Why Phil Steele Picks Oklahoma to Win the National Championship

Steele's preseason magazine often picks the unexpected champ, and has been the most accurate magazine on the market over the last 25 years.
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Sooner fans concerned that Oklahoma’s preseason rankings might be just too much hype should take stock in one of the most accurate predictors in the business.

Phil Steele’s 27th “College Football Preview” projects the Sooners No. 1 in his preseason Top 40.

Spencer Rattler

Spencer Rattler

Steele emphasizes that his preseason Top 40 is different than his college football power ratings (OU is second to Alabama in that formula), and represents not who he thinks will start the season No. 1, but who will finish at No. 1.

“These rankings take into account the totality of the circumstances that I feel each team will face in the 2021 season,” Steele writes, “such as: schedule strength, foes’ schedules (coming off byes), experience edges at the start of the year and so forth.

“My Top 40 is based on where I project teams to finish in the final rankings and have always done quite well.”

Phil Steele's Top 10

  1. Oklahoma
  2. Alabama
  3. Ohio State
  4. Clemson
  5. Georgia
  6. Texas A&M
  7. Notre Dame
  8. Iowa State
  9. Washington
  10. Cincinnati

According to Chris Stassen (Stassen.com), Steele has had the most accurate preseason college football magazine over the last 23 years. He was No. 1 last year and ranked No. 2 in 2019. Over the last 10 years, Steele also ranked most accurate in 2015, 2014 and 2013, among the major publications.

Steele, who said he interviewed 110 of the 130 FBS head coaches this offseason, also has a solid track record for cutting against the grain to pick a national champion, including Ohio State in 2002, LSU in 2003, Florida in 2008, Alabama in 2011, Florida State in 2013.

Lincoln Riley’s Sooners bring back starters at nine positions on offense and nine on defense, plus both kickers. OU went 9-2 last season, won its sixth straight Big 12 Championship and, after falling short of the College Football Playoff, routed Florida 55-20 in the Cotton Bowl.

“While the four playoff teams lost a lot of star players to the NFL Draft including their QB, Oklahoma actually lost just four (draft choices) and return their starting QB in Spencer Rattler,” Steele writes. “You know the Sooners will have an explosive offense under Lincoln Riley (especially with a veteran QB).

“They also have the best defense that Riley has fielded in his five years with all three units ranking in my Top 10. The schedule is very manageable with the toughest tests away from home being Texas and Oklahoma State. I know Riley is 0-3 in the playoff, but this time he has a complete team and finally breaks through, giving Oklahoma their first national title since 2000!”