Oklahoma and Iowa State have been the consensus Top 2 teams in the Big 12 Conference since the 2020 season ended and we started looking ahead to 2021. And now with preseason rankings coming out, we are starting to see that confirmed across the board.
ESPN released its Preseason Top 25 and the Oklahoma Sooners came in at No. 2, while the Iowa State Cyclones were ranked No. 7. Also in the Top 25 were the Texas Longhorns at No. 21.
Regarding the Sooners, ESPN wrote, “The Sooners amped up the excitement level this offseason with designs on joining the SEC in the future, but they have a real opportunity to push for a national-title run this season. The schedule sets up nicely: TCU and Iowa State, which can push the Sooners, visit Norman this year, as does Nebraska for a Game of the Century anniversary celebration. The Texas game, as always, is a key test, but FPI gives the Sooners a 68% chance to win the conference. — Dave Wilson”
Meantime, on the Cyclones, ESPN wrote, “One of the most impressive feats from the 2020 college football season was Iowa State’s ability to have its best year in school history during a pandemic. Matt Campbell will have much of the same group looking to run it back in 2021. While this will be the most anticipated season in Iowa State’s history, its biggest challenge to a Big 12 title and a playoff berth will likely be the same that stopped the team in 2020: Spencer Rattler and the Sooners. But the Cyclones split games with the Sooners, and with Brock Purdy and Breece Hall leading the charge, the people of Ames can’t help but feel optimistic, as the Cyclones are legitimate playoff contenders. — Lyles”
Meantime, as was noted above in the OU piece, the FPI, Football Power Index, that ESPN released in the spring, had Oklahoma and Iowa State each ranked in the Top 4 in the country.
How does ESPN’s FPI work?
Per ESPN, “FPI is a predictive rating system designed to measure team strength and project performance going forward. The ultimate goal of FPI is not to rank teams 1 through 128; rather, it is to correctly predict games and season outcomes. If Vegas ever published the power rankings it uses to set its lines, they would likely look quite a lot like FPI.”
But ESPN adds, “It is important to note what FPI is not — FPI is not a playoff predictor, and it is not designed to identify the four teams most deserving of making the College Football Playoff. “
But no matter how you spin it, the Sooners and Cyclones are both headed for potentially magical seasons, and both don’t just have expectations of reaching and winning a Big 12 Championship, but also making a College Football Playoff.