Oklahoma football: Sooners No. 8 in ESPN’s initial 2022 Power Index

Dec 6, 2021; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners head football coach Brent Venables speaks to the media. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 6, 2021; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners head football coach Brent Venables speaks to the media. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports /

Yes, there have been major changes within the Oklahoma football program this offseason and, yes, change usually brings along with it a level of uncertainty before reality registers the final vote.

But four months now into the Brent Venables era of Sooner football, there appears to be a growing groundswell among college football experts that if there is a back step in Oklahoma’s standing among the nation’s best teams it will be short lived and a mere step back to take a couple of more steps forward.

Spring practice schedules are wrapping up around the country, including at Oklahoma, which culminates this weekend with the annual Red-White spring game, and with the 2022 season just little more than four months away, the conversation is ramping up on who the top contenders will be for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

ESPN has come out with its initial College Football Power Index (FPI) for the coming season, and for the Sooners it offers an upgrade over the popular cable sports network’s Way-Too-Early Top 25 issued on Jan. 11 immediately following Georgia’s win over Alabama in last season’s national championship game.

The first FPI for the 2022 season ranks the Oklahoma Sooners No. 8. The silver lining is that’s nine spots higher than OU’s No. 17 position in ESPN’s earlier top-25 projection in January. The not-so-good news if you’re a Sooner fan, is that Texas is ranked two spots higher at No. 6.

While this is the sixth straight year the Sooners have been ranked in the top 10 in the initial FPI college rankings of the season, it marks just their second-lowest preseason FPI ranking since Lincoln Riley became head coach ahead of the 2017 season.

Last year at this time, Oklahoma ranked No. 2 when the ESPN computer cranked out its initial 2021 preseason rankings. The Sooners were positioned No. 3 in the initial 2020 FPI rankings the year before that.

The 2022 ESPN preseason FPI projects the Sooners will go 9-3 with a 27 percent chance of winning the Big 12 and a 12.6 percent chance of making the College Football Playoff.

So what exactly does all of this mean? I think most Oklahoma football fans can agree that OU has underperformed its high preseason expectations the past couple of seasons. A change may have been necessary, even though at the time it appeared it could be a major setback.

The excitement is beginning to build for the coming season, and we’ll get an even better feel for what’s to come after Saturday’s spring game, when we’ll get out first look at new quarterback Dillon Gabriel and Jeff Lebby’s reworked Oklahoma offense. Plus, we’ll also get an early glimpse at the revamped Sooner defense under the direction of Venables, one of the best defensive minds in the college game, and new defensive coordinator Ted Roof.