The votes are in, tallied, and officially published-—Oklahoma has been handed the preseason honor of being ranked No. 1 heading into the 2011 version of college football.
Rounding out the USA TODAY poll top five are Alabama, Oregon, LSU, and Florida State.
Bob Stoops has been one of the most consistent and elite coaches in the game recently, leading his Sooners to a Big 12 title in four out of the past five seasons. No matter how you spin it, there is no denying the elite-feel flowing through the Sooner veins as of late.
In 2011, nothing will change except maybe for the end result of it all. Last season, on their way to the dismantling of a four-loss Connecticut team in the Fiesta Bowl, the Sooners fell short just twice all season. However, those two setbacks loomed large as they missed out on a national championship berth for the third straight year.
The Sooners expect to be the heavy favorite in the Big 12 once again. With Nebraska moving on to greener pastures and Texas still struggling to hold on to its top-25 ranking, this is Oklahoma's conference to lose.
With Stoops looking for redemption and another national championship ring, there is no denying that Oklahoma seems like a legitimate contender this season. Even if they did lose DeMarco Murray and some very talented players on the defense—this is an elite team with elite talent playing under an elite head coach.
In college football, that equation usually equates to success on the field. And in a big way.
Returning 18 starters from their BCS-bowl team in 2010, Oklahoma looks to make its mark as the preseason number one. Although there was no clear-cut favorite as to who would start the season in the top spot, there isn't much to criticize the voters on regarding this year's selection.
On the other hand, big names like Alabama and Oregon could have easily fit the bill. After all, Nick Saban has consistently has had his program in the top five while winning multiple rings. His embarrassment of riches they call a depth chart is covered with five- and four-star talent from head to toe.
Chip Kelly and his Oregon team aren't too shabby either—having just fallen short (22-19) in last year's national championship matchup vs. Auburn. LaMichael James is one of the most electrifying players in the country and will undoubtedly contend for the Heisman this coming season.
What may have led to the voters going with the Sooners might have been the absence of question marks on Stoops' depth chart. In what may be their most pressing concern, the loss of Murray will hurt the offense. Yet there is plenty of talent that has been dwelling in the shadows of the now Dallas Cowboy. The nation will be introduced to Roy Finch, the presumed starter at running back who averaged more yards per carry (4.7) than Murray did in 2010.
Another reason for the positive vibes surrounding the Sooner outlook lies in the arm of Landry Jones, one of the nation's best quarterbacks and leaders. With Jones under center, Oklahoma will have an edge against every opponent they face this season, both in and out of conference.
Some may argue the top spot selection. Unlike other years, there is no unanimous team that stands out from the rest. There is no 2011 team with a sole target attached to their back like a USC team in its prime.
But what this year does possess are three elite teams that could have all been given the nod. When it came down to it, the voters needed to hand out the title to someone and they ended up feeling most comfortable with the Sooners leading the pack.
For their experience, consistency, and talent alone, Oklahoma is more than deserving of that honor.
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