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November 22, 2016

Kirby Hocutt

Grapevine, Texas

GINA LEHE: Good evening, and welcome to the weekly Selection Committee teleconference. Our apologies for the delay this evening. We're going to go ahead and dive right in with questions. Joining us again tonight is Bill Hancock, Executive Director of the College Football Playoff, along with Kirby Hocutt, College Football Playoff Selection Committee Chair.

Q. Kirby, could you talk about the effect that Ohio State's close call against Michigan State had on their ranking this week? Obviously they didn't drop down, but I wondered if that changed the perception of Ohio State at all when you guys discussed it.
KIRBY HOCUTT: We did discuss it this week. It did not change our positioning in the rankings or within the Selection Committee room about Ohio State. They're an extremely talented football team. The committee continues to be impressed with their three wins over current CFP top-25 teams.

We were obviously aware of the conditions in which that game was played, but continue to be very impressed with Ohio State.

Q. And I know that you start from scratch every week, so this is probably a question you can't answer, but they're going to play obviously the No. 3 team this weekend; how safe would Ohio State be if it does beat Michigan?
KIRBY HOCUTT: You know, as you said, I cannot speculate, and we start new each and every week based upon what's taken place up to that point in time. I just cannot look forward and speculate on what could happen next week.

Q. Kirby, what was the discussion like in terms of Michigan having seen them for the first time without their starting quarterback? I know you guys consider injuries; how much was John O'Korn's position in that game taken into consideration and how different the offense looked with him?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Good evening. You're right, they played their first game with their backup quarterback. We talked about that. The committee continues to be very impressed with the Michigan team who's the only team in the current rankings that have three wins against current CFP top-10 teams. Continue to be very impressed with Michigan's defense.

We discussed the quarterback situation. We're aware of it. But obviously that did not change our opinion, our decision that Michigan is the third ranked team in college football this week.

Q. You talked about it before, but how much discussion was there on Oklahoma State with the Central Michigan, and how does that factor into where they're ranked? Is it just an absolute loss? Do you count it as a semi-loss? How do you look at that game?
KIRBY HOCUTT: You know, consistent with weeks before, Oklahoma State's record is 9-2. However, the Selection Committee is aware of what transpired in the Oklahoma State-Central Michigan football game, so we're aware of that, but Oklahoma State is ranked 10th with a 9-2 record.

Q. You touched on this a little bit on the show, so I wanted to maybe just clarify it. Did the committee feel that there was sort of a cluster of teams between maybe 2 and 6 that were close and then another cluster between 7 and 10? Is that fair to say? Am I in the ballpark there? I sort of wanted to clarify what you had talked about.
KIRBY HOCUTT: I would reiterate, yes, the committee looked at teams 2 through 5 with very small separation between those teams, and we spent a lot of time this week making sure that we had those ranked according to our evaluation and where we thought they deserved to be ranked at this point in the college football season. So that's teams 2 through 5.

The Selection Committee also spent quite a bit of time and discussion on teams 7 through 10, and again, the discussion this week was there's little separation in 7 through 10. We were back and forth as to the positioning of some of those teams at the 7 through 10 position, so you're accurate. We spent a lot of time discussing those two groupings of teams.

Q. With what you just said about Oklahoma State, I guess given -- even though they're 9-2, do you view Oklahoma State differently than perhaps you would have if it were sort of a cut-and-dry result there, and what's the biggest difference to you between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State's résumés?
KIRBY HOCUTT: I would say the Selection Committee looks at Oklahoma State as a 9-2 football team. That's where they sit today. We see a very talented Oklahoma State team who's won seven football games in a row. Offensive side of the ball, they continue to excel. They continue to produce each and every week on the field. So we look at that as a 9-2 team.

Oklahoma, you know, impressive offense, one of the most prolific offenses in the country, quality win last weekend on the road at West Virginia. You know, they bounced back strong from the two losses they had earlier in the season and are on an eight-game winning streak.

Again, the margin of separation between 7, 8, 9 and 10 is very close.

Q. I was wondering if you could give me an idea of what the committee really likes about Washington, and at the same time what's separating the Huskies from Michigan, Clemson, Ohio State?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Yes, sir. The committee likes the -- what we've seen on the field from Washington. They are a very talented team. They have two wins over current top-25 teams. Their only loss is to a very talented Southern California team.

You know, the strength of schedule is still in question. We spent considerable time talking about Washington at the 5 spot and believe that's where they are at this point in the college football season, but there's a lot to like about Washington. Their strength of schedule still gives the committee pause at this time from ranking them any higher.

Q. Back to the talk about the cluster of 2 through 5 and then some of the teams that are falling behind just a little bit, I was wondering, is there a way you can quantify how much ahead Ohio State might be from Penn State, drawing back on last week's call when you said that Conference Championships and the three other measures are taken when it's, quote, close?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Yeah, so when teams are very comparable, when there is little to no separation between particular teams, the commissioners have instructed the Selection Committee to apply four metrics to our decision-making process; that is conference championship, strength of schedule, head-to-head matchups if they occurred, and outcomes against common opponents.

However, those four measurements are not in any particular order. They're not weighted equally, and it's up to each individual Selection Committee member as to how they prioritize those measurements.

I believe, to answer your question directly, does the Selection Committee see a small margin of separation this week between No. 2 Ohio State and No. 7 Penn State, we do not. At this point in time, Penn State, Michigan at 3, Clemson at 4, Washington at 5, a small separation between those teams there.

Q. Along those lines, I'm wondering with head-to-head specifically, it came into play a couple weeks ago when Auburn and Texas A&M were ranked very closely to each other. For that to come into play, do teams have to have the same record as each other? Does it involve something even more than that necessarily?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Good question, and you know, it's not a simple answer. Head-to-head is a factor, absolutely, and we've talked about head-to-head and how important it is. But it's one factor among many others that the committee looks at. As you know, we've talked about, we evaluate the full body of work. We also look at the strength of schedule, results against common opponents, et cetera. Head-to-head is a factor, but it's one among many others as we continue to go further along in the season and in our evaluation of teams.

Q. More along those lines, and Bill, if you want to weigh in, please feel free to do so, as well. When you talk about those tiebreakers, winning head-to-head and following a conference championship, it's always followed by, quote, when those résumés are comparable. If No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Penn State both have such a gap between them, are their résumés really comparable, and if not, then is the committee free to say, hey, we like Ohio State?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Yes, that's what we do for hours and hours and hours over the course of two days each week is we focus on who is the best college football team, and as we analyze those teams and their performances, obviously we're watching, we're looking at the film if we're not watching the games live, and then we're also studying the statistics and analyzing all the data in front of us.

You know, we always have a focus on who are the best football teams up to this point in the season.

Q. Could you envision a day, I'll say December 4th, I suppose, when a three-loss team is actually in the playoff field, given that there are 12 or 13 data points?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Good question. I don't know. I just don't know. I can't look forward and speculate. Obviously we have two weeks in the regular season left this season, and then championship game Saturday. You know, respectfully, I just could not speculate and look into the future and project what may or may not happen.

Q. Let me come at it a different way then because I know you'll appreciate this. At what point does sort of a, wow, this team is playing fantastically and they've really changed over the course of the year overtake sort of what your actual complete body of work is when you've lost more than a game or two?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Yeah, full body of work is important. We look at that each and every week. It changes each and every week. But there again, I think it depends upon what happens above a particular team and below a particular team each week as they continue to strengthen their résumé in the eyes of the Selection Committee.

GINA LEHE: I'd like to thank everyone for your participation this evening. That concludes our teleconference.

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