Each year, preseason magazine guru Phil Steele releases what he expects to be the preseason AP top 10 come August. And so even though it's mid-February (or rather, because it's mid-February, and what else is a college football diehard going to talk about?), it's already time for the 2011 version, now available here .
The headline? Steele expects Oklahoma to open next season at No. 1 after the Sooners thumped UConn in the Fiesta Bowl and saw Ryan Broyles elect to return for his senior season. He writes (in his usual unique fashion):
This year OU will be ranked #1 in the pre-season by nearly everyone as they return 15 starters on off/def including QB [Landry] Jones, WR Broyles and LB [Travis] Lewis. Their schedule sets up nicely with a bye before their road trip to Florida State (a team they dominated [last year] 47-17). In Big 12 play naturally there is the Red River Rivalry game vs Texas who is coming off a 5-7 season and the only other huge hurdle could be the season finale at Oklahoma State but the Sooners have won the Bedlam rivalry 8 straight times and have an overall mark of 82-16-7 vs their in-state rivals. With their key returning starters back and a favorable schedule, the Sooners should get the nod as the Preseason AP #1 team!Following the Sooners are No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Oregon, No. 4 LSU, No. 5 Stanford, No. 6 Texas A&M, No. 7 Boise State, No. 8 Florida State, No. 9 Oklahoma State, and No. 10 South Carolina.
If Steele is accurate (and he predicted nine of 10 each of the past two seasons), that will be as about an outsider-dominated preseason top 10 as you could imagine, a fitting follow to a season that saw the lowest-ranked preseason team ever (Auburn) make the BCS title game. Sure, there's the Sooners, Tide, and LSU, but it's only been recently that teams like the Ducks and Broncos have become top-10 institutions, it's been years since Florida State or Texas A&M enjoyed that much hype, and it's more-or-less uncharted territory for the Cowboys, Cardinal, and Gamecocks.
Unfortunately, for the Cowboys, Cardinal, and Gamecocks, those kinds of expectations don't always pan out; just ask the Cowboys from two years ago, when the most heavily-hyped team in school history went a ho-hum 9-4, lost 27-0 to the Sooners, and fell to Ole Miss in the Cotton Bowl. For their sakes, the fans at those three schools (not to mention A&M, which, seriously, hasn't seen these kind of expectations in a while ) had maybe better hope Steele's got this one wrong.