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November 18, 2014

Jeff Long

GINA LEHE:  Good evening, and welcome to tonight's teleconference.  I'm Gina Lehe and I'm joined by College Football Playoff selection committee chair Jeff Long and executive director of the College Football Playoff Bill Hancock.  At this time please welcome Jeff Long.
JEFF LONG:¬† Good evening, and welcome to Week 4 of the selection committee rankings.¬† It was another big weekend in college football.¬† The committee met yesterday and today, and here are our results:¬† The top‑ranked team is Alabama, the second‑ranked team is Oregon, the third‑ranked team is Florida State, and the fourth‑ranked team is Mississippi State.¬† Alabama is the top‑ranked team because of their overall r√©sum√© to date. ¬†Last week as you know they won a decisive victory over previously No.1 Mississippi State.¬† The committee discussed that Alabama's play in every aspect, offense, defense and special teams, makes them the No.1 team in the nation at this point in the season.
It's also fair to say the differences between teams 4 through 7, Mississippi State, TCU, Ohio State and Baylor, are narrow, very narrow.  There are more games to play and these teams are knocking on the door, and they're not the only ones.  Even though we don't yet know who the conference champions are, and that is a factor we will weigh in in December, this committee has been clear that the quality of wins and strength of schedule are important factors.  For example, the committee recognized that TCU did not control the game against Kansas.
We also spent a lot of time discussing TCU and Baylor.  We all recognize that TCU lost to Baylor, but we ranked TCU ahead of Baylor for the fourth week in a row.  Once again, strength of schedule is an important factor that came into play, and their body of work is not quite comparable in the view of the committee.
It's been an exciting year thus far, and we're not done with the excitement yet.  The discussions the 12 members have had each week is detailed and thorough.  We talk through it, we push each other and we challenge each other.  The committee delves into the ins and outs of the games, the schedule, home versus away, quality wins and numerous other factors.  We assess and reassess these teams.  The committee is confident in our rankings again this week, and I'm happy to take questions at this time.

Q.  Jeff, we've heard you reference a few times now the term game control, in particular with Alabama and Mississippi State this week and just now the fact that you said TCU did not control the game against Kansas.  I think that's kind of an unfamiliar term to people.  Can you explain what it is, how it's measured, and how often it comes up in the room when you're talking about teams?
JEFF LONG:  Yeah, it might be considered somewhat subjective.  The committee looks at the game, how the game was played, how close the game was played, whether there were lead changes back and forth, or whether a team was in control from the opening kickoff, or whether they gained control say in the second half and finished out the game.
To us it means not only‑‑ it's an evaluation of how the game was played between two teams.

Q.  Is it something that is listed on the team sheets, or do you just kind of subjectively talk about it?
JEFF LONG:  No, that's something we talk about, and certainly we lean on the coaches' evaluations, but that's something the committee itself talks about as a whole.

Q.  I was curious specifically what you guys liked about USC after going from unranked to No.19 after beating Cal.
JEFF LONG:  Yeah, USC has been one right outside the top 25.  They've got three very close losses, and they do have that win against Arizona.  I think, again, the body of work was added to, but then also other teams added negative things to their bodies of work, so that's what allowed USC to move from just outside the 25 up to 19.

Q.  I also wanted to ask you why not Marshall this week?
JEFF LONG:  Again, Marshall's body of work, their strength of schedule, what they've done to this point in time, the committee does not feel that they warrant being ranked in the top 25.  Again, they're very close.  We've talked a lot about Marshall, we've talked about Boise State, Colorado State, Memphis, Northern Illinois, all Group of Five teams that are good teams and that we've certainly discussed.  Again, I've said this a couple times before.  We've spent an awful lot of time on 21 through 25 and probably more time than other parts of the schedule.  But that's why Marshall at this point is still remaining just outside the top 25.

Q.¬† I was wondering after a few weeks of this process how much‑‑ can you describe the balance between strength of schedule and dominance against a schedule that is maybe a little bit less powerful and how the committee has been weighing those two things?¬† It doesn't look like a Big Ten team is not going to have quite the overall strength of schedule of an SEC team, so how is Ohio State able to make up the ground without having the marquee wins?
JEFF LONG:¬† Yeah, I'm not sure how to say that other than we look at the teams.¬† We weigh teams against teams and what they've done against their opponents.¬† Ohio State was very impressive with the back‑to‑back road wins in the Big Ten, and I think that really impressed the committee, and that's what allowed them to move up to where they are in the rankings at No.6.

Q.  Speaking of game control, in a way doesn't that encourage teams to score message touchdowns at the end of the game?
JEFF LONG:  No, I don't think so at all.  We don't interpret it that way at all, so no, we don't think controlling the game means adding extra touchdowns.

Q.  What would be the difference, though, for TCU if the margin of victory over Kansas had been 11 points, they took three knees at the 12 yard line in the final minutes of the game?
JEFF LONG:  Yeah, I don't know that.  That's not something we can evaluate.  That's what they did, they played the game, and we evaluated that game.  Would another score have made a difference, yes, but I don't know how much it would have made a difference.

Q.¬† I think we've quizzed you enough on TCU versus Baylor, and you've already addressed that.¬† I was just curious, though, as to the Ohio State versus Baylor question.¬† Ohio State jumping Baylor, you look at their best wins, they seem very comparable, you look at both of them have a loss to a non‑top 25 opponent.¬† I was just curious how you guys separated those two teams in the room.
JEFF LONG:¬† Yeah, I think one of the things is, again, two road victories against top‑25 teams for Ohio State, and the fact Ohio State has 10 games on their r√©sum√© and Baylor only has nine at this point in time.

Q.  And also, you've pretty well mentioned this each week, I was just curious is there any way to know how much the conference champion equation the final week could just change things from what we're used to seeing in the rankings?
JEFF LONG:  No, I don't think there's anyway to project that.  I don't.  That will certainly be entered into the equation on that weekend of December 6th and 7th.

Q.  I wondered about the Group of Five and how much time you guys spent evaluating those teams, and are you evaluating them at all against each other at this point, Marshall, Boise State, Northern Illinois, Memphis, Colorado State?
JEFF LONG:  Yes, we've spent a considerable amount of time on the Group of Five, and I include that in our rankings of 21 through 25.  That's where they've been the most discussed.  And yes, we are comparing them against each other at this point in time, evaluating them, so yes, we are.

Q.  And then lastly, when you talk about game control and some of the other things that you evaluate, is the committee trying really hard to be different, to look at different factors?  You don't put as much emphasis on head to head as maybe the AP and the coaches' poll, you talk a lot about game control.  Is the committee trying that hard to be different?
JEFF LONG:  No, we don't like at it as trying to be different.  We look at it as 12 individuals who have been brought together with football expertise to look at these teams, evaluate them, and then rank them and have the best four teams at the top and then rank teams throughout that 25.  So no, we're not sitting down and saying we want to be different.  We may be different.  Certainly we are different because we meet face to face, we discuss over two days the merits of teams and those complete résumé, so I think where the difference is is that we're 12 individuals discussing, making points going back and forth with our viewpoints of the games and the teams and how they played.  I do think we're very different.

Q.  You guys have made it clear that injuries and that sort of thing, when the nature of a team changes, can impact things.  From the Ohio State perspective, they lost very early this year with a freshman quarterback at home.  They're clearly a different team now that that guy has matured, let's say, to lead those two road victories.  How much is that a factor, a change in a team, and how hard is it to balance the early versus the new in somebody's body of work?
JEFF LONG:  Well, certainly Ohio State has strengthened themselves as they've proceeded through the season.  There's no question.  That doesn't erase the loss against Virginia Tech at home in the Horseshoe.  While they certainly have added to their résumé and showed that they're a better team, you know, it doesn't erase that loss.  It is part of their body of work.  It's part of their résumé, and the committee members will continue to evaluate the total season and body of work.

Q.¬† Just wondering with Florida State being jumped last week by Oregon and then Alabama this week and then also the Baylor‑TCU problem, is there a concern within the committee that the losses in the regular season have somewhat become devalued?
JEFF LONG:  No, I don't think that's a concern in the committee.  I don't think that losses have been devalued.

Q.¬† I mean, because Florida State obviously being No.3, their body of work right now by the definitions that y'all have set forth with the top 25, they have two top‑25 wins right now based on the current rankings.¬† How close is Florida State to jumping Oregon and jumping Alabama?
JEFF LONG:¬† They're all close, and I will say that those two top‑25 wins are against 22 and 24, so they're at the back end of the top 25.¬† But they're very close.¬† We've said a number of times that all of these teams are very close.¬† Alabama was sitting outside of that top 4, but they were very close to that top 4, so when they had a decisive win, a game where they controlled that game throughout, they moved all the way to No.1.
Florida State is certainly in there at No.3, and they're very close to a number of other positions and teams in that grouping.

Q.¬† Jeff, Scott Stricklin at Mississippi State said in an interview this week said he believed the committee would weigh the entire strength of schedule instead of just parts of the schedule.¬† I wonder if you could comment on evaluating a non‑conference schedule as a standalone component or maybe even a team that's playing better in November compared to maybe how they played in September.
JEFF LONG:  Yeah, I won't comment on Scott's comment, but I will say that, yes, we evaluate the body of work, all 12 games that these teams play, plus if they play a championship game.  The answer to that is yes, we evaluate the entire body of work.

Q.  Jeff, when you guys did your first, I guess, final ranking to put in the top three teams, was Alabama a unanimous selection at No.1?
JEFF LONG:  I can't tell you if they were unanimous, but they were No.1, yes.

Q.  I guess I wonder why do you reference how close schools and teams are when you don't provide the actual votes?  It kind of leaves everybody in the dark, so that's why I was asking specifically if they were unanimous.
JEFF LONG:  I think telling you that it's close is better than telling you nothing, so I hope that doesn't leave you in the dark.  I mean, we're not going to give out specific votes, but I can tell you, and I don't know if they were unanimous, but they were clearly No.1.

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