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November 14, 2017

Kirby Hocutt

Grapevine, Texas

GINA LEHE: Good evening, and welcome to the College Football Playoff Selection Committee teleconference. Joining us tonight is Selection Committee chair Kirby Hocutt. At this time we'll turn it over to Kirby for opening statements.

KIRBY HOCUTT: Good evening. Thank you for being here. Earlier today, we completed our third ranking of the season. We began by spending considerable time weighing teams 1 through 5. Alabama is the No. 1 team in the nation. Clemson's season-long body of work, including a win over Auburn and road wins against two other ranked teams earned the Tigers the No. 2 ranking. The committee has been impressed with Miami's wins against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame and ranked them No. 3. Oklahoma with its win against highly ranked TCU is No. 4, and Wisconsin after beating Iowa is ranked No. 5.

It's fair to say that many teams remain very close throughout the rankings, head-to-head victories among comparable teams results against common opponents, and strength of schedule remain important points of differentiation for many teams. We have three more rankings to go, and I want to thank all the committee members for their hard work. I'm happy to take your questions.

Q. With Wisconsin undefeated at 5 and Auburn with two losses at 6, I'm just wondering what the conversation was like between those two teams within the committee.
KIRBY HOCUTT: There was separation between 5 Wisconsin and 6 Auburn. Very impressed with Auburn with their convincing win not only against Georgia but Mississippi State on their resumé. I think I've said before, Auburn being a physical team on both sides of the ball, I would say Auburn in the eyes of the Selection Committee is the best two-loss team at this point in the season.

Wisconsin, solid win over Iowa, who beat a very good top-10 ranked Ohio State a week earlier. Wisconsin is a team that continues to impress the Selection Committee. They're top 10 in the country in both offensive and defensive 3rd down efficiencies. Only one team has scored more than two touchdowns against Wisconsin. You know, there was separation between No. 5 Wisconsin and No. 6 Auburn.

Q. This could be the first year where two-loss teams are in the mix to potentially crack the top four by the end of the year. How do the discussions go? Does it change at all when you're dealing with a team that's lost multiple times, and is it different than what you might have encountered in the past?
KIRBY HOCUTT: No, it doesn't. Our charge is to rank the top 25 and the four best teams for inclusion into the semifinals. You know, anything can change weekend to weekend, and it does, and we'll continue to look at each component of a team's resumé as we compile our weekly rankings. But you know, if that is what presents itself here in three weeks, then the committee will handle it at that time. But it won't affect how we -- the discussions we have or ultimately how we rank these teams.

Q. How much discussion or debate was there about putting Oklahoma any higher, and in the end, why didn't you?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Lots of debate on teams 1 through 5 and where they went. Specifically on Oklahoma, we talked a lot about the Sooners. Three wins against teams ranked in the top 13 of this week's ranking, probably have some of the most impressive wins this season on the road against Ohio State and Oklahoma State. We talked a lot about their offense. It's the loss to Iowa State that did not allow Oklahoma to rank higher this week. It's that loss to a four-loss Iowa State team that has them in that 4 spot this week and not higher.

Q. So in regards to that, the difference between that loss and Clemson's loss, is that because of Kelly Bryant?
KIRBY HOCUTT: That's a fair statement. The Selection Committee continues to factor in the injury to the quarterback in the Clemson game and the fact that he returned their next game and returned at full speed. That continues to be a factor in our discussions of Clemson.

Q. What is the committee's assessment of Ohio State's resumé, specifically how detrimental is the loss to Iowa?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Well, the loss to Iowa was a convincing loss in the eyes of the Selection Committee that Ohio State suffered there. Still an extremely talented and good football team. Selection Committee was extremely impressed with the win and the manner with which the win came about over Michigan State last week. The win over Michigan State, the win over Penn State are two victories that the Selection Committee continues to be impressed with, but there again, the two losses to Oklahoma and Iowa also weakened the resumé at this particular time.

Q. Can you give me an idea of how close they were to being 8 or even 10?
KIRBY HOCUTT: You know, I said earlier that Auburn is the best two-loss team in the eyes of the Selection Committee this week. When we got into discussions on teams I would say 7 through 11, there was not a lot of separation in 7 through 11. There was a lot of conversation, discussion about that particular order. You know, not far away from being a spot or two higher and not too far away from being a spot or two lower, either.

Q. On ESPN you were talking about the debate between Clemson and Miami and noted the discussion in the room about the strong defense that both teams play. Is the committee looking at the defense and maybe putting a premium on defensive play, at least this week?
KIRBY HOCUTT: I think in my comments on air there, as we looked at No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Miami, those are two teams that are very similar on paper. Their defenses are both at a high efficiency ranking. Their offenses statistically are similar in the data that we had in front of us. So we're looking at the total resumé, the total body of work. With Oklahoma the committee had talked a lot about the elite offense and that the high level that Oklahoma is playing on that side of the ball, the amount of points that they're scoring. We're looking at the total resumé, the total body of work, and then ranking these teams as we believe they belong in this week's rankings.

Q. Kirby, two weeks ago after the first rankings, you said teams 3 through 7 were very tight. That included Clemson and Oklahoma 4 and 5, I think. Since then the Sooners have beaten OSU and TCU, TCU has beaten North Carolina State and Florida State. Two good wins I'd say but not as good as Oklahoma State and TCU, but there seems to have become more of a separation between those two teams. How did that come to be?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Yeah, I wouldn't necessarily agree with that statement. I think teams 1 through 5 are all close this week and comparable. I said earlier I think Oklahoma with their three wins against top-13 ranked teams is extremely impressive. Their road wins against Ohio State and Oklahoma, extremely impressive to the Selection Committee. As we study the total body of work, the total resumé of this college football season up to this particular given week, it's the loss to Iowa State, a 6-4 Iowa State now, that is keeping Oklahoma in that 4 spot and not higher this week. I would say still close teams 1 through 5 this week. Not sure that margin has separated between the two teams you asked specifically about, Clemson and Oklahoma, but it's that loss to Iowa State that's keeping Oklahoma below Clemson right now.

Q. I just wanted to ask, UCF rose from 18 to 15 this week; what was the discussion like when it came to UCF, and why did they rise up in the rankings?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Central Florida rose in the rankings because they earned it. They continue to produce offensively at an extremely high level. I believe they're the No. 6 scoring offense in the country. Obviously at 9-0, very impressive to the Selection Committee. As we study their total body of work, they have the one win against a top-25 team in Memphis. It's the schedule, as we talked about last week. The Selection Committee continues to like this team. We continue to spend a lot of time talking about Central Florida. You know, and we went through their schedule from top to bottom this week in our evaluation of Central Florida. They've earned that 15 spot where they are this week through their play, and the Selection Committee continues to be very impressed with Central Florida.

Q. You mentioned a couple times now that the reason Oklahoma is where they are was because of the loss to 6-4 Iowa State; Clemson lost to a Syracuse team that is now 4-6. You mentioned the quarterback getting hurt. I believe they were trailing in the game already when he got hurt. Can you just describe how that works? Is it as if that game didn't happen, or how you factor that in, the fact that that loss doesn't seem to be affecting them the same way that the Iowa State loss is affecting Oklahoma.
KIRBY HOCUTT: I would say with Clemson, in addition, and I'll answer the question about the injury and the loss to Syracuse. With Clemson we continue to look at their total resumé and their six wins against teams with a winning record is more than any other team in the top 25 this week. They have two top-25 wins. I think they've been impressive to the Selection Committee not only at home but on the road with two road wins at Virginia Tech and North Carolina State. The Selection Committee continues to be impressed with how they're playing on the defensive side of the ball.

We're aware of things that transpire in particular games. Their quarterback came into that game against Syracuse hobbled, looked like he was playing with an injured ankle. He was not 100 percent to begin with, and then when he was concussed in the second quarter, he missed the remaining part of that second quarter and the second half. He came back, they had a bye week, he came back two weeks later and appeared healthy and is back at full strength.

When we look at Oklahoma's loss to Iowa State, there was no such injury that the Selection Committee has talked about or is aware of in Oklahoma's loss to Iowa State. We're aware of all facets of all things that transpire within a particular game, and we continue to take into account with Clemson's loss the injury to their quarterback and also the fact that he came into that game not 100 percent.

Q. When you have teams that have such drastically different results in the course of a season, gigantic wins over good teams, terrible losses maybe, does it just make it a more difficult discussion as you try to come up with the true nature of that team, what that team really is as you try to balance such disparate results in one team? Is that difficult, or is that just the nature of the beast?
KIRBY HOCUTT: You know, that's a good question, an interesting question. I think it's what is a part of the enjoyment of serving on the Selection Committee is the discussion and the debate, and we talked about how we are ranking inconsistent teams, an inconsistent product week to week, and that's why I think it's important that we study the full body of work, the full resumé, and I think that's why this Selection Committee has been good for the game of college football, because what's different is we're watching these games week to week, and we do see the inconsistencies and we do see the performance of these teams.

It's a nature of what we're charged to do I guess I would say, nature of the beast is how you phrased it. It comes with our charge and our duty and one that we take very seriously and one that is challenging each and every week, one that makes it challenging to sit in that Selection Committee room and debate what is separating four to six particular teams at a time, and which team is the better team and deserves to be ranked higher.

Q. I asked you about Michigan last week and why they weren't ranked, and you said it was because they had not played any teams with winning records, and they still haven't, I don't think, and I was wondering why they are in this week.
KIRBY HOCUTT: Yeah, you know, Michigan was a team I think I said last week was on the cusp of being ranked, and you're correct, they have no wins against a team with a winning record. We looked at the two losses that Michigan has, their two losses are to Penn State and Michigan. They're a good football team with a very good defense, and you know, keep in mind, last week to this week what's changed in our rankings. Teams have lost and fallen out of our rankings, and other teams have won and moved up. I think based upon some things that happened last week with top-25 teams and our continued evaluation of an 8-2 Michigan team, they have earned the ranking of being the 24th team in the country this week.

Q. I was wondering what the justification was for putting TCU behind USC and behind Penn State when I would argue that -- did they have the highest ranked win out of all those teams. What was the justification for that?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Well, TCU is a very talented team indeed. They've lost two of their last three games, one of their losses to an Iowa State team who has fallen out of our rankings. You know, Southern California ahead of them is playing very good right now. Southern California is getting healthy. They've had significant injuries this year that as they have gotten those players back on the field, they are playing at an extremely high level, and Penn State, I believe, may have been the other team you mentioned at No. 10. Penn State has got an impressive resumé. This is a very good Penn State football team, with their only two losses being by a combination of four points to Ohio State and Michigan State. Two good football teams on top of TCU right now, but that being said, TCU is a team that at 8-2 the Selection Committee continues to hold in high regard.

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