After six consecutive years of starting the college football season at No. 8 or higher, Oklahoma took a dip in this year’s USA Today AFCA Coaches Poll.
The Sooners come in at No. 9 in this year’s preseason poll, their lowest ranking to start a season since 2015, when Bob Stoops hired Lincoln Riley as offensive coordinator and OU opened at No. 19.
OU was No. 8 in 2017, Riley’s first year as Stoops’ replacement. The Sooners have been No. 3, No. 6, No. 4 and No. 5 in the four previous preseason coaches polls.
This year’s change at the top from Riley to Brent Venables — coupled with the fact that no offensive or defensive players were picked to the preseason All-Big 12 team — is an indicator of what other coaches think about the Sooners this year. OU returns just four full-time starters on defense and seven starters or former starters on offense.
Alabama is No. 1 in this year’s preseason poll, receiving 54 of 65 first-place votes. Ohio State is No. 2 and got five first-place votes, while defending national champion Georgia comes in at No. 3 and received six first-place votes. Clemson and Notre Dame round out the top five, while defending Big Ten champ Michigan is No. 6, Texas A&M is No. 7 and defending Pac-12 champ Utah is No. 8.
OU is the highest-ranked Big 12 team — one spot ahead of No. 10 Baylor and two spots up on No. 11 Oklahoma State.
Texas, coming off a 5-7 season, comes in at No. 18, while future Big 12 opponents Cincinnati (No. 22) and Houston (No. 25) are also ranked.
As usual, the Southeastern Conference had the most teams ranked. In addition to Nos. 1, 3 and 7, Kentucky comes in at No. 21, Arkansas is No. 23 and Ole Miss is No. 24.
Riley’s USC team — just 4-8 last year — opens this season at No. 15 in the coaches poll.
The Associated Press preseason Top 25 will be released Aug. 15.