Sooners deserve a playoff path, but will they get one?

An Oklahoma football fan celebrates in the stands earlier this month against Oklahoma State at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman. Many college football pundits believe the Sooners deserve a path to the College Football Playoff. Getting one, however, remains an open question.

NORMAN — Unless the Big 12 is the modern version of the dying Southwest Conference, Oklahoma’s place in the College Football Playoff, should it top Texas in Saturday’s conference title game, should be foregone.

The old SWC is hard to describe, but the crux of it was in 1991, ‘92 and ‘93, Texas A&M did not lose a game in it, going 22-0. Also, the Aggies weren’t any good, not really.

They got the automatic bid to the Cotton Bowl each of those seasons and lost every time, managing only a safety in a 10-2 loss to Florida State, and only a field goal in a 28-3 loss to Notre Dame before finally playing a close one in another loss, 24-21, to the Irish.

The Aggies were dominating their conference, but the SWC was the league that cried “Wolf.” Nobody believed in it, and for good reason.

Further evidence of the SWC’s fraudulence was the fact A&M also lost to Tulsa in ‘91 and an OU team that lost three games under then-coach Gary Gibbs in ‘93 by 30 points.

The Big 12 is clearly not the old SWC.

The Sooners beat Ohio State last season and played Georgia within an inch of its life at last year’s Rose Bowl before the Bulldogs played Alabama within an inch of its life in the national championship game.

Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy last season, and Kyler Murray deserves this one.

The Big 12 is an offensive-heavy league, yes, but nobody sees it like they saw the old BYU-dominated WAC and many place it, top to bottom, in front of every conference this side of the SEC.

The Big 12 need not apologize for itself the way the old SWC clearly did.

Indeed, when the Big 12 formed it wasn’t the old SWC offering a sweet deal to four Big Eight programs it thought redeemable, but the old Big Eight offering the same to Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor and Texas Tech, thereby casting TCU, Rice and SMU aside.

So, should OU roll past Texas, or even beat the Longhorns at all, the Sooners should be in. Actually, when you think about it, the only conceivable case to be made they shouldn’t isn’t one that makes room for Ohio State, but Georgia should the Bulldogs, say, lose the SEC title game to Alabama in overtime.

Otherwise, the worthiness of the Sooner cause should be, as mentioned, foregone.

The pollsters, media and coaches, both like the Sooners in front of the Buckeyes in their latest lists and that body everybody’s worried about, the College Football Playoff selection committee, still had Ohio State all the way down at No. 10 prior to its dismantling of Michigan.

OU’s loss, incurred via a final-drive field goal to now ninth-ranked Texas, is far more forgivable than Ohio State’s 49-20 debacle at Purdue against a Boilermaker squad that not only lost to Wisconsin, Northwestern, Michigan State and Iowa, but to Missouri, Minnesota and, yes, Eastern Michigan, too.

Not to mention, last weekend, while not making OU’s defense look any better — the Sooners gave up more than 700 yards and 56 points at West Virginia, after all — did make it look less unique in its failures.

Michigan, thought to be a defensive superpower, gave up 62 points to Ohio State. Texas A&M and LSU both let the other get into the 70s, unable to get stops, over and over again, in overtime.

You don’t have to convince Lincoln Riley.

“We’ve been into it the last three years,” the Sooner coach said. “What we can control right now is winning. If we’re able to find a way to do that, then I think we’ll be right where we want to be.”

And they should.

Because the Big 12 is a quality conference and its champion in no way inhabits the space A&M inhabited in the early ‘90s, they should.

Because it would be a crime not to want the nation’s best offense in the playoff, they should. Because you should probably want the nation’s best quarterback in the playoff, they should.

But will they?

The Sooner defense has been so cataclysmically bad so many times, it’s not like OU hasn’t earned its doubters.

“All of our goals are right in front of us,” Riley said Monday.

If he’s not right, he should be.

Tuesday night, the committee releases, essentially, its final regular -eason rankings, letting everybody know what it thinks on the eve of conference championship Saturday.

OU should be No. 5, Ohio State No. 6 and the Sooners should have their path to the playoff, just as long as Alabama hands Georgia a second loss and Texas goes down in Arlington.

That’s what should happen.

Will it?

Good question.