Oklahoma won a second consecutive conference title in 2016, going 9-0 in the Big 12 and finishing 11-2 overall after a 35-19 Sugar Bowl win over Auburn. Oklahoma State and West Virginia tied for second.
The CollegeFootballPoll.com 2017 preseason forecast, based on the Congrove Computer Rankings, has the Sooners and Cowboys once again battling for the top spot, while the Mountaineers endure a substantial drop-off.
The Big 12 will begin to stage an annual conference championship game this year. It will keep its 9-game round-robin schedule and the top two teams will vie for the title on December 2 in Arlington, Texas.
Thus, the traditional end-of-season Bedlam rivalry game between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State was moved up to November 4th and rotates to Stillwater where the Sooners are a 4.14-point favorite. The computer has the two schools staging a rematch in Arlington with Oklahoma once again favored to win.
The playoff was created as a reaction to the lack of the Big 12 gaining entry into the playoff Final Four in 2 of the 3 years that the format has been in existence. The thinking is that an extra big game on the season-ending stage would boost of its chances of inclusion, but what happens if the two teams simply split a pair of games? And wasn't Bedlam almost always a big season-ending game?
At any rate, the computer doesn't see a split of games occurring and has Oklahoma getting in as the 4th seed, only to bow out as a 2.60-point underdog to projected top-seed Florida State in the semis. (FSU is picked to beat Ohio State for the national title with the Buckeyes edging Alabama in the other semi).
But imagine how much greater Oklahoma's lofty expectations would be if Bob Stoops had not shocked the college football world with his sudden retirement on June 7. The reins were handed over to 33-year-old offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley who was anticipated to be the school's next head coach - just not this soon. The 2015 Broyles Award winner as the nation's top assistant is widely considered to be one of the top offensive guru's in college football,
Riley has big shoes to fill as Stoops compiled an 18-year record of 190-48, including a 121-29 mark in conference play with 9 outright league titles and 1 co-title. He guided the storied program to 4 BCS Championship game appearances from 2000-2008 and won the 2000 title in just his second year at the school. Riley.
Two other Big 12 teams - Baylor and Texas - will also open the season with a new head coach. After a tumultuous season of serving as interim head coach in Waco, Jim Grobe was replaced by Temple's Matt Rhule. Meanwhile, the Longhorns fired Charlie Strong and plucked Tom Herman away from Houston. Strong was summarily hired as the head coach by USF in Tampa.