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November 11, 2014

Jeff Long

GINA LEHE:  Good evening, and welcome to tonight's teleconference.  We are joined by selection committee chair Jeff Long and executive director of the College Football Playoff, Bill Hancock.  We are transcribing tonight's call which will be posted later this evening on collegepressbox.com.  We will begin tonight with remarks with Jeff and then turn it over for questions.  At this time, please welcome Jeff Long.
JEFF LONG:  Good evening, everyone, and welcome back to week 3 of the selection committee rankings.  I want to open tonight by saying thank you to America's veterans.  Because of their service, we are free to play and watch college football.  On behalf of the entire selection committee, I want to extend our deepest appreciation and respect.
We now have completed three rounds of rankings, and we have four more to go, so let me fill you in on where we are.¬† The top ranked team is Mississippi State, followed by second ranked team Oregon, the third ranked team Florida State, and the fourth ranked team is TCU.¬† We spent a lot of time, and I mean a lot of time, discussing the merits of these top teams.¬† While the committee felt Mississippi State was clearly the top ranked team, we also discussed in depth whether one‑loss Oregon or undefeated Florida State was the second best team in the nation at this point in time.¬† We clearly looked at the win‑loss record.¬† It is important.¬† But we also looked beyond the record to other factors that indicated overall strength.
Based on the committee's view about the strength of Florida State's schedule and their body of work compared to Oregon's strength of schedule and body of work, the committee voted that Oregon was No.2.¬† It was a very close call, but the committee placed significant value on Oregon's quality of wins against three top‑25 teams, two of which were on the road.
Last week you recall the committee voted two‑loss Ole Miss ahead of four one‑loss teams.¬† The same thinking applied here.¬† You will note that this week we also have seven two‑loss teams ahead of two one‑loss teams.¬† Our approach is consistent.¬† Strength of schedule and body of work are important.¬† And once again, and this is what we always do:¬† We begin with a fresh look at the teams.¬† We start with a clean sheet of paper, as I've said before.¬† We are getting more information each week to add to a team's body of work and r√©sum√©.
There is a significant amount of football ahead of us, including the December championship games, which I again will remind you about each week, because they do factor into our ultimate decisions on selection Sunday.  At this time I welcome your questions.

Q.  This may be a silly question, but do you see any scenario where an undefeated Florida State gets left out of the top four?
JEFF LONG:  Again, we don't look at those scenarios.  We look at what a team has done up to this point in time.  Many times I talk about what a team has done thus far.  We really can't look out there into the future.

Q.  What do you tell Baylor now, and what do you tell Baylor at the end of the season if they're left out of a playoff in favor of TCU, a team they beat?
JEFF LONG:  Yeah, we're not at the end of the season, so at this point in time, I'd tell them to continue to build their résumé with their remaining games left and make their case by their body of work and résumé.

Q.¬† When you were making the tough decision between Florida State and Oregon, you mentioned Oregon has more top‑25 wins, but how do you take into account the fact the Oregon did lose a game at home?
JEFF LONG:¬† Well, that's certainly a factor, and we discussed that.¬† That loss was also to a top‑15 team, and we did take injuries into account there, and then again, the overall body of work, what we see them doing on the field compared to what Florida State is doing on the field at this time.

Q.  In terms of TCU and Baylor in that situation, if this were the BCS, TCU is No.4, they would know if they won out they'd be there at the end.  Because it is a blank slate of paper each week as you said, is there a possibility that just winning would not be enough from here for them to stay in the top four?
JEFF LONG:¬† Well, again, anything is a possibility, I guess, but the way we looked at it, Baylor‑‑ for the third consecutive week, the committee looked at the overall body of work, their strength of schedule, and looked at the number of top‑25 wins.¬† TCU has two top‑25 wins and Baylor has one.¬† They both have‑‑ and TCU's loss is a top‑10 loss.¬† When you put all those factors together, we still think at this time TCU has a better r√©sum√© and was voted that way ahead of Baylor.

Q.  We had talked a little bit about margin of victory and how it could be weighed without necessarily encouraging teams running up the score.  How much did you look at how TCU played against Oklahoma versus how Baylor played against Oklahoma; TCU a close win at home, Baylor a rout of Oklahoma on the road?  I wonder how you weighed that and how it might weigh going forward.
JEFF LONG:  Yeah, good question, and certainly scores of games are a factor, and we do look at those, and you're right, we do not reward teams' excessive scoring, but we certainly have to take into effect the scores of the game.  Yeah, it's different between TCU and Baylor.  Again, it's one of the factors we looked at.  We combined it with everything else we had, again, body of work, strength of schedule, all those things, and still feel like TCU is better quality at this point in time in the season.

Q.  It kind of seems like every week you do this, you set a precedent with the way you're thinking.  Going back to TCU and Baylor, I'm wondering if the committee is willing down the stretch to change that and to at some point switch what you've done and be willing to move Baylor ahead of TCU?
JEFF LONG:  Well, with more information, we can always arrive at a different conclusion, but we don't switch teams.  That's not the way this process works.  We compare teams, we contrast them, and we vote them.  I think that's the only way I know how to answer that question.

Q.  So it's fair to say that it's still possible that at the end Baylor could be ranked ahead of TCU?  That's my question.  The committee would be willing to do that?
JEFF LONG:  Well, that's two different questions.  I'd say it's possible, yes.

Q.¬† Now, as a follow‑up to that, when you first ranked TCU ahead of Baylor, one of the things that you mentioned was Baylor's strength of schedule and their overall body of work obviously, and the non‑conference schedule has been called into question repeatedly, and I'm wondering if that were to happen, would there be any concern on the committee's part about sending a message to coaches that you can schedule whoever you want in the non‑conference and still wind up in the top four?
JEFF LONG:  I think that our rankings will send the message.  We as a committee are not charged with sending messages to coaches and ADs about scheduling, but I think it's likely that they will see the factors that we take into account and will take a message from that.  But we're not trying to send a message about that.  We've said from the beginning, strength of schedule, total body of work, complete résumé, all of those are factored into this decision to get to the best four teams and rank our 25.

Q.¬† I don't want to belabor the TCU/Baylor situation here, but just two very quick questions on that.¬† One, on ESPN you had said that head‑to‑head only comes into play with very similar teams, and you indicated right now TCU had the edge in top‑25 wins.¬† At the end of the season, for example, whether it's TCU, Baylor or somebody else, if they're equal in top‑25 wins and equal in records, is that similar enough where head‑to‑head would come into play?¬† And I guess my second question is the Big 12 has to designate a champion in the case of a two‑way tie for AQ purposes.¬† Would the committee at all weigh that if the Big 12 designates a champion?
JEFF LONG:  Well, yeah, certainly we'd take that into consideration if the Big 12 tells us who their champion is.  Certainly, we'd certainly factor that in.
Back to your first question, again, I'm not sure I totally understood it, but I would just say that, again, we're going to look at the total body of work, and you mentioned if they're similar, yes, if they're the same, the head‑to‑head comes into effect.¬† But for example, TCU's loss is to No.7 Baylor, and Baylor's loss is to West Virginia who's not ranked in the top 25.
All those things are brought into the discussion and weighed and then decisions and votes are made.

Q.  And real quickly, how important is it, I guess, to TCU's body of work that Minnesota continues to play well going into three very difficult games?
JEFF LONG:¬† Well, yeah, I think that's certainly important.¬† I think that their move into the top 25 gives TCU a second top‑25 victory, so I do think that's significant.

Q.  What exactly went into boosting TCU past Alabama after comparing a decisive home victory against a road overtime victory that is in a traditionally very difficult place to play that Bama has?
JEFF LONG:¬† Well, I think you've kind of answered the question there.¬† I think TCU had a very impressive win against a then‑higher‑ranked team in Kansas State, and Alabama went to overtime at LSU against a then‑16th‑ranked LSU team.¬† I think these are very, very close teams, and that win and the way they won in comparison is what gave TCU an extremely slight edge over Alabama.

Q.  So if that's the case, are we led to believe then that winning at home by decisive margin is more important than a victory on the road like that?
JEFF LONG:  No, you shouldn't assume that.  That's, again, one factor.  We would take those factors into the rest of the résumé and the rest of their body of work in determining how we viewed that team compared to another team.

Q.  Arizona State has put together a lot of pretty impressive wins, but they also have a pretty ugly home loss on their résumé.  How big of a factor is that when you guys look at their body of work, and also is it a factor that they played that game without their quarterback Taylor Kelly?
JEFF LONG:¬† Absolutely, injuries are part of our determination and deliberation.¬† Yes, you're exactly right, they've got two top‑25 wins, and then they've got two additional really quality wins as we look at USC and at Washington, so those certainly factored into their body of work, and yes, UCLA, our No.11 team that they lost to, it was without their quarterback.¬† So I think that did‑‑ that was a factor in our determination of how strong we feel Arizona State is at this time.

Q.  All the TCU questions have pretty much been asked, so I'll ask something about the line of demarcation there between Oregon and Florida State.  In the mind of the committee here, what really pushed that today?
JEFF LONG:¬† Well, again, we're charged to look at something beyond just wins and losses, so we look at other factors that indicate the overall strength of a team.¬† Again, we looked at Oregon, three top‑25 victories, two of those on the road against Utah and UCLA, and a very impressive home victory against Michigan State.¬† You combine that with Florida State, and again, Florida State is a quality team, very slight difference between these two, but you look at Florida State, they have two top‑25 wins, both at home, both very close, an overtime victory versus Clemson and a right‑down‑to‑the‑wire victory against Notre Dame.¬† Yes, those factors went in, and that gave us‑‑ comparing those two, it gave us a very slight edge to Oregon for the No.2 spot.

Q.  The second week in a row with no Group of Five teams.  I was wondering if any of you at all discussed or even if the fact that there were not going to be any was a subject of discussion?  Obviously I understand that you guys will keep ranking if there are none during the final ranking.
JEFF LONG:  Yes.  Again, there were a number of Group of Five teams that were in our discussions, particularly as we looked at 21 through 25.  I can think of four or five that we discussed in our conversations that were very close to that top 25, and again, as the season moves on and they add more to their body of work and their résumé, there are certainly opportunities for them to move up.

Q.  You mentioned the Group of Five schools.  What were the four or five schools that were discussed from the Group of Five?
JEFF LONG:  Well, the ones you might expect:  Marshall is certainly there; Colorado State with their one loss; Boise, the team that beat Colorado State; Northern Illinois from the MAC; and then there was a little discussion about East Carolina, as well.

Q.  I know you're hearing all the feedback the last couple weeks.  I know you're avid on Twitter.  What's the biggest, I guess, misperception about this whole process do you think that people are totally missing the boat on?  Is there one thing that jumps out?
JEFF LONG:  Well, no, I'm not sure that there's one thing, but I think that the message that we are not typical pollsters.  We're not just looking at rankings, we're not just looking at who won, who lost, whether somebody lost ahead of them and moved them up.  We're doing a different process, as you know.  We're looking at those teams in small groups.  We're evaluating them against each other, looking at many, many details, and as you know, we have much statistical data to compare against.  I still think that's probably the message that our fans need to hear, to continue to hear, that it's not a polling process for us, it's a ranking process.
GINA LEHE:  Thank you, everyone, for your participation tonight.  That concludes our teleconference.  Again, we will post the transcriptions later this evening on collegepressbox.com.

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