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November 25, 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 with opening remarks from Jeff.  At this time please welcome Jeff Long.
JEFF LONG:  Thank you for joining tonight's call and welcome to week five of the selection committee rankings.  This has been a week of stability in the rankings, especially at the top.  Given the way the games were played over the past week, there was very little change.
Having said that and having been around college football for a long time, you just never know when things are going to change.
So here are the results for week 5.  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.  I think it's fair to say that beyond these four teams, several others remain in the hunt for the top four.  As important as the rankings are at the top, I want to continue to emphasize we focus on all 25.  Our job is to rank 1 through 25, and we take that very seriously.  We spend a great deal of time talking about each team that we rank.  There was a lengthy discussion about teams that should be ranked 20 through 25.
The committee voted Marshall and Boise State into the top 25 this week.  Their records, their schedules, and the committee's view about how good these teams are compared to other teams were all discussed.  The committee also took note of the fact that the teams that were ranked above Boise State and Marshall lost, notably Nebraska, Southern Cal, and Utah.  Teams from the Group of Five conferences have been just outside the top 25 for several weeks.  This week they won their games, the teams above them lost, and as a result, they are now voted into the top 25.
It's worth remembering that after week 1, a team from the Group of Five conferences also made the top 25.
I also want to make note that this meeting included 11 committee members.  Mike Tranghese was under the weather and could not travel to Dallas for the meeting.
As we have said before, we don't yet know who the conference champions are, and that of course will be a factor the committee discusses on selection weekend.  I remain grateful to the committee members for their preparation and dedication to the process and to the staff for their great work, and I'm happy to take questions.

Q.  You noted on ESPN that some of Mississippi State's wins came against teams previously ranked.  Why should past rankings be a criteria if those teams have shown to not be as good as they were when they were ranked?
JEFF LONG:  Well, it's just something the committee discusses.  We know if a team was previously ranked 14, 15, 16, and you know what, teams played differently part of the year.  A team that may have been playing very well at the beginning of the season, whether through injuries or level of competition, they're not playing as well.  It's not a criteria, but we certainly discuss and know when a team was previously ranked in the top 25.

Q.¬† As a follow‑up, you've mentioned in the past month a lot about quality wins.¬† How much do you all talk about bad losses; for example, Alabama's loss to Ole Miss, Ohio State's loss to Virginia Tech probably don't look as good since those teams now have continued to lose.
JEFF LONG:¬† Well, we certainly talk about what we consider bad losses.¬† I'm not sure I would agree with the ones that you listed there, but certainly we look at teams with sub‑.500 records and if a team has lost to them, and we certainly note that.

Q.  There's an emphasis on conferences, but you have Conference Championship games.  We know in basketball that a Conference Championship game may or may not mean a whole lot at the end of the season in a power conference.  The same scenario could happen in this, say Florida State could lose to Georgia Tech.  How much emphasis are you putting on Conference Championship games compared to other ordinary conference games?
JEFF LONG:  Well, the Conference Championship game is one that the management committee has told us that we need to look at, so we are certainly going to be looking closely at Conference Championship games, and if two teams are comparable, a Conference Championship would be a tiebreaker.  As far as it relates to basketball, I'm not sure in this case that really does really relate to football in that respect, but Conference Championships are important, and they will certainly be weighed heavily on selection weekend.

Q.  How close did the committee come to dropping Ohio State after its close call to Indiana, and can you say whether they're close to being No.7 or No.5?
JEFF LONG: ¬†I can tell you that we certainly took the loss against a sub‑.500 team into account, but that was only part of their body of work, and compared to, again, the teams that were ranked ahead of them and ranked behind them, that win was good enough to keep them ranked at their current spot.¬† We certainly are aware of the talent level or that it was a win against a sub‑.500 team.

Q.  How do you view rivalry games?  Obviously Ohio State plays Michigan and strange things, unexpected things can happen in games like that.  Is that something you take into account or we're going to base on what Michigan is this year?
JEFF LONG:  No, I think everybody in that room understands rivalry games are special, but there are many, many rivalry games in today's college football.  We're certainly aware of that.  We certainly discuss the fact that it's a rivalry game, and we do know that there have been a number of unanticipated outcomes in rivalry games.

Q.  Jeff, can you talk about how Minnesota's success has influenced the discussions about the bodies of work for TCU and Ohio State, and also how much that common opponent may come into play when comparing TCU and Ohio State?  They both beat Minnesota but TCU won at home by a larger margin, Ohio State won at Minnesota by a smaller margin.
JEFF LONG:  Yes, common opponents are something we look at and we certainly note and we're certainly aware of, and again, those are one pieces of the body of work for those teams, but the fact that they are common opponents, it does give us a reference point.  But margin of victory is not something that really factors into us to a large degree.  We're certainly aware of it, but it's not a determining factor for us.

Q.¬† Now that you guys have done this several times, what's your take on if there's maybe one thing that you feel like the committee‑‑ maybe one metric or factor that you guys have been considering more than another as you've gone through it?¬† What's the most important thing as you're evaluating these teams?
JEFF LONG:¬† I can't tell you that there's one thing.¬† There really isn't.¬† There are a number of one things that factor in, and you're right, we talk about them each and every week, and they're important.¬† They're the factors that we've talked about in the past, head‑to‑head victories, common opponents, strength of schedule, out‑of‑conference schedule, all those things that we talk about are important, and we discuss them each and every week.¬† And that I think is important to our process because that's why we start with that clean sheet of paper, and I know that some may think of that as a clich√©, but we do, and we talk about those factors each and every week we rank.

Q.  Is Mike going to be back next week?
JEFF LONG:  Yes, we anticipate Mike being back with us.  He just had a health issue that is not serious but precluded him from traveling.

Q.  Now that there are those two Group of Five teams in there, can you explain maybe the main reasons why you have Boise State higher than Marshall?
JEFF LONG:  Yes.  Boise State, we feel like their strength of schedule is just far and away more than Marshall's, better and stronger than Marshall's.  They've got a number of teams that they have beat with .500 records or above, and Marshall has two wins over teams that are .500 and above.  Those are some of the factors we went into of why Boise is ranked ahead of Marshall in our poll.

Q.  Is there any way that order can change without Boise losing?
JEFF LONG:  Certainly.  I think teams can add to their body of work, and the committee will evaluate those, and they can be voted in a different order based on adding to that body of work.

Q.¬† I was just curious to clarify on teams that had been previously ranked during the season because I'm already getting emails from TCU and Baylor folks on both sides of that equation.¬† Would the committee then look at TCU's win over Oklahoma State, which was a top‑25 team at the time of that game, differently than Baylor's win over Oklahoma State last week after Oklahoma State had lost four straight games?
JEFF LONG:  You know, it's just one of the factors we look at.  I cannot sit here and tell you that the committee is not aware that a team was previously ranked in our top 25.  That goes into the discussion, and it's noted.  I mean, that's how I would answer that.

Q.  And a quick clarification from last week because we were talking about Baylor's body of work, playing one less game than most of the teams they were being compared to, and I was just curious, when we get down to the final rankings, does that mean a team that's played 13 games, presumably in the championship game, might have an edge in body of work over teams that have only played 12 games at that point, or how will the committee weigh that?
JEFF LONG:  No, it doesn't.  It won't.  As we rank through the weeks here, a team has more of a body of work at that point in time, and that's something we notice, but in the end on championship weekend, the entire body of work is the entire body of work, and that won't be looked at that way.

Q.  Just so I can get a little clarification, Ohio State loses to Virginia Tech, I believe Virginia Tech was ranked at the time.  How exactly does their ranking at the time play into the evaluation of that game?
JEFF LONG:  Let me clarify.  When I refer to ranked, I'm referring to the CFP rank, so when Virginia Tech played Ohio State, they were not ranked.

Q.  And just to take it one step farther then, essentially are you also considering what you're doing is weighing the body of work for the teams that they played against, so a team was ranked at one time, that means maybe it was a different team earlier in the season than it is later in the season?
JEFF LONG:¬† Yeah, I think that's an accurate way to say it, and the point I was making is, look, the committee, we're aware that a team was formerly in our top 25 and has fallen out, and they may have been ranked 10 or 12 or 15 in our previous rankings.¬† We just know it.¬† We're aware of it.¬† It's not a determining factor, although I will say a team that is 6‑5 and has been previously ranked is going to hold more weight than a 3‑8 or sub‑.500 team, which is an obvious thing.

Q.  You may have covered this and I missed it, but how would you characterize the differences between teams 4 through 7 this week?
JEFF LONG:  Again, I can tell you they're very close.  TCU was idle during that time.  The rest of those teams had victories, but they weren't victories that added enough to the body of work that committee members voted any change there.  Our rankings remained the same 1 through 7.

Q.¬† Any consideration with an ill member?¬† I understand the purpose of getting people together on‑site, but when someone is ill is there any consideration of having them Skyped in at that point just to make sure you get their input?
JEFF LONG:  That's something we might consider, but in this case the individual was not feeling well enough to do something like that, so that's not something we considered at this meeting.

Q.  One thing you said on TV that I'd like some clarification about, you said special consideration will be given to championships that are won on championship weekend.  Does that also refer to a championship that might be won outside a conference playoff?
JEFF LONG:¬† No, I'm talking‑‑ I'm sorry, I was talking about all Conference Championships, whether that was played in a playoff or whether that was determined by the conference.

Q.  And one other last quick question:  Who are some other teams from outside the power five conferences that you guys looked at and considered this week?
JEFF LONG:  You know, similar to the ones we've talked about before, Colorado State, Memphis, those are the ones that come to my mind.  Northern Illinois, as well.

Q.  I just wanted to get a little bit of clarification myself.  I kind of caught a little bit of you on TV and you mentioned there was kind of a spirited debate over FSU, talking about their close wins and looking at how some of the wins are just winning, kind of moving forward.  I wanted to know what was that debate about and what was that like and can you talk about that?
JEFF LONG:  Yeah, I think within the committee room, there are those that believe winning and winning against the quality of opponents that Florida State has won against is a significant factor that keeps them ranked highly.  There are others that look at the way the games were played and the way they have won and think about that as a possible negative.  There is debate about that.  There's certainly those who view a team coming from behind and winning as a sign of a strong team, and there's others who might believe that they're a good enough team, they should have been in front or more in control of the game as they progressed.
Again, it's a debate in the room.  It's one that we talk about, and then the beauty of our process, we then vote how we feel.
GINA LEHE:  Thank you, everyone, for your participation this evening.  That concludes tonight's teleconference.

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