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COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF MEDIA CONFERENCE
December 4, 2016
GINA LEHE: Good afternoon and welcome. At this time, please welcome Kirby Hocutt and Bill Hancock.
KIRBY HOCUTT: Good afternoon and welcome. Our final rankings of the 2016 regular season are in the books. I'm pleased to discuss with you the committee's decisions.
As you know, the committee ranked Alabama No. 1, Clemson No. 2, Ohio State No. 3, and Washington No. 4.
Penn State is ranked No. 5, and Michigan is 6.
After two days of watching football together, the committee convened shortly after the final game last night. We adjourned shortly after 1:00 a.m. We came back this morning to rediscuss and finalize our decisions.
Over the course of the past six weeks, we routinely discussed our protocol, results on the field, as well as the various statistics that inform our decisions.
Fundamentally we kept in mind that our job is to determine who are the best teams. That is what we did. Let me explain in further detail.
There was no debate about Alabama being ranked No. 1. They are an exceptionally strong team and have been all season. There was no debate about that over the course of the past couple of days.
Clemson with just one loss and now an ACC conference championship is ranked second in the nation. The Tigers have beaten four of our ranked teams, more than anybody except Alabama.
No. 3, Ohio State, also with just one loss, built one of the best rÃ©sumÃ©s in the country against one of the most difficult schedules, capped by its win over Michigan.
As for the No. 4 slot, we talked about it at great, great length. It was a close call between Washington and Penn State. The committee discussed why each team could be ranked No. 4. Washington had one loss, Penn State has two. Washington is a conference champion. So is Penn State. Washington's one loss is to top 10 Southern California, USC. Penn State's losses are against an 8-4 team, and they were non-competitive in their other loss.
Let me remind you, as you know, we pick the best teams. After considerable conversation about whether Washington or Penn State was better, the committee concluded that Washington is the better team.
Let me also take a quick moment to review the playoff semifinal pairings and New Year's bowl matchups.
Alabama will play Washington in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on December 31st. Clemson will play Ohio State in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, also on December 31st. Western Michigan will play Wisconsin in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic on January 2nd. Florida State will play Michigan in the Capital One Orange Bowl December 30th. Auburn will play Oklahoma in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on January the 2nd. Penn State will play Southern California in the Rose Bowl game, presented by Northwestern Mutual on January 2nd.
Our work for this year is complete. I'm grateful every week to the members of the Selection Committee who work so hard and prepare so much for our meetings. But let me this week give special thanks to our departing members, Barry Alvarez, Bobby Johnson and Condi Rice. Their time has come to rotate off the committee and they have done a great job and we will definitely miss them.
I'm happy to take your questions.
GINA LEHE: At this time we will take questions for both Kirby and Bill.
Q. -- was given to protocol which we've heard so much about the protocol in the past two seasons in terms of head-to-head and conference championships?
KIRBY HOCUTT: A lot of credence was given to that conversation. We spent considerable time last night, then started immediately this morning again, with so much conversation about No. 4 Washington, No. 5 Penn State.
As I said in opening remarks, both are conference champions. We looked at a one-loss Washington compared to a two-loss Penn State.
Let me say that the purpose, the mission of the Selection Committee, is to get the four very best teams in the country. There are many factors that go into that discussion.
So as we looked at, both are conference champions, as we looked at, one is a one-loss team, the other is a two-loss team, we spent considerable time talking about and analyzing those particular losses.
Washington's one loss came against Southern California. Outside of that loss, Washington was very impressive with what they did on the field each and every week.
Penn State had two losses to an 8-4 team, and then they were non-competitive in their other loss in this college football season.
We spent considerable time talking about strength of schedule as a Selection Committee. Obviously, as you know for certain, I think everyone does, Penn State had the edge when it came to the strength of schedule that they played over the course of this season.
I think because of Washington's strength of schedule, their margin for error was very slim. I think our discussions and our decision would have been much easier if Washington would have had a stronger strength of schedule this college football season.
We spent considerable time, again, analyzing and talking about Penn State's win over Ohio State. That is a significant win that is against a team that is in our semifinal playoffs.
We spent considerable time last night and again this morning discussing and analyzing all the statistical categories that measure the performance on the field each and every week. As we looked at those key statistics from an offensive standpoint, from a defensive standpoint, from starting field position differential, the edge was to Washington.
You look at turnover margin, Washington ranks first in the country in turnover margin compared to Penn State, ranking 50. We spent considerable time talking about the statistical data. For me, the statistical data represents what's happening on the playing field each and every week.
Then we're so fortunate to have some former coaches that are very respected and knowledgeable sitting around our table. As we looked to our coaches to share their perspective on what they saw on the field, it was determined that Washington was the more talented team.
All that being said, we did a deep dive into all those statistical categories. As we did a deeper dive into a game-by-game performance of each of those teams, Washington was determined to be the better football team this season and deserving of that No. 4 spot we announced earlier today.
Q. Kirby, speaking of that statistical data, did it come up much at all, the fact that I believe Washington was No. 1 in the country in the amount of time they've led in their games?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Did it come up in our discussion that Washington is No. 1 in the country in the amount of time of possession over the course of the season?
Q. The amount of time that they've led in their games.
KIRBY HOCUTT: No, that is not a statistic that we talked about. I am not aware of that category standing here before you. That's one that was not discussed as we looked at everything.
Q. You talked a lot about Washington against Penn State. In the course of the discussion, after Penn State won the Big Ten title game, did that Ohio State versus Penn State comparison come up?
KIRBY HOCUTT: It did. We talked about it. I would tell you that Penn State significantly elevated themselves in our conversation after their performance last night. Having a chance to watch, with the other members of the Selection Committee, that second half performance, incredibly impressed and significantly elevated them into our conversations.
Again, a lot of discussion and detail on who was deserving of that No. 4 spot. I had said I think a number of weeks earlier that in the eyes of this Selection Committee, Ohio State was a better football team than Penn State. Obviously our rankings continued to reflect that analysis and that decision.
But I will say that Penn State significantly enhanced their position in our conversations after their victory over Wisconsin and the performance we saw last night as they won the Big Ten Championship.
Q. Kirby, Ohio State, based on what you're saying today, it seems like there's nothing they could have done to get knocked out of the top four. Is that accurate? If so, do you view that as sort of an anomaly in the system this particular year because they didn't have that championship game opportunity, or does it say something bigger about the fact that it may be better in some situations not to play the championship game?
KIRBY HOCUTT: I would not classify their position after last week's ranking as solidified in the top four. You just never know what can happen on any given weekend in the college football season. That was the case Friday night and Saturday as we watched games.
Saying that, the Selection Committee believes that Ohio State has put together one of the best rÃ©sumÃ©s of this college football season. Three wins over CFP top-10 teams, including what possibly will be defined as the game of the year, the victory they had over Michigan. They played one of the nation's toughest schedules. Their only loss was by a close margin, three points, to a top-10 team.
As the Selection Committee discussed Ohio State over the last couple of weeks, their body of work we believed was deserving of this No. 3 spot, and believed that they are unequivocally one of the best college football teams in the country this season.
Q. Kirby, how much during this process do you feel like the committee grouped teams by simply ultimately number of losses and then started the discussion of who is better within those groupings after that? It does seem like it sort of boiled down to zero, one, two, then started pulling teams apart. How much was a factor was just the simple number of losses?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Well, I would say that obviously every given Saturday, the goal is to win. This football season, as consistent with our protocol and process is every year, winning is a significant factor in our discussions.
It's a factor as well as strength of schedule, head-to-head matchups, games against common opponents, and ultimately championships won that were crowned yesterday.
Winning is vitally important. It's one of the factors that we talk about. As we get into our discussions and our ranking process, you're putting sometimes teams with one loss, comparing them side-by-side with teams with two losses.
But at the end of the day our goal and mission is to get the very four best teams in the country into the semifinals, and I believe that is what we've done for the third consecutive year of the College Football Playoff.
Q. Kirby, after y'all made that first round of voting, how much did y'all go back and potentially revote spots three through six or two through six after you went through the top 25 initially?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Very good question. Participating in the mock selection this summer, you understand how the process goes.
You're right, last night, after the games, we had in-depth discussion, it was probably after midnight when we voted on the top four teams. We voted, went back and had significant discussion after that vote as to what the rankings were, as to the questions that Selection Committee members had about various perspectives they had. That discussion extended probably for another 45 or 50 minutes.
Then again, we came back early this morning and spent a few more hours on the rankings that we had put in place after the championship games last night.
There was no revote. There was extensive discussion. There was extensive analysis, but there was not a revote.
Q. Because of the debate of the top five teams, does this give any more thought of the need for the possibility of expanding the field to eight teams so you don't have these sort of arguments?
BILL HANCOCK: No, I don't think it does. As you all know, we have a 12-year contract for the eight-team field, nine more to go after this season. Our leadership groups have not talked at all about expanding.
If there were eight, 16, 32, 64, there would always be the kind of debate that's happening now. There will always be a team five, 17, et cetera.
So we are confident that four is the right number. Speaking with coaches and ADs, university presidents around the country, there's a strong consensus that what we have with this four-team event has been so well-received.
There's such a remarkable amount of conversation about college football, new conversations. I didn't think the game could grow anymore. When we started the playoff, people said this will grow to the game. I said, This game is already off the charts in popularity. But we proven that this college football tree can grow indeed grow to the sky.
So that's a long answer to say, no, I don't anticipate any discussion about expanding.
Q. College football fans and coaches and people everywhere are trying to figure out how it works. When you have a year like this that's different, when you have a team that didn't win a division let alone a conference championship, is there any concern that people don't understand or might not have trust in this system, might question, they're doing this this year, last year, why didn't Penn State get in, they're not doing what they're supposed to do? Is there any concern about trust in the system?
BILL HANCOCK: Certainly there's not any concern in our group about that. Every year is going to be different. Football seasons are like snowflakes, they're all different. Next year we'll be standing here talking about some other way it fell out. And that's great.
This committee is very highly respected. These are football experts. But more importantly, they are people of high integrity. Those that have done the mocks know how thorough and detailed the process is.
We need to continue to try to do more mocks with more reporters who can go out and tell the story, people like Chuck, Jimmy, Ben, and you.
We are confident that this process, this protocol, works well, and this playoff is extremely popular. We're extremely proud of it.
Q. Kirby, can you speak to sort of specifically what the discussions were, what the confusion, what the complications were like with the Big Ten scenario, what that made the complications like for you? As of last week, the too highest ranked Big Ten teams were Ohio State and Michigan, they end up not playing for the championship.
KIRBY HOCUTT: I wouldn't say there was any complication. We never, in our Selection Committee room, talked about any particular conference. Obviously there were teams in the Big Ten Conference this year that had exceptional seasons, some very good football teams within that particular conference this season. But in our Selection Committee room, we did not talk about that.
I think, as you're definitely aware of, and most definitely others are, the Selection Committee has the flexibility to place two teams from a particular conference in the four semifinal participants if we believe that they are two of the four best teams in the country.
But to have conversation in our committee room about one particular league, we did not. We talked about the best college football teams in the nation.
Q. You mentioned Penn State's loss to Michigan was non-competitive. I don't think anyone would disagree with that. We're also told margin of victory doesn't get incentivized. What is a non-competitive game and how is it applied game by game?
KIRBY HOCUTT: That's a good question, and one I've received a handful of times.
You're absolutely correct. This Selection Committee in no way incites margin of victory. I will say I started playing tackle football in the second grade, and played through five years in college. I don't believe standing here today that you can put a definition on what points separation determines a competitive or a non-competitive game. Each game is different. I believe that this Selection Committee, when we watch a football game, you know if it was a competitive game or if it was not.
Sometimes a 3-21 game can be a very competitive game. Sometimes a 21-3 matchup is not a competitive game.
I appreciate the question, but I don't believe that there's a right answer to respond with. I think the Selection Committee, as all of you do, when you watch a game, you know if that was a competitive ballgame or not.
Q. Bill, there was a lot of hand wringing on ESPN earlier about strength of schedule (operator interruption).
BILL HANCOCK: -- what might have happened. You can go through this season and pick out half a dozen plays in different games that would have changed the season.
The bottom line is, we for the first time in the history of college football have a committee of high, high integrity people who invest hours and hours and hours, doing their own debate, their own deep dives into evaluating the teams.
I think this committee is such a wonderful thing for the game that I'm very proud of the people. Overthinking, maybe so. Fun thinking, yeah, you bet it's fun. It's fun.
Q. Kirby, how much difficulty did the committee have in trying to determine how much weight or what meaning to give to a conference title in a conference where there are unbalanced schedules, two different divisions, varying divisional strength? Is that a challenge to determine?
KIRBY HOCUTT: I'm not sure that it's a challenge. I do say there are probably varying, subjective opinions on that in our Selection Committee room. Sitting there watching those championship games last night, watching those teams compete, how close a number of those games were, it's hard to win a conference championship title. Those conference championship titles are important, and they mean a lot.
Yet again, it is one factor of the things that this Selection Committee, all 12 of us individually, consider as we debate and we analyze these teams. It's up to each one of us to decide what weight and factor we give to a particular measurement over another.
So I wouldn't say it's difficult to determine. I would say there's varying degrees when you have 12 different individuals sitting around that table.
That being said, I think all of you know that when there are two comparable teams, and the margins are razor thin to determine which is the better team, then the management committee has instructed us, there's four factors they want us to look at, conference champions being one of those, strength of schedule being a second, head-to-head matchups being a third, games against common opponents being the fourth. But I asterisk those four measurements in saying that those are in no particular order and they're not weighted in any particular order for our 12 members in our discussions as well as our individual determinations.
Q. Bill, in terms of people looking and trying to glean lessons from the first three years of the College Football Playoff, I spoke to Bob Bowlsby about an hour ago, the Big 12 commissioner. He goes, I'm not sure what to advise our schools right now. He said that two years ago, the lesson he took away (indiscernible). What are the lessons from this year with Ohio State?
BILL HANCOCK: My feeling on the Big 12 is they did the right thing by adding the championship game because it gave their best teams an opportunity, another opportunity, to play a quality opponent.
I know all those games against quality opponents are discussed every week in the committee meetings. I applauded the Big 12 for adding that championship game.
As I said before, every season is different. You can point to individual games that are important. Last year I don't believe Oklahoma would have been in the playoff if it hadn't gone and played Tennessee and won the game.
Let me say that differently. I'm not sure Ohio State would have been in the tournament this year, in the playoff this year, if it hadn't gone and played Oklahoma.
So every season is different. But I believe, I feel strongly about this, that the way to be sure you get in the playoff is to let your players show what they can do against the best competition. I don't envision that part of it changing.
GINA LEHE: Thank you very much.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports