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November 10, 2015

Jeff Long

Bill Hancock

Grapevine, Texas

GINA LEHE: Good evening, and welcome to tonight's rankings 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.

As a reminder, we are transcribing tonight's call which will be posted later this evening on collegepressbox.com.

At this time please welcome Jeff Long. Jeff?

JEFF LONG: Good evening, everyone. It's been another exciting week in college football, and a good portion of this season remains to be played. A lot is going to change as we move forward.

That's why every week is so important, one of the reasons fans just love this game.

This week the vote reflected a strong agreement on the top four teams. We spent a considerable amount of time debating teams 5 through 8, and it was very close. The gap separating these teams is incredibly narrow.

To sum up the week, there is a relative stability at the top and considerable volatility just below that. If you look at the number of games remaining, how many conferences have their toughest competition ahead, and then combine that with the results of games played to date, do not be surprised if teams move up or down quite a bit in the next week or so.

Winning big games against tough opponents is crucial, and it is reflected in our rankings. Strength of schedule was again discussed at length by the committee members.

Here are the rankings: The top ranked team is Clemson; the second ranked team is Alabama; the third ranked team is Ohio State; and the fourth ranked team is Notre Dame.

For teams 5 through 8 and throughout the rankings, the committee discussed a host of factors, as we do every week, including the body of work, strength of schedule, quality of play, records on the road against ranked opponents and more.

I will also note that Navy has moved into the rankings. Earlier this week the committee was asked about our process in case Navy is in the hunt for a Playoff or New Year's Six spot.

Let me hand it off to Bill Hancock to discuss this. Bill?

BILL HANCOCK: Well, thank you, Jeff, and obviously Navy's moving into the rankings has brought this to the consciousness of people, brought to the consciousness the decision that the commissioners made back in June of this year, and it is this: If the committee believes that the result of Army/Navy could affect Navy's ranking and therefore its place in the playoff or its selection as a Group of Five representative, then the pairings that affect Navy only would be delayed until after the Army/Navy game. Obviously this would apply to Army, also, if it were in contention.

Now, what that means is that it will be business as usual for the committee on December 6th. The committee on that day will rank the teams and they will publicly issue those rankings December 6th just like we did today. Navy will be ranked according to its performance to date.

If Navy is in contention only to be the Group of Five representative, then the committee will rank the playoff teams, they'll pair them, assign them to the bowl games just like normal, and we'll assign the teams that are going to play in one of those two New Year's Six bowls, holding the spot in the other New Year's Six bowl pending the Army/Navy game.

Again, we intend to announce everything on December 6th just like always, except Navy's placement if Navy is in contention, and we'll do that after the Army/Navy game. If Navy is in contention for the playoff, that being, of course, the teams ranked 1 to 4, then we would announce the 1 through 25 rankings on December 6th but we won't announce any bowl pairings. That would all wait until December 12th.

So in short, I would say, Jeff, we'll be ready, as you know, for any contingencies, and I'll be pleased to go into more depth either on this call or later if anyone wishes. Back to you, Gina.

GINA LEHE: Thank you, Bill. At this time we'll turn it over to the operator and open it up for questions.

Q. Jeff, my biggest question is about Iowa. We talked last week, you said the committee had concerns about Iowa's offense, and I was just curious as to what they did against Indiana that changed you guys' minds so much to move them up right there on the bubble.
JEFF LONG: Yeah, I think it's a recognition by the committee that they were increasingly impressed with Iowa and their body of work. You know, they have the strongest strength of schedule of the undefeated teams, other than Clemson, the No. 1 team, and then I think they appreciated the road victories they have. They have two road victories against top-25 ranked teams by the CFP, not including that Indiana win, which, again, was another road victory for them.

And then, you know, three teams lost ahead of them, and we felt we needed to move up.

I think we recognized that they are consistent on both sides of the ball. They're not a flashy team, but they are consistent.

Q. A quick follow-up is Oklahoma State and the Big 12. Why is it that Oklahoma State is ranked behind Baylor when right now they have the league's best win, which was against the committee's No. 8 team?
JEFF LONG: Yeah, Oklahoma State had a good win. That's the first piece of real strength that we've seen from them with that win over TCU. I think the committee remains feeling that Baylor is strong and stronger, therefore we voted them ahead of Oklahoma State. But again, Baylor's work is in front of them, and then Oklahoma State still has work in front of them. So they both have opportunities to change where that ranking is and move up. Again, as we said before, the majority of the Big 12's strength in there, strength of schedules, are here at the back end of the season. So we will see in the coming weeks.

Q. Jeff, I wanted to ask about Florida State's ranking. They stayed put despite a loss. Granted, it was at the No. 1 team. They stayed put despite a loss this week, and also, as part of that, are you finding in your committee discussions that your committee members are rewarding teams more for wins than they are penalizing them for losses?
JEFF LONG: I'll answer the second part. No, you know what, I think it's a combination. I don't think that it's one or the other. I think that they both are considered.

Florida State, you know, went on the road and played Clemson, and you know what, we felt that while they lost, they still have some quality wins, and they have a strong résumé. They've played quality teams.

I think when we look at -- as we look at these rankings, we rank small groups of teams around each other, and when we got to Florida State, we still felt they were stronger than those teams that are behind them.

Q. Jeff, you talked about these Big 12 teams, and obviously they have a chance to prove themselves here ahead of them. Baylor in particular the next three weeks plays three straight teams the committee currently has ranked in the top 15. How much can a team change its perception do you think with playing that many quality teams in a row?
JEFF LONG: Well, I think they can change it dramatically, whether they win or lose, you know, depending on whether they win or lose. So obviously having this schedule so strong at the back end, it's going to have dramatic -- it will have a dramatic effect whether they win or lose.

Q. And you mentioned it on the show, I mean, whether it's intentional or coincidental, it just seems like all the Big 12's biggest games are at the end of the year this year. How hard has that made it to evaluate those teams like Baylor in your early editions?
JEFF LONG: Yeah, it's a great question, and yes, it makes it difficult for the committee because we look at who they've played and how they've performed in their games, and Baylor in particular doesn't have a win over a team with a winning record yet. They're going to get an opportunity to show us.

But we still feel like they're a strong team. That's kind of why they held their place. But it's very difficult to move them up until they've played some teams with some strength. And again, as you point out, they've got three straight games against strong teams, so we'll have a clearer picture on Baylor in the future.

Q. You've got four teams from the AAC in the rankings this week. Do you see a possibility of maybe another Group of Five team making its way into the top 25?
JEFF LONG: Yeah, depending on how they play and how they perform. I think, though, that the AAC has -- they've scheduled up. They've scheduled some quality teams, and the difference this year is they've won some of those quality teams scheduled up. That's why I think you see so many of them in the rankings this year, because their strength of schedules are improved. They've played quality teams outside the conference, and they've won some of them.

Q. Was there any discussion of any other Group of Five team that people were throwing out maybe who could have gotten in there, as well?
JEFF LONG: Sure, we've got teams that are just outside the top 25. I'm not going to mention them specifically, but there are certainly other Group of Five teams sitting just outside that top 25 that have the ability to play their way into the top 25.

Q. I was looking at the schedules today for different teams. Western Kentucky, they're very good in the Conference USA. Will they get any votes during this whole thing, or are you guys looking at them right now?
JEFF LONG: Well, Western Kentucky hasn't made it into our top 25. Certainly we have lots of information. We know their strength of schedule. We know that they lost at Indiana and they've lost at LSU, so they have some quality losses. I think they need to have some quality wins for us to be able to move them up.

Q. And another question about LSU, their first game of the year got postponed because of inclement weather, and they have less games than the other people in the top 25. Would that get affected by playing less games, or do you think that would be not a problem?
JEFF LONG: I don't think it will affect them. It was an FCS team that they were playing so that datapoint wouldn't be as meaningful to the committee as, you know, SEC and FBS games.

Q. Jeff, you mentioned on ESPN Stanford playing Northwestern at 9:00 a.m. Pacific. Is that really a factor, body clocks, and if so, why?
JEFF LONG: Absolutely. We discussed that. We discussed a lot of things in that committee room. Remember, we're spending two days in there. And yeah, I think that it is a significant thing. Now, every committee member would weigh that differently, but I think it is worth noting that they play at 9:00 a.m. Pacific time. Weather certainly plays a factor, but when games start, certainly. I think we would not be doing our due diligence if we didn't recognize that that team was playing at 9:00 a.m. Pacific, and I recall last year we had a game, I believe, UCLA traveled to Virginia. So we look at those things, and they're a factor. How big of a factor, I can't quantify that for you, but I know it was discussed by the committee members and probably should have been.

Q. Jeff, a quick question about the Big 12. With the Big 12 being so top heavy with those top four teams, and still the disparity is so great that if an Oklahoma or an upper division team beats a lower division team like an Iowa State or Kansas State last week, do they not really get much credit for it?
JEFF LONG: You know, your call was breaking up. I really can't tell what your question is. I don't know if you can try that one more time.

Q. With the disparity in the Big 12, when an upper division team beats a lower division team, do they not get as much credit for it because that disparity is so great?
JEFF LONG: You know, again, that's hard to answer that question. I would say we look at those teams individually. We evaluate the strength of the team they're playing, the opponent they're playing.

Certainly a lesser team, a weaker team in the conference has less of an impact. But that's through not only in the Big 12 but that's through in all the conferences, all the 10 conferences. It's no different in the Big 12 than it is in every other conference.

Q. And then my follow-up is on Oklahoma State, they're one of only two teams from the Power Five conferences that are 4-0 on the road. How much credit does Oklahoma State get for that?
JEFF LONG: Again, your question is breaking up, but Oklahoma State, you know, again, obviously they've gotten credit. We moved them up with that win over TCU at home, and you know, they're ranked No. 8. I believe they moved up from 14, so that's a six-place movement, I think. So I think Oklahoma State is getting credit, and they still have more games to play that will certainly impact their rankings, positively or negatively.

Q. Jeff, I was wondering if you could take a deeper dive into Ohio State. I know they're undefeated obviously and stayed at the same spot, but with all this talk about schedules and beating ranked teams, they just don't have a lot of meat to the teams that they've beaten, and in similar fashion you could probably compare them to a lot of those undefeated Big 12 teams. What's the difference with Ohio State that they're doing that compensates for a lack of strong opponents that they've beaten?
JEFF LONG: Yeah, you know, probably Penn State is their strongest opponent that they've beaten with a winning record. You know, Ohio State, again, we watch them play, we analyze them. We think they have incredible talent. We think that that team is a team that hasn't played their best yet. We think that their best games are in front of them. Obviously they've had a little bit of inconsistency in the quarterback, and so we're looking forward to evaluating them going forward with J.T. Barrett. But again, I think when you look at that team and we evaluate that team and we look at their statistics and look at their personnel, they've got some dominating players that impact the game. So we think Ohio State is strong, and yet they still do have important games in front of them that will demonstrate to the committee just how strong they are.

GINA LEHE: Thank you, everyone, for your participation. That concludes tonight's teleconference.

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