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December 2, 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 turn it over to the operator for questions.
JEFF LONG:¬† Thank you for joining us for the sixth ranking of the season.¬† We're coming down to the wire and have a lot to talk about, but first I want to make sure everybody knows that I am aware that Baylor beat TCU at home 61‑58.¬† If you heard my ESPN remarks, I may have misstated that, so I do want to assure everyone I know that and everyone in the committee room knows that.
Here are the week's results:  The top ranked team is Alabama; the second ranked team is Oregon; the third ranked team is TCU; and the fourth ranked team is Florida State.
Alabama remains strong and impressive against tough competition.¬† The committee continues to rank them No.1, and Oregon has been playing consistently impressive football.¬† The race for the 3 and 4 spots remain highly competitive in several‑‑ and let me emphasize that several teams remain in the playoff contention.
The season is heading for an exciting finish and all the top teams have important games to play this weekend.  Several factors came into play as the committee compiled its rankings this week, and as we always do, we started with a clean sheet of paper.  That means we start from scratch each week and evaluate small groups of teams against one another and create the rankings through several rounds of voting.
The committee's task each week is to take a fresh look at the rankings of 1 through 25.  The committee is increasingly impressed by TCU's résumé, including last week's win at Texas, and as of this week, the committee voted the Horned Frogs third.  The committee thought long and hard about Florida State, and they remain in the top four with an important game Saturday against Georgia Tech.
As with all the teams, the committee paid close attention to Florida State's season‑long body of work.¬† Injuries to key players continue to be a consideration.¬† One notable injury this week to Ohio State's quarterback, J.T. Barrett, did not affect the week's rankings.¬† The committee will evaluate the Buckeyes without him in the Big Ten Championship game this weekend.
You will note that the committee voted Mississippi State 10 and Ole Miss 12.  Despite Ole Miss's win, the committee voted this way because we feel Mississippi State has a stronger body of work.
I also want to note that this meeting included 11 committee members.  Due to a travel issue, Mike Gould was not able to arrive until late Monday night.  He participated in Tuesday's discussions, but he did not vote.
Our final rankings will take place this coming Sunday after the committee has a chance to watch the conference championships and other games.¬† At that point, we will have had a season‑long body of work to evaluate, in addition to knowing who the conference champions are.
Thank you again for joining us and thanks to the committee members for their hard work, and thank you to the staff for their ongoing excellent job, and now I welcome your questions.

Q.  Jeff, you were asked a little something about this, but I'll try it maybe a slightly different way.  All the top four teams or three of the top four teams have what seems like very competitive game this weekend.  With TCU now at No.3, it does seem an awful lot like the four that we have are in a really good position to be the four on Sunday if they win out.  What could change those things, aside from obvious things like is losses?
JEFF LONG:  Yeah, and that's really the key.  We're at the point we're waiting for results now.  We're waiting for teams to complete their body of work.  Again, we don't project out.  We've all seen games that have different outcomes than we expect.
Again, we work very hard not to project out.  We focus on what has been accomplished to this point, and with that regard, the top four teams to this point are ranked where the committee believes they should be.

Q.¬† I'm wondering, I believe you did a radio interview the other day where someone asked you the big question about Baylor and TCU and which one becomes a champion.¬† If the Big 12 doesn't designate a champion, they're just going to send them to you as co‑champions, do you guys in the room say, okay, we're looking at this, Baylor won head‑to‑head, we designate them as the champion, or do you give them both the conference championship criteria when you apply one of those five principles?
JEFF LONG:  Well, first we will not determine a champion for the Big 12.  We will take the information that the Big 12 provides us, and again, there are games left to be played, and I know media and fans are projecting out what if they both win, but really the committee doesn't look at it that way and we haven't discussed that.  We've discussed to this point, and then we will wait for the results, and then we will evaluate those teams, and that's when the conference championship comes into effect.
We have not had the discussions about what if there's a co‑champion.

Q.  So you wouldn't want to surmise how you would break a tie or if you would break a tie?
JEFF LONG:  Not at this point, because again, this is a historical committee, historic ranking, and we have not dealt with that.  Until we've dealt with it in the committee room, I really can't tell you how we will respond.

Q.  In the view that the committee is a historical committee and it's a historical ranking, are you squeamish at all about the idea of watching Ohio State and then projecting how they would play in a playoff based on the fact that they have a different quarterback?
JEFF LONG:  Well, certainly committee members are very interested to watch Ohio State's performance with the backup quarterback, and again, the results on the field will dictate to us how we feel about Ohio State, how they perform in the game, and then how, if we have to project forward, how they will compete.

Q.¬† I guess what I'm asking you, is that almost a one‑game body of work because that's the team they are now versus the rest of the season?
JEFF LONG:¬† I guess I wouldn't look at it as a one‑game body of work.¬† I think that the team has a body of work.¬† Now they'll have a final championship game with a different quarterback, and we'll take that into consideration.¬† Certainly our criteria handed down by the management committee tells us to look at injuries, so we will take those injuries into effect.

Q.¬† I have a big‑picture question and a quick follow‑up.¬† You've been through this for six weeks.¬† Could you have foreseen the offshoots of what happened here?¬† Even though you're a native Ohioan, you've been declared an honorary Ohioan; Baylor has hired a public PR strategist.¬† Just wonder what your reaction to some of those things were for people trying to get in a playoff.
JEFF LONG:  Well, again, none of those things really impact what we're discussing in the committee room.  Only the performance of the teams impact the committee.  None of those things happening outside really have an impact on what we're doing in the committee room and our rankings.

Q.  Does it bring a wry smile to your face or anything like that?
JEFF LONG:  Well, to be honest I haven't seen it yet.  I've only seen it online.  I've heard they've been delivered, but I've been out of town.  So I've heard of them, but I haven't actually seen it.

Q.  Also I asked a really dumb question a few weeks ago about Florida State but it seems to have a little more weight today.  Do you see any scenario where Florida State wins and does not finish in the top four?  Is that a possibility?
JEFF LONG:  Again, we don't look at scenarios.  We don't play it that way.  But I think Florida State is in a strong position at No.4.

Q.¬† You touched on this a little bit earlier, but how important is it for Ohio State not just to win this Saturday but for Cardale Jones to play well and look the part of a top‑four‑team quarterback?
JEFF LONG:  We're going to be watching how he plays and how he leads that team, and that's certainly part of the evaluation that the committee will weigh.  But it's a team game, so Ohio State has to play well offensively, defensively and in the kicking game.  It's a team game, and it's an emotional game.

Q.¬† I was going to ask you in regard to the Baylor‑Kansas State game there, Baylor wins that, they add to their body of work, obviously, with top‑10 wins.¬† I believe they've only defeated two teams with winning records this year.¬† How much does that come into play with Baylor?
JEFF LONG:¬† That's certainly discussed.¬† That's part of their strength of schedule.¬† It's part of their body of work, and the committee is certainly aware that they have two top‑20 victories, and those are only teams that they've beaten with winning records.

Q.  I was wondering, you mentioned on ESPN that you guys think TCU is a better football team.  That's plain and simple.  But can you shed some light as to what exactly it is, whether it's defensive statistics or you like the way they're playing on the offensive line or you like the way Boykin is playing, just any other details, maybe some insight as to what the coaches on the committee think about that team that just really leads you guys to believe that they are really indeed a better football team?
JEFF LONG:¬† Yeah, well, I think there's many things we've taken into account when we've looked at TCU and Baylor, and we've certainly analyzed statistical data.¬† We've compared those.¬† We've contrasted them.¬† We've looked at the facts, the quality of the wins.¬† As we pointed out before, TCU has five wins over teams with winning records or .500 records and above, and Baylor has three, if you include Texas at 6‑6.¬† Those are a factor we've taken‑‑ certainly our coaches and others in the room look at the way the game is played, evaluate the games, evaluate the competition.¬† Again, that's what this committee, human committee does.¬† It evaluates the teams on their play in the game.¬† That's one of the things we use to discern between teams.¬† Again, I can't say it's one thing.¬† It's a number of things we look at, and we believe TCU is better and deserving of that No.3 rank over Baylor.

Q.  I was also wondering if you can give a sense of how many committee members are advocates of Florida State's undefeated record, and it's sort of proponents of them being higher.  Obviously there's a majority of you that believe their struggles have been a weakness in dropping them to No.4, but how many committee members are in the room saying these guys are undefeated, they should be higher than No.4?
JEFF LONG:  There's a number of them.  I can't tell you it's 50/50, but there's certainly a group of people who feel that way and express that.  I've voiced before, there are some that really believe Florida State's ability to overcome the deficits and rally and win and keep winning is a strong statement, and there's others that looked at the way those games have progressed, the fact that they've at times struggled against three unranked opponents the last three weeks.  That debate goes on in the room.  I can't tell you, again, exactly what the numbers are, and I'm sure there's some that maybe have changed their opinions and views as we've gone through the weeks.

Q.  At this point TCU and Baylor have played almost their entire conference schedules.  They also played a common opponent out of conference.  So I guess my question is how much is TCU's win over Minnesota contributing to that gap between the two teams?
JEFF LONG:  Well, I'm not sure I can define that for you.  I can tell you that it is contributing.  I can tell you the overall strength of schedule and opponents is a determining factor, as well.  But I can't put a value on how much that Minnesota victory is contributing to the difference between the two teams.

Q.  And then just a different question:  To this point you've spent Monday and Tuesdays coming up with these rankings, and this weekend is a compressed time frame with the games going through Saturday night.  Can you take us through the chronology of how you are going to be able to put together the top 25 when you won't know the final results until late Saturday night?
JEFF LONG:  Yeah.  Well, many of us will come in on Thursday.  The remainder will come in on Friday.  We will meet Friday afternoon, and again, go through our process of conference reports, looking at the number of teams that are in the pool for the top 25 ranking, and then we'll watch games on Friday evening when we have a championship game.  We'll meet again on Saturday morning and prepare for the championship games that occur on Saturday, and as you pointed out, they go late in the evening, including some end of the regular season games that are occurring, as well.
We anticipate Saturday night approximately 11:00, 11:30, depending on the Mountain West championship game, meeting then, and then going as long as we need to on Saturday night into Sunday morning, and then we will have a short night of sleep I anticipate, and then get back up early on Sunday morning, finish our work, and then provide a little bit of time for the chair to begin to prepare for my media obligations once the announcement is made at 11:45 central.

Q.¬† This is basically to circle a bunch of other questions, but it seems like there's a tension between‑‑ when you consider the body of work and you're kind of considering, for lack of a better word, a team's season as you might in the NFL where the final record matters, and then talk about how they're playing right now, whether it's because of an injury, whether it's because they're improving, stuff like that.¬† I guess my question is in the committee room, what language do you use to sort of resolve that difference?¬† Do people approach it differently?¬† Are there some committee members that think October wins count more than other committee members do, and how is that resolved?
JEFF LONG:  Well, I can say this:  The answer to that question is I don't think committee members look at wins in October and November differently than they do in September.  We talk about it a lot, and that's the body of work.  Significant wins in September or significant wins in November, they are considered the same.
GINA LEHE:  Thank you, everyone, for your participation this evening.  That concludes tonight's teleconference.

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