HORNING: The right process or not, Sooners can't complain

Kyle Phillips / The Transcript

OU Robert Barnes celebrates during the Sooners' game against Texas, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, during the Big 12 championship at AT&T Stadium.

Some of us are old enough to remember 2003, when Oklahoma, clearly the nation’s best and most dominant team, nonetheless scored seven points the night of Dec. 6 inside Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium, the same night Kansas State scored 35.

It was impossible.

It was unthinkable.

It was ludicrous.

It happened.

It happened, even though the Sooners’ victory margins to that moment had been 24, 7, 24, 25, 46, 52, 21, 14, 41, 77, 38 and 21 points.

The seven-point margin came at pre-Nick Saban Alabama — the Renaldo Works game, remember? — and the 14 at Colorado, which was still a tough place to play. The 52 against 11th-ranked Texas and the 41 over 13th-ranked Oklahoma State.

It’s true, the way OU has continued to win this season makes one think it will find a way to keep winning, no matter the opponent. It’s also true that the 2003 Sooners would be favored over the 2018 Sooners by about 21 points and that team had a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, too.

Yet, inconceivably, the Wildcats absolutely smashed those Sooners 35-7 at the Big 12 title game. And do you know what happened next?

It was the age of the polls and computer formulas — mostly computer formulas — coming together to determine national championship game combatants.

OU went anyway.

More than that, the computers still had the Sooners No. 1.

And you know what?

Nobody around here was complaining. For everybody around here, it was not only good, but made perfect sense, too.

The Sooners played a bad game, yet of course they belonged in the national championship game. Had you not seen them play all season?

They belonged in the national championship game despite not even being a conference champion.

Returning to present day, two days after OU edged both Georgia and Ohio State to become the fourth team in the College Football Playoff, it’s interesting food for thought.

Georgia’s argument for reaching the playoff, essentially, is OU’s argument in 2003.

Because, following the SEC title game, it’s hard not to believe the two-loss Bulldogs would be favored over the one-loss Sooners, and if that’s the case, aren’t the Bulldogs one of the nation’s four best teams, just as the Sooners remained one of the best two in 2003?

Also, by the way, the selection committee made no sense when it placed Georgia in the fifth spot and Ohio State sixth in the final CFP rankings.

If it’s about the best four teams, Georgia likely belongs. If being a conference champion and having less losses carries more weight, OU belongs. But if it’s about being a conference champion, doesn’t Ohio State at least belong in front of the Bulldogs?

Rob Mullens, Oregon athletic director and CFP chair, spoke to that Sunday, saying the Sooners, Bulldogs and Buckeyes all had their backers.

“Boy, did we debate it,” he said. “As we considered three teams for the No. 4 slot, the committee did not believe that any one team was unequivocally better than the next.”

Mullens said that meant the committee went to “our protocol,” yet when he tried to explain what that was, it sounded highly subjective.

What it sounded like is they weren’t going to put a two-loss conference runner-up in front of two one-loss conference champs, but perhaps they could put it in front of one, which they did.

No, it doesn’t have to make sense and, yes, it’s bound to be this way until there are more playoff spots than there are power conferences.

On the other hand, how many times do we want to make the national champion and runner-up play, because we’re looking at 16 games if the playoff goes to eight teams and that’s an NFL season, not a college campaign.

You could give away a regular-season game, scaling the regular season back to 11, but are OU athletic director Joe Castiglione and his counterparts willing to lose the revenue of a non-conference home game every season?

Maybe what we have is what we really want?

Had OU been left out, it would not have been a tragedy, because the Sooners were clearly not among the top two, and what the playoff has solved is that: no team with a claim to the top two spots has been left out of the final four. That, and controversy and the attention it garners still gets to reign, with Ohio State, Georgia and maybe Central Florida, too, all wondering what they’ve got to do.

The best of both worlds?


The only thing that’s really clear is this process, in all of its permutations, just keeps treating the Sooners right.

They lose, they’re in.

They win, they’re in.

Must be clean living.

Be nice if, 18 seasons since the last time, they’d win it all again.

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