Oklahoma tops
AP preseason poll

Hawaii receives two points
in the national poll of
sportswriters and broadcasters

It's not hard to figure out why Oklahoma is the preseason No. 1 team in The Associated Press college football poll.

All-American defensive tackle Tommie Harris leads a dominating defense that features four of the 36 players on the preseason watch list for top defensive player in the nation.

The key for the Sooners will be getting enough offense to support all those hard hitters.

"If you do not score, then you know the defense will get the ball back," said quarterback Jason White, who has started only four games because of injuries to both knees the past two seasons. "There is a little pressure, but the way our offense has been working out this offseason, I think we will be just fine."

Hawaii received two points in the poll and is tied with Boston College and Washington State 44 spots down.

The Sooners open the college football season atop The Associated Press poll for a record ninth time, beating out defending national champion Ohio State for the No. 1 ranking in voting released yesterday.

"I appreciate the fact that people view us that way," Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. "I don't want to undervalue that. We appreciate that people view us as one of those teams that can win it all. But in the end, they don't hand out any trophies in August."

Oklahoma got 32 first-place votes and 1,573 points to Ohio State's 27 firsts and 1,532 points from the 65 sports writers and broadcasters on the AP panel.

It's the widest margin in the preseason Top 25 since 1999, when Florida State had 77 more points than Tennessee.

"We really don't take pride in something we haven't earned," White said. "It's a fresh start for us and everyone else in the country. We've lost some people and so have some other teams. We're starting over. Preseason rankings don't mean anything. You've got to play the games."

Rounding out the Top 10 are Miami (two first-place votes), Michigan (two), Texas, Auburn (one), Kansas State (one), Southern California, Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh.

Hawaii plays at USC on Sept. 13. Alabama, which faces UH on Nov. 29, received 33 votes, 31 spots down.

Two Western Athletic Conference teams are ahead of Hawaii. Fresno State received 21 votes (35 spots down) and Boise State 10 (38 spots). UH plays Fresno State on Oct. 11 and Boise State on Dec. 6. Both games will be at Aloha Stadium.

Oklahoma was playing about as well as anyone when last season ended, easily beating Colorado in the Big 12 championship game and Washington State in the Rose Bowl to finish 12-2.

The Sooners hope to build off those wins with a balanced offense and dominating defense. Nine starters return to a defense that ranked 10th in the nation in yards, fifth in points.

"We can be the best defense that OU has ever had," defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek said. "Maybe the best that college football has ever seen."

Harris is joined on the defense by three other finalists for the Nagurski Award: linebacker Teddy Lehman, cornerback Derrick Strait and safety Brandon Everage.

Oklahoma, which won its seventh AP title in 2000, also was the No. 1 preseason pick in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll, released July 31. The coaches had the same top three teams as the AP.


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