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November 7, 2017

Kirby Hocutt

Grapevine, Texas

GINA LEHE: Good evening, and welcome to the 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. Thank you for being here. From No. 1 to No. 25 in our rankings, we had intense discussions. Week 2 of our rankings resulted in no changes in the top and a traffic jam in the middle. Remember, our task is to decide who, at this point in time, are the best teams in the nation and to rank them. We begin with a clean sheet of paper each week looking at each team's performance. The committee discussed the strengths and weaknesses of these teams, how they fared in head-to-head match-ups, who they played and where they played, results against common opponents, and other considerations that affect the rankings.

Georgia with its undefeated record and its victory over Notre Dame is No. 1; Alabama, also undefeated and coming off an impressive win over LSU, is No. 2; Notre Dame with three wins against top 25 teams is No. 3; Clemson with a win over a good North Carolina State team and two other wins against top-25 teams is No. 4.

In the middle of the rankings, the committee placed Michigan State No. 12, Ohio State No. 13, and Penn State No. 14. These teams are very close to one another, and their head-to-head results continue to be a deciding factor in the committee's consideration.

The committee takes its work seriously. I'm impressed how much time is spent reviewing each team in the rankings from the top to bottom. It's important that we get this right. That's our charge, and that's what we endeavor to do each week.

I'm happy to take your questions.

Q. I know you got quizzed about this on the ESPN show, but what's the debate like in the room about Oklahoma, which has the No. 1 offense in the country at more than 600 yards a game, what a lot of people think is a Heisman frontrunner in Baker Mayfield, and at the same time an 87th ranked defense? How do you weigh and assess Oklahoma at this point?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Well, as you know, we look at Oklahoma as a team. We study their complete body of work, their resumé on both sides of the ball, the kicking game. We look at their opponents, how they have won, any losses that may be on the record won in Oklahoma's case.

Oklahoma, as we look at that team, obviously has the best pair of wins probably this year on the road, as I said on air, with the win at Ohio State and the win last weekend against Oklahoma State. Offense is very talented, score a lot of points. You know, their defense got the stops they needed to get last week.

We look at Oklahoma as an entire team. We look at them for a complete body of work. They're very talented. They're very good this season. You know, as we talk about Oklahoma, we talk about the team, we don't necessarily get into breaking down the defense. Obviously we're aware of their defensive efficiencies and productions, and obviously Oklahoma on offense is at the highest end and their defense is not quite at that same level. But as a team, we believe they're the No. 5 team in the country.

Q. I know you guys start from scratch every week, so you don't necessarily look at it this way, but Michigan State moved up 12 spots from last week, which is a pretty big jump. Besides obviously a big home win over Penn State, is there anything else when the committee went to look at their overall resumé this week that caused them to jump so high?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Yes. As you mentioned, they really strengthened their resumé with their win over Penn State. Also have a good win there against Iowa, an Iowa team who beat Ohio State this past weekend. When you continue to look at Michigan State's resumé, their two losses, one is to No. 3, Notre Dame, and the other is to No. 25 Northwestern in triple overtime.

Michigan State has continued to build an impressive resumé over the first 10 weeks of the season and was really strengthened, as you alluded to, with that win over Penn State.

Q. I wanted to get a gauge just how much having Northwestern in the ranking and Iowa in the ranking helps Wisconsin, and I think my confusion comes there because if Wisconsin beats Iowa, they fall out of the ranking. If Northwestern loses again, they fall out of the ranking. So as of now, they could have two ranked wins, but in a week it could change. Do you still view them as quality wins even if they're the ones who knock them out of your top 25?
KIRBY HOCUTT: You know, that's a good question, and I think as we all know, college football is so unpredictable, and trying to anticipate what's going to happen in the next three weeks is impossible. Every team in our top 25 as well as every team that is close on the cusp of being ranked either has the opportunity to strengthen or weaken their resumé in the weeks ahead, and obviously that will affect the teams that have the head to head against those particular opponents.

With that being said, it's hard to predict. It's impossible to predict what's going to happen in the coming weeks and how that's going to weaken or strengthen the resumés of these teams that we evaluate.

Q. How much does this week's ranking particularly impact or help Wisconsin's strength of schedule?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Well, you know, Wisconsin has the highest strength of schedule of any team that is ranked this particular week. Obviously they got one win against a top-25 team with Northwestern being there in the 25th spot. It's a concern of the committee as we look to rank the very best teams in the country. When the margins of separation are as razor thin as they are, strength of schedule factors into these conversations.

But also, the difference between this committee and any other ranking system in the past has been that you have 13 individuals that get to watch these games. We get to watch how Wisconsin plays each and every week, and that factors into our conversation and our decisions, as well.

Q. Can you relate the committee's conversation regarding UCF just based on the fact that they have more quality wins than maybe Wisconsin, as many wins against a team in the top 25, yet they're still at 18? Can you give an idea why you may be having them seeded below a number of two-loss teams rather than a number of one-loss and unbeaten teams?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Yeah, you know, Central Florida, I believe, Bill Hancock shared with me today could be the highest ranked Group of Five team this early in our College Football Playoff rankings. A talented team. Offensively been very impressive to the committee. Again, their strength of schedule is just going to continue to be a challenge in positioning them higher. And we as a Selection Committee spent time this afternoon talking about Central Florida, impressive team, just the strength of schedule, it's a challenge to position them higher at this point in time.

Q. If you and the committee are seeking a little more balance perhaps in Oklahoma with regard to defense and offense, let me just ask it this way: Would it be better for OU to perhaps win say Saturday's game against TCU something like 20-10 as opposed to the 62-52 track meet that you guys saw in Stillwater a week ago?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Yeah, with respect, I wouldn't necessarily say that the Selection Committee is seeking balance with any team. We're evaluating the teams and their performances each and every week, and right now we have the University of Oklahoma as the No. 5 team in the country. Boy, there's only four teams higher than they are right now, so obviously the Selection Committee thinks Oklahoma is a very talented team, and it has built an impressive resumé with some quality road wins that others in the country don't have at this particular time.

We'll continue to evaluate Oklahoma in the weeks ahead just like we have up to this point in time.

Q. But it is fair to say that you guys do see something of an imbalance there between their two sides of the ball?
KIRBY HOCUTT: You know, we evaluate the team, and when you're scoring at the rate Oklahoma is and winning games, then you're going to have an opportunity to continue to make a positive impression in the eyes of the committee.

Q. I'm just wondering if you can explain the evaluation process that moved Miami ahead of Wisconsin. It's only one spot, they were one spot behind. I guess obviously they played a bigger game this week, but if you can detail what that decision was like between those two undefeated teams?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Yeah, happy to do so. Miami was a team that the Selection Committee and all of us had seen a couple of their wins come in dramatic fashion, wanted to continue to watch and evaluate Miami, and we were very impressed with their performance against a solid Virginia Tech team that is ranked 17th this week, very impressed with Miami defensively. If my memory is correct, they threw three interceptions in their game, and their defense got four turnovers. Impressive win there. That strengthened their resumé more than, I would say, Wisconsin strengthened their resumé with a win over a three-win Indiana team. We talked about that Wisconsin game. They had a seven-point lead over Indiana going into the fourth quarter, and then Wisconsin did what top-10 teams do; they got a couple of turnovers, they stopped Indiana on a 4th down and had a short field to go in and score and stretched it, stretched that margin of victory there at the end. But Miami strengthened their resumé in the eyes of the committee with their win over Virginia Tech more than Wisconsin did in their game against Indiana.

Q. I said, I believe, that Wisconsin had the highest strength of schedule of any of the teams this week; I'm thinking you meant lowest, and I'm also just curious what ratings you're referring to.
KIRBY HOCUTT: Yes, they had the lowest strength of schedule; thank you for that clarification. And I believe, as you know, we do not look at one specific strength of schedule metric. We look at a number of strength of schedule metrics. But consistently over the course of all of those metrics that we looked at, Wisconsin had the lowest strength of schedule amongst any of the 25 teams ranked this week.

Q. So is there some sort of combination ranking of those that you look at? You're just saying that was just the pattern that emerged?
KIRBY HOCUTT: That was the pattern that emerged.

Q. I also wanted to ask what you guys thought about Michigan.
KIRBY HOCUTT: Well, Michigan is not in our top 25 this week. We did talk about Michigan. They were on the list of teams for consideration into our top-25 rankings this week. Michigan has no wins against teams with a winning record. So they were on the cusp of being ranked this week, but without those quality wins, they did not crack our top 25.

Q. With the top four staying the same, I was just curious, the gap between Clemson at 4 and the two Big 12 teams, Oklahoma at 5, TCU at 6, is there a substantial gap, or what was the discussion like when you were evaluating those teams?
KIRBY HOCUTT: You know, last week I think I said that the difference between teams through seven in last week's ranking was very narrow and close, and I would classify that similar for teams 4, 5, 6, maybe 7 this week, that it was a close margin of separation in that range of teams within our rankings.

GINA LEHE: We'd like to thank everyone for joining us on tonight's call.

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