- Jake Trotter, ESPN Staff Writer
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SoonerNation asked Meinke why he believes the Sooners are the No. 1 team in college football, and who else he considered for the top spot:
SoonerNation: What about Oklahoma makes them your No. 1?
Kyle Meinke: I should preface all of this by saying I abhor drafting preseason polls. I understand why they exist, and the talking points they create, and I'll read every one of them with interest. But when it comes down to doing my own, I know about as much about these teams as the next guy. No games have been played. We're all going off paper -- returning starters, stars, coaching, schedules, etc. -- and football, obviously, is not played on paper.
Having said that, on paper, I love Oklahoma. For me, it starts with returning starters and the Sooners have 15 or so of them. In the past three years, almost two-thirds of teams with that many guys back won more games the following year.
And it's not just how many, but who. I love Landry Jones at quarterback. He's struggled down the stretch in the past, but the dude's a fourth-year starter in a winnable Big 12. I like that a lot.
I also like how, outside of offensive line, Oklahoma doesn't have a ton of question marks right now. It's a well-balanced team, which is important when you're talking about giving out that No. 1 spot. Imbalanced teams -- no matter how good the strength may be -- typically don't run the table.
Finally, I love how the schedule shakes out for Oklahoma. Kansas State is home, Notre Dame is home, Baylor is home. Among its first nine games, the most difficult might be playing Texas in Dallas, and OU will be favored in that one as well. It's easy to see the Sooners going 9-0 before that season-ending stretch against West Virginia, Oklahoma State and TCU. And by then, I think any issues they have up front offensively will have been addressed.
SN: Was there anyone else you considered for No. 1? Why ultimately OU and not them?
KM: USC was my No. 2 team, and I did give serious consideration to naming them No. 1. In the end, I went with Oklahoma for the reasons I already gave. As for USC, I think it'll be tremendous (I have 'em No. 2, after all), but I think its schedule is slightly tougher, with an early trip to Stanford, as well as a top-five team in Oregon later in the year. Also, I'd take Bob Stoops over Lane Kiffin any day. Stoops has experience with top-five teams, with national-championship runs, etc. And Kiffin does not.
SN: What factors did you look at when putting your ballot together?
KM: I always start with evaluating current talent, which means my poll is not necessarily a projection of where a team will finish. I'm looking at returning starters, offensive and defensive balance, coaching, etc.
But for a preseason poll, when you're really splitting hairs between excellent teams such as Oklahoma or USC or Alabama or whomever, I do project a little bit as a tie breaker. For example, I like Oklahoma's schedule and think it has the clearest path to 9-0 of any team in my top five. I also think it is the best team in a very winnable Big 12.
SN: What would it take for you to drop the Sooners from your No. 1?
KM: If they struggle against UTEP or Florida A&M, and USC wins at Stanford, I'd have to give the Trojans a long look. Likewise, if Alabama beats Michigan in its opener and then Arkansas in Week 3 -- a pair of top-10 teams -- I'd give them a long look. But again, I think Oklahoma is the best team and I likely would keep them No. 1 if they take care of business as they should.
SN: What feedback have you received about your pick?
KM: Some have questioned it. Judging from Twitter, I think I've made a bunch of new friends from Stillwater. But unless you're an extreme outlier -- such as the guy who cast his No. 1 vote for Michigan, which finished eighth -- I don't really understand criticism of preseason polls. They're guesses. Educated ones, but still, it's just guesswork based on things that matter in games, but don't decide them.
Even if Oklahoma loses to UTEP, no sweat. I knock them down and we move on. By the end of the season, we'll have reached some consensus (hopefully). But this is a preseason poll. Games haven't been played. For all I know, Eastern Michigan will finish 12-0.
Although, Oklahoma probably has a better shot of going 0-12. Lord, I hope that doesn't happen. I don't think my email box can take it.
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