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October 31, 2017

Kirby Hocutt

Grapevine, Texas

GINA LEHE: Good evening, and welcome to the first weekly College Football Playoff Selection Committee teleconference. Joining us tonight is Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff, along with Kirby Hocutt, College Football Playoff Selection Committee chair.

KIRBY HOCUTT: Good evening, everyone. Thank you for joining the call. Today is the first ranking of the 2017 season. It's good to be back in Dallas doing this again. Committee members take their work seriously and understand the importance of the rankings we make.

We will be back five more times. Our final rankings will be released on Sunday, December 3rd.

Yesterday and today, the committee met to discuss and vote on who the best teams are in the nation. Our charge is to select the four best teams in college football and to rank the top 25. There are many factors that go into our rankings. Let me briefly discuss some of them with you. It starts with winning, of course. Winning tells us a lot, but it doesn't tell us everything. Our committee's charge is to go deeper. We always look at strength of schedule, we look at quality wins, we look at who teams have beaten and where the games were played, head-to-head match-ups are important, as are results against common opponents. Injuries that affected a team's performance are a consideration, and eventually we will discuss conference champions.

The committee is comprised of football experts. It includes people who played the game, coached the game, and administered the game. Their task is to apply their judgment and expertise in combination with our protocol to determine the rankings.

As you know, the committee ranked Georgia No. 1, Alabama No. 2, Notre Dame 3, and Clemson No. 4. The committee discussed at great length the strengths of Georgia and Alabama. While both teams are currently undefeated, the committee gave a slight edge to Georgia because of their win on the road against a very strong Notre Dame, which today we ranked as the No. 3 team in the nation.

Notre Dame's only loss was to Georgia, and they have defeated three teams that are in our top 25.

Clemson at 4 has played a tough schedule to date and has also been strong on both sides of the ball. The teams ranked 3 through 7 are very evenly matched. For teams 5 through 7, their head-to-head results made an importance difference in the eyes of the committee.

The committee members spent a lot of time preparing for today by watching games and studying information. I'm grateful to them for how seriously they take their mission. There are three new members this year, and they hit the ground running. I'm honored to serve as the group's chairman again this season.

Finally, please note that we had 12 members here this week. Steve Wieberg couldn't be here due to a health-related matter, and we wish him a speedy recovery. Thank you for listening. Thank you for being here, and I'm happy to take your questions.

Q. What was the biggest differentiator for you guys between 3 to 7, the one-loss Power Five teams essentially?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Well, good question. Again, 3 through 7, very close, and Notre Dame's three wins over teams ranked in this week's top 25, as well as their one loss coming to No. 1 Georgia by only one point gave them the slight edge in the No. 3 spot this week.

Clemson has a solid résumé. Clemson's six wins against teams with winning records, two of those six coming against CFP top-25 teams. Their one loss occurred when their quarterback got injured and taken out of the game. He was returned to the next game full speed.

And then really for teams 5, 6 and 7, the head-to-head results, as I just mentioned, were and will continue to be important in the eyes of the committee, and Oklahoma's victory over Ohio State and Ohio State's win over Penn State were important to us.

Q. Looking at Alabama, they've got one win against a Power Five opponent with a winning record. I'm just curious from the committee's perspective what it is about Alabama beyond maybe the undefeated record that has them alongside Georgia that's separate from 3 through 7?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Yeah, Alabama is an impressive team. Strong defense, convincing victories that the Selection Committee talked about in their eight games this year as the Selection Committee has had an opportunity to watch them each and every week. The convincing victories stood out to us. The level of play on that team, especially on the defensive side of the ball, great play at the quarterback position. Alabama is an impressive team, and undefeated, and I think just the convincing victories and the way they've achieved those solidified them at that No. 2 spot ahead of 3 through 7 this week.

Q. In talking about the head-to-head with Ohio State and Oklahoma, obviously you mentioned on the air that was really important. How do you kind of balance that with the fact that since that game, Ohio State has obviously played a lot better, Oklahoma on defense in particular has not played nearly as well?
KIRBY HOCUTT: The committee talked about that head-to-head. Obviously it's important. Ohio State has been playing exceptionally well since the loss to Oklahoma. We talked about the offensive strength that Oklahoma has on the offensive side of the ball, but the Selection Committee has that same question about Oklahoma's play on the defensive side of the ball. That being said, the head-to-head win was significant in our eyes on the road at Ohio State, knowing that these teams will continue to have an opportunity to build and enhance their résumé in the weeks ahead. Selection Committee looks forward to watching all of these teams move forward and strengthening their résumé in front of us.

Q. You mentioned before about 3 to 7 being a hotly contested debate. Two Power Five teams, Miami and Wisconsin, outside of that group but still in the top 10. I imagine strength of schedule is a pretty big factor with those teams, but can you explain how the committee evaluated each of those two teams with the strength of schedule sort of factored in?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Absolutely I can. No. 9, Wisconsin, the committee obviously respects their undefeated record. Right now they are executing their system at an extremely high level. Strength of schedule is just not there. Their best win in the eyes of the Selection Committee is against a 5-3 Northwestern team, so the Selection Committee looks forward to watching Wisconsin continue to play, and look forward to them playing quality opponents in the weeks ahead.

Miami, same thing, undefeated, very athletic teams. Selection Committee spent time talking about how two of their wins have come on last plays against Florida State and Georgia Tech, only two of their wins against teams with a winning record. Impressed with their undefeated record, but still want to see Miami a few more times.

Q. I wanted to ask, looking at the only undefeated Group of Five team, UCF at No. 18, how did the committee evaluate them, being the fact that they are undefeated and where they kind of put them at the No. 18 spot?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Obviously Central Florida has had a very impressive season, undefeated at 7-0. We talked today specifically about how impressed we've been with their scoring offense. This season they're putting up some incredible offensive performances. That being said, right now the best win is against a Memphis team, a Memphis team that is in our top-25 ranking this week, so the Selection Committee has been very impressed with Central Florida and have definitely taken note of their performance up to this point in the season.

Q. Could you just reiterate again the advantage you see Georgia having at this moment, what you guys saw about Georgia where you put them ahead of Alabama, which is the No. 1 team in the major polls by affirmation? What stands out about Georgia?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Yeah, keeping in mind that we rank the teams based upon what has happened up to this point in the season, and again, it was passionate debate when we were discussing Georgia and Alabama over the course of the past two days. Some of the most passionate discussion that I've seen the Selection Committee have in my two-plus years being a part of this committee. Now, what gave Georgia a very slight edge over Alabama this week in the eyes of the Selection Committee were really the two top-25 wins that Georgia has over Mississippi State but specifically over No. 3, Notre Dame. So it was those two victories that really gave Georgia the ever-slight edge over Alabama this week.

Q. In other words, it's not just based on the eye test, like you were talking about Ohio State and Oklahoma; obviously Oklahoma won the head-to-head, but you have to take that into major consideration; am I saying that correctly?
KIRBY HOCUTT: You're saying that correctly, and I would say that there are 13, this week 12, individuals who have subjective opinions about how they come up with their top-25 rankings, and what we see happen on the field each and every week is very important, and I think that's what made that debate and that margin of separation between No. 1 Georgia and No. 2 Alabama so close, because of what we've seen on the field from both of these teams.

Both have been very impressive on the defensive side of the ball, strong running games, but it's those two victories that gave Georgia the ever-slight advantage, and I think the discussion and the debate was so passionate because of the eye test and how we've seen both of these teams perform week in and week out.

Q. Could you maybe relate a little bit about the conversation you guys had regarding quarterback injuries, specifically Bryant's injury for Clemson in the Syracuse game and that loss, but also Deondre Francois's injury and how that affect your evaluation of Alabama's win over Florida State? Is Florida State a two-win team in the committee's eyes when you look at Alabama's résumé, or are they a much better team because they had their quarterback for almost a whole game?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Well, that's a good question. Florida State is a two-win team. However, the committee is very well-aware that Florida State had their starting quarterback under center for their game against Alabama. While they're a two-win team, we talked about and are very aware that when Florida State played Alabama, they were full strength with their starting quarterback playing.

In relation to No. 4 Clemson, obviously the loss to Syracuse, the quarterback was injured, I believe it was in the second quarter, was concussed, left that game. Clemson lost that game, but the starting quarterback came back for the game against Georgia Tech. He returned; they're back to full strength, and we saw Clemson win that game against Georgia Tech.

We take those into consideration. We're very aware of how those situations play out, and in the case of those two situations, that was the discussion in the Selection Committee room, that Florida State was at full strength with their starting quarterback in week 1 against Alabama; Clemson's one loss came when their quarterback had to leave the game. He returned for their next game and was back at full speed.

Q. When it comes to Gene Smith, I know he's not allowed to be in the room with you guys when you guys are talking about Ohio State, but obviously this seems like it's going to be an ongoing debate between Oklahoma and Ohio State, and the way that other teams in front of Ohio State are perceived are obviously going to have an impact on Ohio State in general. How is Gene Smith limited in the discussions and the ideas of other teams when those discussions, as well, also have an impact on what Ohio State is going to end up looking like at the end of the year?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Well, obviously consistent with our protocol, Gene is recused from the conversation. He leaves the room any time that Ohio State is being discussed. When Ohio State is being compared against various teams, Gene is not in the room.

However, Gene has seen both Oklahoma and Penn State play this year, and we did ask Gene his opinion on the strengths of both Oklahoma and Penn State and where their challenges were as a team as of the time he saw them. We sought his opinion on both Oklahoma and Penn State because he had seen them live. However, when Ohio State was a part of that discussion, he's recused and outside the room.

Q. When you have a game like the Ohio State-Penn State game on Saturday, two teams that are both in the top 10 of your rankings, how is that evaluated in terms of Penn State controlling much of that game, then Ohio State having that kind of rally at home? We know there's the head-to-head, but in general, how do you value that as you evaluate both those teams? Ohio State won, but yet they were behind for a chunk of that game.
KIRBY HOCUTT: Yeah, it becomes a piece of their résumé. It becomes a component of their body of work that the Selection Committee is well-aware of. We will continue to reflect and recall how that game was played, and Penn State has been and continues to be an impressive team. The Selection Committee has talked about how impressed we've been with them, especially at the running back and the quarterback position. So very well aware of how that game transpired, how both teams competed, and that will continue to be a component of their résumé as the season moves along.

Q. Talk about Miami; I know Miami and Central Florida had to go through that hurricane, and both teams hadn't played for 21 days. Will that be a factor -- I know Miami has to go to the ACC title game and beat whoever in the East, but if they make it or lose one game, will they get affected by the storm that they were gone for 21 days?
KIRBY HOCUTT: The Selection Committee talked about the hurricanes that affected certain teams earlier this season. We're aware of the unique set of circumstances that that presented, and the Selection Committee will evaluate those teams on the games they play.

We will continue to evaluate Miami and Central Florida just as we have with the seven previous opportunities that we've had up to this point in time.

Q. Would there be a situation where, say, Wisconsin and Miami, if they remain undefeated, would there be a situation that they would be left out of the college football playoffs?
KIRBY HOCUTT: You know, as we've been consistent in saying, we don't project ahead. College football is a great game. Anything can happen on a given Saturday. With respect, I will not allow myself to project ahead or even try to anticipate what the rest of the season but especially next week could bring us.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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