NORMAN — No question, the college football season will look different. The teams at the top, however, will not.
The Sooners were tabbed No. 6 in the year’s first Amway Coaches Poll, released Thursday morning. The programs in front of them: No. 1 Clemson, No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Alabama, No. 4 Georgia and No. 5 LSU.
It’s a familiar starting point for OU. This season marks the 19th time in 21 years OU’s checked in at eighth or higher in the preseason poll.
OU’s consistency is a product of its program’s stability since former Sooner coach Bob Stoops arrived in Norman in 1999. Lincoln Riley has maintained OU’s reputation after Stoops handed the program’s keys over to him in 2017.
The Sooners went 12-2 last season, won a Big 12 championship and made the College Football Playoff semifinals. Riley’s team accomplished the same in 2017 and ‘18.
OU’s reduced regular-season schedule will make the 12-win threshold more difficult to meet this season. But the coaches poll still seems to agree with the Big 12’s preseason media poll — OU is the team to beat in its conference.
The Sooners were one of four Big 12 programs ranked in the preseason coaches polls. Texas and Oklahoma State rank No. 14 and No. 16, respectively, while Iowa State snuck in at No. 25. Baylor, TCU and Kansas State were not ranked but received votes.
The coaches poll’s order of Big 12 teams nearly mirrored the conference’s media poll. The only difference was Texas and Oklahoma State’s positioning. The Stillwater-based Cowboys ranked No. 2 in the Big 12 preseason rankings behind OU and directly in front of the Longhorns.
The Associated Press will unveil its preseason poll on Aug. 24.
Here are other observations from the coaches poll:
• Both the Southeastern Conference and Big Ten had six members ranked in the coaches poll. The lowest-ranked of the SEC’s six was Texas A&M at No. 13. No. 23 Iowa was the lowest for the Big Ten’s group. The Big 12 and Atlantic Coast Conference had four teams ranked each.
• Tennessee missed the cut, but it received the most votes of any unranked team. The Volunteers, who were scheduled to visit Norman on Sept. 12, might have provided a major resume-boosting opportunity for OU. The SEC canceled all nonconference games, however, while the Big 12 is allowing its member schools to play one non-conference game this season.
• Temporary ACC member Notre Dame is ranked No. 10. The Irish are the second highest-ranked team in the ACC behind No. 1 Clemson.
• Penn State is No. 7 in the poll, but the Nittany Lions’ defense lost their best player on Thursday. Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons opted out of the 2020 season and will start preparing for the 2021 NFL Draft. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay projects Parsons as a top-10 prospect in next year’s class.
• Top-ranked Clemson was one of four teams to receive a first-place vote. The Tigers nabbed 38, while Ohio State earned 17, defending national champion LSU had six and Alabama had four.