In the week leading up to OU's Rose Bowl matchup with Washington State, Stoops repeatedly told his players and the media that a New Year's Day win would likely reap a top-five ranking for his team. The final rankings have now been posted and Stoops has indeed called another one correctly as Oklahoma is No. 5 in both the USA Today/ESPN Coaches and Associated Press polls.
But moving into the top five took more than a little clairvoyance. It took a performance with enough conviction to vault OU past another bowl winner, fellow Big 12 member Kansas State, which prevailed in the Holiday Bowl over Arizona State. The Wildcats were No. 6 following the regular season. Apparently, the 34-14 whipping of Washington State was enough for Oklahoma. Rival Texas finished at No. 7 and Big 12 North Champion Colorado at No. 20. Although not bowl eligible, early season opponent, (both this season and last), Alabama just missed the top 10 with a No. 11 ranking. Oklahoma will travel to Tuscaloosa to continue the series this year.
As expected, Ohio State collected all of the first-place votes in both polls and Miami, which had been No. 1 prior to its double-overtime national championship game loss to the Buckeyes, fell to the second spot. The Buckeye win also stopped the Miami win streak which would have threatened Oklahoma's 47 game record late next season, had the 'Canes continued to win. SEC Champ Georgia came in at No. 3 with USC No. 4 and then the Sooners.
Oklahoma entered the Rose Bowl ranked No. 8 in both polls, trailing Pac 10 Co-Champ Washington State by one spot in each. The win moved OU past its bowl foe, Kansas State and Iowa, which tumbled to No. 8 after losing in the Orange Bowl.
This marks the 40th time in 66 opportunities that Oklahoma has been ranked in the AP's final poll. The wire service began publishing rankings in 1936. This is the 31st time that the Sooners have been ranked among the top 10 in the final poll, the 25th time they have been among the top 10. OU is a top 10 team for a third consecutive season (No. 1 in 2000, No. 6 in 2001 and No. 5 in 2002), something that had not previously occurred since 1985-87. OU also is among the top five for the second time in three seasons.
The USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll began in 1991 and this marks the fifth final ranking for OU in that poll's 12-year history. The final Oklahoma rankings for this season mirror those of the AP poll.
Before Stoops arrived prior to the 1999 season, Oklahoma had not finished the season listed in the final rankings since 1992 when the Sooners were No. 17 in the AP poll. OU had not been a top five team since 1987.