College football nerd extraordinaire and friend of BH Bill Connelly published his projected rankings for the 2015 season today, and Oklahoma checks in at... No. 10?
Yes, indeed. Coming off a Titanic-like 2014 season, Connelly’s preliminary S&P+ numbers make the Sooners the class of the Big 12 and, presumably, a potential College Football Playoff candidate.
That stands in stark contrast to the national consensus, which generally has OU somewhere in the 20s. Bill alluded to the disparity in his commentary:
Another surprise: Oklahoma is 10th. If nothing else, this reminds you that the Sooners are not in the type of freefall that has accompanied their offseason story lines (just as they weren't a title contender last year because of a good bowl performance). I expected them to be in the top 15 because of their consistency, but ending up ahead of Baylor and TCU was surprising.
As a fan, it’s really hard to ignore the lingering stank of a season like last year. Yet, even though I doubt OU will be the 10th best team in the country, Bill’s projections match up with my sneaking suspicion that the Sooners probably approach double-digit wins again this fall.
Despite getting worked in blowout losses to Baylor and Clemson in ‘14, OU did play TCU to a virtual standstill at Amon Carter Stadium. The Sooners outgained Kansas State by 150 yards and 13 first downs in a one-point loss to the Wildcats. Oklahoma State needed a miracle to get OU to overtime in the Pokes’ Bedlam win.
Want me to keep going? The Sooners were forsaken by the Fumble Luck Goddess, recovering just a third of all fumbles in their 13 games. Of Michael Hunnicutt’s five missed field goals on the season, four came in losses. Et cetera, et cetera.
This year’s squad is stacked at the offensive skill positions and has plenty of experience on D. Take away one gaffe here or a mistake there from last season and the perception of the ‘15 team is probably much different.
Right now, the best arguments that OU won’t finish near the top of the Big 12 center around soft factors like inertia and lack of continuity. In that regard, I’d expect the quants to take a favorable view of the upcoming campaign.
Bottom line: OU in '15 could make for a decent litmus test for the stats-oriented approach to college football analysis.