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December 8, 2019

Ed Orgeron

Lincoln Riley

Bob Somers

Gary Stokan

Atlanta, Georgia

MATT GARVEY: This is Matt Garvey. I'm the Vice President of Communications for the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. It's our pleasure to host the media and our head coaches for our media teleconference this afternoon.

I'd like to introduce our participants today. First, representing the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, is our chairman, Bob Somers. We also have Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl President and CEO, Gary Stokan.

We will also have Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley and LSU head coach Ed Orgeron.

Before we get to the coaches, we've got a couple of brief opening remarks from Bob and Gary. So Bob, the floor is yours.

BOB SOMERS: Thank you. Good afternoon, Coaches. It is our pleasure to officially welcome the No. 4 ranked Oklahoma Sooners and the No. 1 ranked LSU Tigers to Atlanta to compete in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on December 28 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

We are over the top honored to host two of the top four teams in the country and to provide the winner with an opportunity to play for the National Championship. We are all looking forward to hosting you and your teams, and we can't wait for you guys to get here.

Congrats to you both.

MATT GARVEY: All right. Thanks, Bob. Now for a quick overview on the Bowl, I'll introduce Gary Stokan. Gary?

GARY STOKAN: Thanks, Matt. I just want to reinforce what Bob said. Coach Orgeron, Coach Riley, first off, congratulations to you and your teams for winning the SEC Championship and the Big 12 Championship.

We look at our bowl as a reward for the players, and our mission will be to provide a best in class experience on all levels of southern hospitality and first class experience.

We're awfully honored to have the No. 1 and No. 2 total offense in the country, the No. 3 and No. 5 scoring offense, and also to have two Heisman Trophy candidates in Joe Burrow and Jalen Hurts, both No. 1 in points responsible for their teams in the nation, No. 2 and No. 3 in quarterback passing efficiency, and also No. 2 and No. 3 in total offense.

We are seriously considering opening the roof at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the fireworks that we're likely to see on December 28.

So congratulations, Coaches. We look forward to hosting you, your families, and your team in the capital of college football, Atlanta, Georgia.

MATT GARVEY: Thank you, Gary. After comments from head coaches, we'll take questions from the media.

Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley, we'll take your opening comment now.

LINCOLN RILEY: Thank you. We're certainly excited to get to Atlanta. Certainly an honor to come in there and compete once again in the College Football Playoff against a tremendous LSU team that's played very well all season, beaten a lot of really good football teams.

Obviously, have a ton of respect for Coach Orgeron, their staff, their players. What a great year that they've had. And the College Football Playoff is what it should be, the best teams in the country getting ready to go at it.

Should be, certainly, an exciting time. I know our players, staff are excited to come to Atlanta, represent Oklahoma, and very excited to go compete.

MATT GARVEY: Thank you, Coach.

Coach Ed Orgeron from LSU, we'll take your opening comment.

ED ORGERON: On behalf of our football team, the great state of Louisiana, we would like to thank the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl for inviting us to such a great game.

Coach Riley, I've been following him all his career. He's done a tremendous job at Oklahoma. Oklahoma has a great tradition, outstanding football team. It's going to be an outstanding battle. We're excited to go back to Atlanta and play the College Football Playoffs.

MATT GARVEY: Thank you, Coach.

At this time, we'll open to questions from the media.

Q. Hi, Coaches. Congratulations. Hey, I understand you're focused on this year's playoff. There's always talk about expansion. Could you imagine your team being able to, considering the wear and tear of the regular season, being able to play three more games at this point in the season, three more highly competitive games, as opposed to two?
LINCOLN RILEY: I think it's possible. I mean, like you said, the focus right now is the playoff, and I think we've got a great system, obviously great match-ups here, certainly in this playoff coming forward.

So I think it's possible. Obviously, the Bowls, as everybody knows, the Bowls make that more complicated. That's going to be for a lot of other people to figure out, but I think the playoff's been a positive thing so far, and certainly looks like this is going to be another great one.

Q. Ed, if you have any thoughts on it.
ED ORGERON: You know, we're going to go to play. Obviously, if they expand it, they expand it. If they don't, they don't. I do know this: I think it would be tough on the team, the wear and tear on the football team. They would need to be careful.

Q. Lincoln, you brought a defensive coordinator, Alex Grinch, over to improve you all's defense in a conference where there's plenty of dynamic offenses there. In what ways do you feel this defense is prepared for an LSU offense like this, and how do you see it, your early thoughts of them, to stop what they can do?
LINCOLN RILEY: Defensively, no doubt we've played very well this year. Give Coach Grinch, our staff a lot of credit. And then our players, the guys have bought into a new system, a new coach, new mentality certainly on that side of the ball. While we're still improving, we have done a lot of good things and, we think, made some good progress.

Obviously, LSU is tough to stop. They've done a great job all year. Joe Burrow's had a great run, obviously played extremely well at the quarterback position. A lot of dynamic playmakers on the outside. And from what I've been able to see so far, their offensive line has done a great job as well.

So give them credit. They're really good. They do a great job. It's fortunate for us we do, through the years, get to see a bunch of really good offenses. This will certainly be as good as they face.

Q. This is for Ed Orgeron. Coach, you guys have made adjustments against running quarterbacks throughout the season. What do you see in Jalen Hurts and how your defense has been more prepared than perhaps previous in the season?
ED ORGERON: Obviously, we've played against him before. He's an outstanding player, and he actually beat us with his feet. He made big plays with his feet, and he threw the ball very well. I haven't watched him at all this year, but I have watched Coach Riley's offense, especially that counter read. I've asked him about it. I think they're one of the best in the country in running what they do on offense. They're very difficult to stop.

Q. Lincoln, you haven't had the success in the playoffs you'd like. This is four times in five years. How important is it for you guys to have made it this year, just to keep that kind of status? You're only one playoff appearance behind Clemson and Alabama now.
Coach Orgeron, I'd like to ask him, LSU got in the playoffs for the first time in the playoff format. What does it do for your program, regardless of whether you win the title or not, just to make the playoff after not being able to make it so far?

LINCOLN RILEY: For us, right now, it's just kind of we're in the middle of it so I wouldn't say there's that big picture view of having the chance to make it several times over the last few years. I mean, that's obviously a positive thing but, I mean, this is about this team and this match-up right now.

The thing in this playoff is you're going to play great teams, and you're going to have to play really well. Everybody here is going to have to play well to beat the other teams, and that's how it should be.

So it's certainly important. It's a good accomplishment, but it's not, certainly not our end goal. Our focus will be trying to play our very best here on the 28th.

ED ORGERON: You know, it says a lot about your team to get in the College Football Playoffs, especially playing in the conference that we play. So obviously, it's an accomplishment, but it's not the final destination.

I know our team is taking it one game at a time. The next scheduled game is Oklahoma so that's what we'll focus on, just like Oklahoma is. One game at a time. Let's see where it takes us.

Q. Lincoln, when you have Jalen, who has played against LSU and has played in this stadium, are those things advantages for you, or are the seasons so different that that doesn't really matter?
LINCOLN RILEY: I mean, I don't think it hurts. Does it make a huge difference? I don't know. Probably having played in the playoffs and handling just all the hype and all the outside noise that comes along with this, I would think he's going to be as prepared as anybody going into that.

But obviously, he's doing it in a different place. This is a different LSU team. I mean, there's so many different factors too. So if it is an advantage, that's great, but we've got to go take it for what it is right now, and that's just, again, kind of staying here in the present.

Q. For both coaches, I'm curious, obviously, the four teams have elite quarterback play. I find it curious that three of the four are transfers coming in.
Could you speak to just the ability to take someone, have them mold into your program, really take your program to the next level as well, and does it require elite quarterback play to get to the position your teams are in?

ED ORGERON: Yeah, well, obviously, the Joe Burrow transfer has made a difference for us. We're fortunate that the transfer rule's in place. Joe's one of the most important recruits we've had at LSU. With the spread offense, we couldn't have had success without him.

I do believe you have to have a great quarterback, obviously. Most of the teams we're playing right now have great quarterbacks.

LINCOLN RILEY: Obviously, the transfers for quarterbacks have been good to us. That goes without saying, and I do, like Coach, I totally believe you have to have very good quarterback play to get into the playoffs and to eventually win it all. It's such an important position and there's too many good ones out there.

But obviously, you know, kind of like for those guys, Jalen's been a very positive impact on our program. His has been unique because it hasn't been years; it's been months. So it's been kind of fast and furious but very positive.

Q. This is for both Lincoln and Ed. If you don't mind, have you met each other? Do you know each other? If you haven't crossed paths specifically, how long have you been familiar with each other?
ED ORGERON: Well, I met Lincoln at -- I think it was the draft. I immediately started asking him about his counter because I've been enamored with his play and his offense there. I think that's the first time we met, and we got along very well, had mutual respect for each other. I think that's the only time I've seen him.

LINCOLN RILEY: Yeah, same. I remember meeting Coach there, certainly enjoyed getting a chance to visit with him. Certainly been aware of what he's been able to accomplish throughout his career.

I'm going to have to remember what I told him about the counter play so we don't do that on the 28th.

Q. Lincoln, this is kind of along the lines of what Jason was asking. Jalen has played in this building, specifically, a lot. Does that matter? I mean, do you feel that that could be a good thing for you guys?
LINCOLN RILEY: Kind of like the other question, I mean, it certainly doesn't hurt. Having the experience, having been in it, the optics of it sometimes for a quarterback, I think that could be a positive thing.

It's kind of like the Hoosiers scene, right? I mean, the field is going to be 100 yards long, and we're going to try to put it in the end zone as much as we can and try to hold them out as much as we can. Eventually, it's going to come down to that. I certainly don't think that's going to be a differentiating factor.

Q. One more thing for me, Lincoln. Curious, the physical nature of Saturday, if you have an update at all on Kennedy Brooks, Brennan Radley-Hiles' status after they left the game.
LINCOLN RILEY: Too early right now. We just got on the road recruiting. Those guys will get evaluated here early in the week, and we'll see where they're at.

Q. Coach Orgeron, last night, you said it didn't matter where you were seeded. I was wondering, as you left Mercedes-Benz Stadium last night, did you kind of suspect you'd be coming back pretty soon?
And, also, playing back-to-back games there, is there going to be an advantage, do you think, from a familiarity, comfort standpoint for your team to play two consecutive games in the same building, same city?

ED ORGERON: I think, first of all, we loved it. What a great stadium. For me, it will help your team. It doesn't make you win the game, but it's good that you're familiar with it, the guys know the surroundings.

We're fortunate that we're able to play a great team like Oklahoma, fortunate we can go back to Atlanta because we feel it's close and we'll have a lot of fans there. It worked out in our favor. That's the way the ball bounced.

Q. Lincoln, obviously every year is a little bit different, but your paths to the playoffs have been pretty similar. Does it become easier to convince your team that this is possible because of how many times you all have been through this route?
LINCOLN RILEY: I would say yes and no. I mean, the yes would be from, you know, we've done it. We know how to do it. We've experienced it. We've lived it.

But then, you know, the makeup of the team's different, new players this year, new staff members. A lot new about the team so there's always going to be people that haven't experienced it yet either.

So I think there's a belief that it's possible. But believing it's possible and believing you really can do it are two different things. And I think for the whole time, we really believed we could do it, but we knew we had to do some things better. Fortunately, we were able to get on a run there and win some games.

So, yeah, I mean I think having accomplished it before never hurts.

Q. Lincoln, a quick follow-up to something you were asked earlier. Would you put Adrian Ealy in the same category with Kennedy and Bookie?
LINCOLN RILEY: I would. Yes, I would.

Q. For both coaches, but Lincoln, you mentioned y'all had started recruiting. I mean, this early signing period falling in between -- Ed, you talked about it too -- how are you all balancing that through this, and what difficulties does it make being in the semifinal through that time?
LINCOLN RILEY: It is what it is right now. It's a good problem to have. But yeah, a week of it is challenging. But hey, we're going to go make the most of it so we'll recruit while we're on land, and we'll study and prepare when we're in the air. So it's going to be like that for the next several days.

ED ORGERON: We're fortunate that we have most of our class committed to us right now. I'm going to see most of our guys this week. To break down Oklahoma, we have our coordinators. Most of it will be on the road. I'll do most of the recruiting, along with a couple of assistants. We feel like we have the recruiting class pretty much. We're just sewing up a couple loose ends.

MATT GARVEY: Thank you, Coaches. That will end the media Q and A portion.

Gary, any final comments?

GARY STOKAN: Coach Orgeron, Coach Riley, I hope you and your families have a very Merry Christmas, and we'll look forward to seeing you on December 22nd.

ED ORGERON: Thank you, guys. Go Tigers!

MATT GARVEY: Thank you, Coaches.

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