NORMAN — Oklahoma in 2018 will attempt to become the first program to win four consecutive Big 12 football titles, and media who cover the league have picked the Sooners to do just that. For the sixth time in the eight years since the Big 12 moved to 10 teams, OU has been picked to win the league championship in a preseason poll released Thursday.
Lincoln Riley’s Sooners are prohibitive conference favorites, garnering 46 of 52 first-place votes and tallying 509 points in the poll to outpace second-place West Virginia (432 points, two first-place votes) by 77 points. Third-place TCU (one first-place vote) totaled 390 points and was followed by Texas (370 points, one first-place vote), Oklahoma State (300 points), Kansas State (283 points, two first-place votes), Iowa State (250 points), Texas Tech (149 points), Baylor (125 points) and Kansas (52 points).
If Oklahoma wins the 2018 league title, it will mark the Sooners’ 12th Big 12 championship. No other school has won more than three total. Since OU’s first Big 12 title in 2000, no other program has won more than two.
The Sooners return 12 starters from last year’s team that finished 12-2 in Riley’s rookie campaign. OU went 8-1 in the Big 12 regular season, handled TCU 41-17 in the Big 12 Championship Game and qualified for the College Football Playoff (No. 2 seed) for the second time in three years. It finished the season at No. 3 in both the AP and Amway Coaches Polls.
Six offensive starters are back in 2018, including three offensive linemen (Bobby Evans, Ben Powers and Dru Samia), and three skill position players (running back Rodney Anderson and receivers Marquise Brown and CeeDee Lamb). OU also returns six defensive starters in linemen Amani Bledsoe and Marquise Overton, linebackers Caleb Kelly and Kenneth Murray, and cornerbacks Parnell Motley and Tre Norwood. Also back is kicker/punter Austin Seibert.
Seven Sooners, representing eight spots, were named to the Preseason All-Big 12 Team on Wednesday. They were Anderson, Brown, Evans, Powers and Seibert (kicker and punter), tight end Grant Calcaterra and defensive back Brendan Radley-Hiles (Preseason Big 12 Newcomer of the Year).
OU opens the season Sept. 1 at home against Florida Atlantic at 11 a.m. CT. The Big 12 will holds its championship game Dec. 1 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The game will feature the top two finishers in the league standings.
The 2017 season concluded with the Big 12 leading the nation with 80 percent of its teams selected to bowl games.