Oklahoma football: An ESPN ranking that gives Sooner fans extra motivation for season kickoff

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 05: A view of the logo during ESPN The Party on February 5, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for ESPN)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 05: A view of the logo during ESPN The Party on February 5, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for ESPN) /

It’s time for all the preseason projections and hype that precedes every college football season to be shoved to the side. All that really matters are the games themselves, and for Oklahoma football fans, the long wait ends on Sept. 3.

Looking at five of the more reputable sources who come out with college football preseason top-25 rankings, the Sooners are a consensus No. 9 heading into the new season. Based on the preseason top-25 rankings published by the Associated Press, the Coaches Poll, ESPN, Sports Illustrated and NCAA.com, Oklahoma ended up 9.9.9, 10, 9, respectively.

The ESPN analytics group has produced another ranking of the top teams in college football going into the 2022 season. It is a power ranking called SP+. In the words of the ESPN staff, the SP+ Projection “is a predictive measure of the most sustainable and predictable aspects of football.”

The SP+ ranking takes into account how good have you been recently (recent history), who do you have coming back, and how good are the players replacing those who are not returning (recent recruiting (returning production). Each element is weighted according to its predictiveness.

ESPN’s SP+ model comes out at several points in the offseason. The first projection was in February, just a few weeks separated from the College Football Playoff national championship game. A second projection is issued in May, and the final preseason projection was issued this past week.

This is part of the ESPN+ exclusive content package and is not available without a subscription. I am sharing it, however, because of its interest value to all college football fans, but particular to those in the Oklahoma football community.

The top three teams in this college football ranking analysis predictably are Alabama, Ohio State and Georgia. These three teams are clearly at a different level than all the rest coming into the 2022 season. The No. 4 team in the final SP+ projection of the preseason, however, is…wait for it…the Oklahoma Sooners.

A three-point difference separates the top three teams, but there is a seven-point difference between No. 3 Georgia and No. 4 OU. A 1.5-point difference separates the next four teams — Oklahoma, Clemson, Michigan and Notre Dame — then comes No. 8 Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Tennessee rounding out the top 10.

The SP+ model predicts Oklahoma having the fourth best returning offense in the country, the No. 21 defense and has the Sooners winning 9.8 games overall and 7.1 in the Big 12.

The Sooners were ranked 7th in the SP+ projection right after the end of the 2021 college season, but had moved up to No. 5 when the May SP+ ranking came out.

So, not a major difference over the seven-month period from February to now, but the ffact that the Sooners keep advancing upward is a good sign of confidence heading into the start of the 2022 season just 11 days from now for OU fans