Oklahoma football: Sooners have been one of most consistent top teams

Sep 11, 2021; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners sooner schooner during the game against the Western Carolina Catamounts at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 11, 2021; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners sooner schooner during the game against the Western Carolina Catamounts at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

The Oklahoma football history is resplendent in top-five and top-10 seasons, which other than national championships, is the best measure of enduring success among the best in the college game.

The weekly Associated Press and Coaches polls provide a subjective measure of how the top teams in the country are doing as the season progresses.

Midway through the season, a College Football Playoff selection committee offers another measure, ranking the top college teams, 1 through 25, for the purpose of ultimately determining the four teams that will play for college football’s national championship as well as teams that will fill out the New Year’s Six bowl assignments (the six premium bowls that make up the rotating CFP bowl venues).

Another metric used to rank the top college teams throughout the season is ESPN’s Football Power Index. Unlike the weekly human polls that are principally a subjective evaluation of where a team is at that particular point in the season, the Football Power Index is designed as more of a prospective evaluation and predictor of a team’s strength going forward for the remainder of the season.

Sooners have been regular top-10 finisher in ESPN’s Power Index

The FPI runs as many as 20,000 simulations and updates them every week throughout the season using data collected as the season progresses.

ESPN ranks Oklahoma 8th in its post-spring 2022 FPI and gives the Sooners a 27 percent chance to win the Big 12. Longtime OU rival Texas currently sits in the 6th spot in the FPI with a 41 percent chance of winning the Big 12 next season, according to the ESPN metrics.

This is the first time in quite a few seasons, that the hated Longhorns have been ranked ahead of OU in any statistical, subjective or computerized measure. We’ll have to wait and see, of course, to see if the actual 2022 season bears that out.

The reality is, Oklahoma has consistently proved to be a top-10 team over the past decade and beyond and throughout the CFP era, which is now into its ninth season.

Rolling the calendar back 85 years, the Sooners have finished in the Associated Press top 10 45 times with shares or outright ownership of 47 conference championships. And here’s the remarkable part: Over that time span OU football teams have had just six losing seasons.

Over the past 10 college seasons, Oklahoma has finished in the top 10 in the FPI seven times and in the top five four times. Since ESPN’s Power Index came into existence in 2005. a period of 17 seasons, the Sooners have finished outside of the top 10 only five teams. OU was No. 1 in the FPI in 2007 and No. 2 in 2015.

OU’s enduring success measured in consistency of top-10 national rankings

Those same high finishes by Oklahoma are reflected in both the final Associated Press poll and the highly anticipated College Football Playoff rankings over the past 8 to 10 seasons (the CFP rankings, which only come out after more than half of the season is already in the books and the games really start to matter, has been in existence only eight seasons).

OU has been in the top 10 in eight of the final AP polls over the past 10 seasons, and four times the Sooners finished in the top five.  Bob Stoops was the coach in two of OU’s top-five finishes in the AP poll, Lincoln Riley is also credited with two, although essentially with players recruited under Stoops.

In the eight seasons of the playoff era (2014-present), Oklahoma’s regular presence in the upper echelon of national championship contenders has been de rigueur. To wit, the Sooners were not ranked in the top-25 the first year the playoff selection format was established, but since then Oklahoma has been ranked among the final four playoff teams four time and finished in the top seven of the CFP rankings six different seasons.

The Sooners have also been consistent in another somewhat dubious distinction. In its four trips to the College Football playoff (only two other schools, Alabama and Clemson, have appeared more times), Oklahoma has failed to make it past the opening semifinal game. All four of those playoff losses, incidentally, belong to Lincoln Riley.

That gives Brent Venables, in his first season at the helm of the Oklahoma football machine, a clean slate to shoot for in terms of playoff wins and championships.

It may be Venables first season as OU head coach, but let’s not forget that he already has more playoff appearances (6), coached in more playoff games (10), been part of four CFP national championship games and two CFP national champions than Oklahoma — all in the last eight seasons and all while serving as defensive coordinator at Clemson for 10 seasons after leaving the same position at OU.