BCS National Championship Game, certainly a notable accomplishment. From 2007 through now, that trend has reversed, despite two teams coming close (USC in 2007, and Florida in 2009). I think the reversal of this trend may have something to do with the widely held opinion that parity has increased in college football. Voters are therefore more likely to rank a team that is not a traditional powerhouse near the top of the polls in recent years. Put another way, if you are ranked #1 and you lose, there is an increasingly vast pool of teams that pollsters are willing to give a shot.

Matt Hinton at the Dr. Saturday blog nutshells the Sooners' ranking nicely:

With the right brand on the side of the helmet, a high-profile quarterback, 18 returning starters and a lopsided bowl win can still take you a long way.

The Sooners do have a fairly difficult schedule on paper with three games against preseason Top-10 teams, two of those on the road. Even though all those games are preceded by either an unranked opponent or a bye week, it's hard to ignore the road splits from 2010 for Landry Jones (167.36 passer rating at home, vs. 134.05 away from home; interceptions 2 to 10 respectively). He has yet to post a passer rating above 135 in a game against a ranked opponent away from home in two seasons, and has a 2-6 record as a starter in such games (although he won the most recent two, against Oklahoma St. and Nebraska).

With a pass heavy offense, it's pretty obvious the Sooners need to correct these trends if they want to have a shot at a title. Part of that responsibility lies with Landry. Part of it also lies with new offensive coordinators Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell, to put Landry in better positions to make plays than Kevin Wilson did in high-profile road games.