Oklahoma a legit title contender

Quarterback Blake Bell, coach Bob Stoops and Oklahoma are now the clear Big 12 favorites. AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

The Oklahoma Sooners rank among the top 10 programs in all-time wins and winning percentage, but the team Bob Stoops took over in 1999 was nowhere near elite.

It seems absurd now, but before Stoops' arrival, the Sooners hadn't posted a winning record in five straight seasons. They've had nothing but winning seasons since, and they've won at least 10 games in 11 of the past 13 years.

Their consistently strong performances under Stoops earned them a No. 2 ranking in our annual Program FEI ratings, a measure of five-year possession efficiency. Program FEI has correlated more strongly with next-year success than any other single measure we've tested, and the trajectory of the Sooners' recent Program FEI history showed they were a good candidate to contend for a conference and national championship this fall.

We were more cautious with our preseason projections, however, due mostly to their projected schedule strength. Our preseason FEI ratings picked three other Big 12 teams in the top 12 before the first kickoff of the season -- Texas, Oklahoma State and TCU -- but all three have stumbled out of the gate.

The Sooners are now a clear favorite in the league. And they could go even further.