Sooners projected as a top-four SEC team in 2024 preseason ESPN Football Power Index

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

On July 1, less than 30 days away, Oklahoma will become a full-fledged member of the SEC Conference, considered to be the strongest league in college football.

Over the past couple of years since the move to the SEC by both OU and Texas was officially announced, there has been much written about the humbling the Sooner football program can expect when it competes in the best conference and among some of the best teams in college football

Brent Venables has been building and molding the Oklahoma team, along with the recruiting, talent development, operational procedures and culture that will be needed to compete at a high level in the SEC. While there were numerable questions and concerns two and a half years ago when Venables took over a Sooner program that was starting to take two steps back for every step forward, many of those issues have been addressed and in a positive way looking to the future.

No one truly expects Oklahoma to go into the SEC and dominate like it has for so many years in the Big 12 -- 14 conference championships since 2000 -- but there are mounting indicators that the Sooners might surprise plenty of people with how they perform in the big, bad SEC football environment.

A number of the way-too-early and post-spring projections of the top 25 teams in the country ahead of the 2024 season that will see dynamic changes in terms of conference realignment. Most of those early rankings and projections have Oklahoman around the middle of the pack this coming season in the 16-team SEC, somewhere in the 7-8-9 range.

The 2024 ESPN College Football Index is one of those indicators that have a more positive view of Oklahoma football as the new season draws closer. If you haven't seen it, you should check it out. According to the most recent FPI, which is a prospective measure of a team's strength moving forward through the entire college football season, Oklahoma projects as the No. 8 team in the country heading into the 2024 season.

The FPI measures how many points above or below average a team is throughout the season and assigns a numerical valuation. The Sooners' current FPI is 17.2. That's eighth best of the 134 FBS teams that factor into the ranking and, get this, the fourth best team in the SEC for the 2024 season. Only No. 1 Georgia, No. 3 Texas and No. 5 Alabama rank above Oklahoma.

Three months from now, we'll find out how realistic this is, especially given one of the most difficult 2024 conference schedules in the SEC. But for now, at least, it's something encouraging for Sooner fans to hang their hat on.