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Top 25 countdown: No. 3 Oklahoma

The Times' Chris Dufresne unveils his preseason college football top 25, one day (and team) at a time.

September 01, 2009|Chris Dufresne

The Times' Chris Dufresne unveils his preseason college football top 25, one day (and team) at a time.

No. 3 Oklahoma

Three days after winning the Heisman Trophy last December, quarterback Sam Bradford rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 100 points.

Last summer, Bradford and friends rose early and earned a start time on the South Course at Torrey Pines, site of Tiger Woods' one-legged win in the 2008 U.S. Open.

Bradford, a scratch player, teeing off from the tips, shot 78.

If you are looking for Bradford to kiss your baby for good luck, now is a time.

The rest of the Big 12 only wishes Bradford had gone out for the golf team.

Bradford's decision to spurn huge NFL dollars and return to Norman for his fourth-year junior season made the Sooners instant challengers for the national title.

So, what's new? Oklahoma has been in the championship chase for the better part of this decade, winning it all in 2000.

Part of the success, though, is part of the problem. After beating Washington State in the Rose Bowl to cap the 2002 season, Oklahoma has lost five straight Bowl Championship Series games, including BCS title games in 2003, '04 and '08.

The Sooners are becoming the old Atlanta Braves -- all those division titles but one lousy ring to show for it.

Losing big games is a habit Oklahoma probably needs to break. Three straight Big 12 titles is something to tell the grandkids, but this is a program with a fan base that thinks the eighth national title is a pulling guard away.

What you need to know about Oklahoma this year: NFL scouts are drooling. A recent Scout.com mock draft for 2010 had four Sooners going in the top 10 -- Bradford, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, tight end Jermaine Gresham and offensive tackle Trent Williams.

The defensive line, led by the 300-pound McCoy, should keep opposing offenses in first or second gear.

"It has the chance to be a true, true strength of our team," Coach Bob Stoops said.

The Sooners also have two returning 1,000-yard running backs, DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown, situated behind Bradford.

The unanswered question is how Bradford, who threw for 50 touchdowns behind a fortress of an offensive line, will fare without four starters from that line.

"There's talent there, and potential," Stoops said of his mostly new line.

Talent and potential, of course, have sent plenty of quarterbacks into intensive care.

How much of winning the Heisman was Bradford, and how much of it was having "Five Mississippi" to pick out his targets?

Bradford also lost his top receivers, Juaquin Iglesias and Manuel Johnson.

Oklahoma's schedule is tough, starting with Brigham Young in Arlington, Texas, and there's also a nonconference trip to Miami to consider.

Most likely, as usual, the Big 12 title will be decided Oct. 17 in Dallas, at the Cotton Bowl, against the 10-Gallon Hats from Texas.

The countdown so far: 25. UCLA; 24. Nevada; 23. Notre Dame; 22. Oregon State; 21. Florida State; 20. Nebraska; 19. North Carolina; 18. Utah; 17. Georgia Tech; 16. California; 15. Virginia Tech; 14. Alabama; 13. Georgia; 12. Boise State; 11. Texas Christian; 10. Mississippi; 9. Louisiana State; 8. Ohio State; 7. Oklahoma State; 6. Oregon; 5. Penn State; 4. USC; 3. Oklahoma.

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chris.dufresne@latimes.com

twitter.com/DufresneLATimes

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