The Times’ preseason college football rankings: No. 2 Oklahoma

Though just about everyone else is picking Oklahoma as their preseason No. 1, the formidable Sooners have a history of not living up to BCS expectations. This year could be different.

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The Times’ preseason college football rankings: No. 2 Oklahoma

Oklahoma is No. 2 here.

It’s a minor point.

A bedrock case could have been made before star linebacker Travis Lewis broke his foot in summer practice, but Oklahoma still finds itself in prime preseason position.

Why not first?

Oklahoma, frankly, has never delivered much bang for the buck. The Sooners have been No. 1 a record 20 weeks in the Bowl Championship Series standings, yet their only BCS title came in 2000.

Contrast that with Louisiana State, which has won two titles despite spending only two weeks at No.1.

Oklahoma’s BCS story of late has been of coming up short. The Sooners lost the title games of 2003 (Louisiana State), 2004 (USC) and 2008 (Florida) and dropped five consecutive BCS appearances until beating Connecticut in last year’s Fiesta Bowl.

It was a rough off-season in Norman as the school fought off tornado touchdowns and the death of starting linebacker Austin Box.

Box was found unconscious at a friend’s house May 19. Toxicology tests revealed that a mixture of five pain medications found in his bloodstream was the likely cause of death.

“There’s no words that truly can described how you hurt and how the players hurt,” Coach Bob Stoops said of Box at Big 12 Conference media day. “Austin was a great, great spirit in the locker room … so you miss that. And it doesn’t go away. So again, there’s no really proper way to describe it. So we’re still working through it.”

It’s against this solemn backdrop that Oklahoma must make its charge.

It helps to have quarterback Landry Jones, who threw for 38 touchdowns last year, and receiver Ryan Broyles, who caught 131 passes for 1,622 yards.

Stoops said Jones was ready to step up and become the next Josh Heupel, Jason White or Sam Bradford.

“The quarterback needs to be a leader,’ Stoops said. “… well, he has all of that now. And so he’s a true, true leader on this team. And a special one.”

The offense will miss tailback DeMarco Murray, who seemed to be a Sooner for 10 years, but there are enough young runners to make you forget Murray in a hurry.

Stoops won a national title in his second season, so several more were expected. It hasn’t worked out that way.

“Sometimes you can get some kids that come in and feel entitled,” Stoops said. The trick to overcoming that? “Convincing them [to] expect to work first. I mean, work is what gets it done. And you have to have that attitude of something to prove to get it done, to finish it off.”