Since mid-June, the world’s sporting focus has been on soccer, which most of the world refers to as football.
But since the good old USA was bounced from the tournament last week, the eyes of this country have turned to football, real football. And in Oklahoma, that means the college game.
We are weeks from fall practice beginning, but the preseason college football polls already are coming out.
The Oklahoma Sooners are the No. 1-ranked team in the preseason, at least according to Sporting News. Athlon, Lindy’s, USA Today and Phil Steele have opted for Florida State as the top team in the land. OU is ranked fourth in Athlon, third by Lindy’s and Phil Steele has the Sooners fourth.
That means four of the five preseason magazines pick the Sooners to make the playoffs.
Yes, the playoffs.
The top four teams in this season’s final rankings issued by a selection committee consisting of athletic directors, former coaches, an ex-conference commissioner, a former NCAA executive, a former sports writer and Condoleeza Rice, will meet in two semifinal games, the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl. The winners of those games will meet for all the Tostitos Jan. 12 at the Dallas Cowboys’ opulent football palace.
Thus it won’t only be the Dallas Cowboys who go into the 2014 season with dreams of making the playoffs, but the Oklahoma State Cowboys, as well.
But to quote ex-Indianapolis Colts Coach Jim Mora’s famous post-game rant, “What’s that? Ah, playoffs? Don’t talk about playoffs? You kidding me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win a game! Another game.”
That is the position the Pokes and many other NCAA teams will find themselves in this season, and will until the College Football Playoff expands to eight or more teams.
Once the committee chooses the four teams for this season’s playoffs, there undoubtedly will be angry calls for expanding the playoff field. But the current CFP contract runs for 12 years, so we’re likely stuck with the four-team format for awhile.
That said, the Sooners have a good chance to make the playoffs this year. They are loaded on both sides of the ball with returnees like linebacker Frank Shannon and defensive end Charles Tapper, as well as quarterback Trevor Knight.
As for the Cowboys, they did not crack any of the magazines’ top 25 lists, but were ranked No. 21 in ESPN’s preseason Football Power Index. That may be a stretch given OSU has the smallest percentage of returning lettermen in the nation, 54.29.
The Cowboys will be young, talented in spots, but young.
OU, incidentally, ranked seventh in the ESPN FPI, with Baylor 11th. All of which, of course, means absolutely nothing.
Last year’s preseason top 25 polls were topped by Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon, Stanford and Georgia. By the end of the season, only Alabama and Oregon were even in the AP’s top 10 (No. 7 and No. 9). Nobody saw USC beating Stanford last season, Arizona downing Oregon, Auburn shocking Alabama or Texas dumping Oklahoma.
That is one of the beauties of college football: its unpredictability. Every season there are games and outcomes that leave fans coast to coast shaking their heads. So let the preseason speculation begin, or continue, as the case may be. Fall camps begin in about three weeks, and by the end of next month, though we will still be gripped by the searing heat of summer, it will be fall, if not on the calendar, then at least on the football field.