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November 4, 2014

Jeff Long

GINA LEHE:  Good evening, and welcome to tonight's teleconference.  I'm joined by College Football Playoff selection committee chair Jeff Long and executive director of the College Football Playoff Bill Hancock.  We will begin tonight with opening remarks from Jeff and then turn it over to the operator for questions.
JEFF LONG:  Good evening, everyone.  We have now completed our second of seven ranking meetings of the College Football Playoff selection committee, and I'm pleased to report the results to you.  But first, let me take you inside the room for just a moment.  As I said last week, our meeting this week would begin with a clean sheet of paper, and it did.  Frankly, this is one of the strengths of the committee.  The 12 people who serve worked very hard each week to decide who the best teams are in college football.
We are not bound by last week's rankings, and we watch games with a fresh perspective each week.
Wins and losses are crucial, of course, but we go deeper.  The strength of schedule was again talked about frequently, losses against a quality opponent were considered, quality wins on the road, head to head, and results against common opponents were all considered.
There have been many hard calls, and there have been many close calls, but our committee continues to rely upon our protocol and criteria to make these tough calls.  It's still very early, and there are some very important games coming up this weekend, as there is each weekend.
But here is where we are today.  The top ranked team is Mississippi State; the second ranked team is Florida State; the third ranked team is Auburn; and the fourth ranked team is Oregon.  You should have already received a document listing the rankings from 1 through 25.
Now, the discussion for the top team was clear, but I think it's fair to say there was a lot of discussion about the teams in the middle, and we spent a lot of time talking particularly about teams 21 through 25.  Once again, the conversation kept returning to the quality that teams played and how tough or easy a team's schedule has been thus far.
Let me remind you, and I will say this each and every week:¬† Conference championships won will be an additional factor, but of course we won't have that information until December.¬† We'll be back next week with another clean sheet of paper, and again, I want to thank the members of the committee.¬† They did a great job preparing in advance of the two‑day meeting, and then worked very hard throughout the two days, and appreciate the support of our staff.
Now, I'm happy to take any questions you might have.

Q.  There was a lot of talk before the first rankings came out about college football sort of changing the poll mentality that awards teams not losing.  How much value, how much talk is there among the committee on being undefeated?
JEFF LONG:¬† Certainly we talked about undefeated teams, and as you know, there are two, and we started back at the beginning‑‑ well, three undefeated teams.¬† We started back at the beginning and looked at those teams and evaluated them against each other and others.¬† It's different.¬† It's a different process, and again, we stayed true to our process.

Q.¬† I want to ask you just about Colorado State.¬† With their only remaining games being Hawai'i, New Mexico and Air Force, is there anything that they can really do to get into that top 25 on their own merit being 8‑1 right now?
JEFF LONG:¬† Well, we really don't look into the future.¬† We really evaluate on what they've done thus far.¬† Certainly they've been in our discussions; we've discussed them, we've talked about them and their 8‑1 record.¬† But we don't project what they need to do, we focus on what they've done thus far.

Q.  You said on ESPN that Auburn was a solid No.3.  I was wondering if you could share exactly what the disparity was among the top three.
JEFF LONG:  Well, in terms of what the votes are, no, I can't do that, but I can share that when we discussed it with the committee and the voting, you know, there was a clear voting difference between No.2, Florida State, and No.3, Auburn, and then again, Auburn was solidly into the third position ahead of Oregon.

Q.¬† Curious how much discussion in the committee room there's been about scheduling intent.¬† I've talked to some ADs who are maybe unclear about that aspect of it.¬† For instance, when Notre Dame scheduled Michigan, that looked like a good game on paper.¬† Michigan doesn't have as good of a season as they usually do.¬† Does intent of the non‑conference games you schedule matter?
JEFF LONG:  No, that's actually not much of our discussion.  We're really looking at the teams and how they performed against those teams and how good those teams were that they either beat or lost to.  Scheduling intent has not been a conversation within the committee room.

Q.  I caught you on ESPN talking about Alabama versus TCU, and you made the reference to the committee actually using film.  Could you just talk us through that a little bit, about how in the committee room you're calling up films of teams and maybe comparing them and making a decision about who gets the nod, that sort of thing?
JEFF LONG:  Well, I may not have represented that accurately.  We look at film before we come into the committee room and watch and evaluate teams, and certainly we talk about what we saw in our film evaluation.  We have not pulled up film and examined one team versus another at this point in time.

Q.  About Oregon, you pointed to very specific wins that they've had.  When it was about Alabama versus TCU, it was mentioned watching it on film.  How often would you say across the board are these determinations made based on a résumé versus having watched the teams play?
JEFF LONG:  I may not have heard the first part of your question, but I would say watching film prior to coming into the meetings and evaluating data, and it's all the things we said we're looking at, so all those things go into the decision.
You know, I can't tell you what percentage one is over another.  It's all discussed and it's all considered by all 12 members of the committee.

Q.  Also you mentioned that the committee spent a lot of time over teams 21 through 25.  Is that because of the fact that maybe some of the group of five teams were at least in that discussion but not necessarily obviously voted in?
JEFF LONG:  Yes, there are a number of teams we spoke of and considered above the 25 that we ranked, so we spent a lot of time there discerning between those teams, and it was probably the most difficult discussions we've had for this week's meeting.

Q.  Jeff, one of the tweaks that caught my eye today obviously was Kansas State 7, sliding ahead of Michigan State.  Can you speak a little bit toward that change for this week and what sold you more so on the Wildcats?
JEFF LONG:  Well, I think Kansas State added to their body of work with the convincing and controlled game win over Oklahoma State.  The fact that Michigan State didn't play, it was less about Michigan State but more about Kansas State adding to their body of work that resulted in them moving to No.7.

Q.¬† I wonder if you could talk about Arizona State's rise.¬† I think they went 14‑9.¬† What did you like about them?¬† Also, I don't think Utah fell much at all.¬† I don't have it in front of me, actually.¬† They're actually still 17th.¬† Can you talk about both of those things, how you evaluated those two teams?
JEFF LONG:  Yeah, Arizona State, again, they added to their body of work.  They already had that win against USC and they have a Stanford win, and then the overtime win Arizona State against Utah.  You know, that, again, added to their body of work, so we felt like their move was significant.
They have a common opponent in Stanford, and so does Notre Dame at No.10, so when we looked at those, we felt like Arizona State had accomplished more with their victories than Notre Dame had, so they slid ahead of Notre Dame.

Q.  I was going to ask a similar question about Arizona State, but Arizona State starts a lot of games at 8:00 out here, which is sometimes, depending where you are, at 11:00 p.m. or at midnight across the country.  How do you assign memberships to watch that game given that the eyeball test might be a factor?
JEFF LONG:¬† Well, all of our committee watch games, and if you follow me on Twitter, you know I watch those games real‑time late at night, and I think they finished after 1:00 in the morning.¬† Remember, the committee has them available to them on Sundays coaches' copies of films, of games, virtually all of them across the country.¬† If a committee member doesn't stay up until 1:00 in the morning East Coast or central time, they have that film, that viewing available to them.
And then of course many of them DVR the games and then watch them again on Sunday.
With this committee, we don't miss those games because of the time of day they're played.

Q.¬† Regarding the group of five, as a group do you guys continue to do your rankings even though you only announce the top 25 until you get a group‑of‑five team in there?
JEFF LONG:  No, at this point we stop ranking at 25 because that's our charge, so we don't continue to rank beyond 25.

Q.  A couple questions:  One, how do you determine the schedule strength?  I know there's a lot of different metrics and computers out there with schedule strength rankings.  And two, does the committee discuss capping the margin of victory a lot like the BCS computers once did, maybe in the interest of discouraging running up the score?
JEFF LONG:¬† The first answer is we use the basic strength of schedule that's used for the NCAA statistics, which is who you play and your opponents' opponent, and there's a formula for that.¬† But we're not using any that are outside of that basic one, and we don't bring in strength of schedule that have ‑‑ that we don't know how it's factored.¬† That's what we're using as strength of schedule.
Plus we look at teams and we discuss them about how strong they are and then compare those against teams that others have played.  That's really how we're using strength of schedule.
What was the second part of your question?

Q.  I was asking about margins of victory.  I know at one point the BCS, all the computer rankings were told to cap the margin of victory.  Does the committee discuss that in the interest of preventing teams from running up the score?
JEFF LONG:  No, in the committee room there's no need to discuss capping that.  Again, we evaluate that win and how they win, but we haven't felt the necessity to put a cap, and we haven't done that.
GINA LEHE:  Thank you, everyone, for joining us tonight.  That concludes our teleconference.

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