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November 27, 2018

Rob Mullens

Grapevine, Texas

GINA LEHE: Welcome to the College Football Playoff Selection Committee teleconference. Joining us tonight is Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff, along with Rob Mullens, College Football Playoff Selection Committee chair.

At this time we'll turn it over to Rob for opening comments.

ROB MULLENS: Thank you, Gina. Good evening, everyone.

Our penultimate rankings are done. Here they are: Alabama is No. 1, Clemson is No. 2, Notre Dame is No. 3, and Georgia is No. 4.

Six teams in last week's top 25 lost games, including three top 10 teams: Michigan, LSU and Washington State. As a result, Georgia moved from No. 5 to No. 4, Oklahoma moved from No. 6 to No. 5, and Ohio State went from No. 10 to No. 6.

As you know, the conference championship games are coming up. The committee will return one more time to discuss our final rankings.

While many of you on this call will want to look ahead and speculate, I remind you it is not the job of the committee. I'm more than happy to talk to you about this week's rankings, but I hope you understand if I don't look ahead and talk about the 'what ifs' based on upcoming games.

It's been another exciting year in college football and I'm glad to take your questions.

GINA LEHE: We will open it up for questions.

Q. I know when you guys are in there evaluating the teams, you do it in chunks of three. In terms of the 4, 5 and 6 spots, how close are Georgia and Oklahoma, or not close? How close or not close are Oklahoma and Ohio State?
ROB MULLENS: I mean, obviously you've been through the mock process, and you understand how it breaks down.

But I really don't have a measurement for closeness. What I can tell you is that as we look at that grouping, 4, 5 and 6, as we do every week, we take a deep dive.

There was a lot of discussion about Georgia, about Oklahoma, and about Ohio State. At the end the committee voted Georgia 4, Oklahoma 5, and Ohio State 6.

Q. How much was the injury to McKenzie Milton talked about in the room? How much of a factor was that in ultimately keeping them behind two-loss Michigan?
ROB MULLENS: Obviously our thoughts are with McKenzie and his family. Wish him a speedy recovery, first and foremost.

It was discussed. We watched the games. We know exactly what happens in these games. The discussion did turn to that UCF outscored South Florida 28-10 with a backup quarterback in there. We're also aware that UCF played with a backup quarterback, I believe it was in the East Carolina game.

While they may have had to change their approach, it was still effective and they won a game 38-10.

Q. Obviously Ohio State has been inconsistent this year. How much of a statement was the Michigan victory?
ROB MULLENS: I mean, it was their most complete game of the year, an impressive win. The committee certainly took note of that. We moved them from No. 10 to No. 6. So clearly it had an impact.

Q. How much question is there still about Ohio State's defense in particular?
ROB MULLENS: We look at the full body of work, of course. The defense played better against Michigan, but that still is probably the shortcoming. Their offense has been able to carry them.

Q. You mentioned on the ESPN show the historic nature of this Oklahoma offense. What kind of discussions have you had about that subject, not how effective they are but historically they seem to be incredibly productive?
ROB MULLENS: Well, obviously we watch the games, then we look at the résumé. We also look at the statistics. When you look at the numbers, while their defense has been a challenge, their offense has been superior. They find a way to win the games based on the talent that they have. That lines up that the offense carries them.

Q. I want to ask you about LSU and how much obviously their loss to Texas A&M had some impact, but not a tremendous amount for the highest --
ROB MULLENS: You cut out there. The highest did you say three-loss team?

Q. Obviously their loss had some impact, but they're the second highest ranked three-loss team. Your thoughts on LSU?
ROB MULLENS: I mean, strong résumé. Impressive wins over Georgia and Mississippi State. Their loss, although they have three, happened to be the No. 1 team, on the road against the No. 9 team, and 7 overtime game against another ranked opponent. They've played five games versus CFP top-25 teams, strong résumé, overall a quality body of work.

Q. If a team has a loss earlier in the season, that team has the opportunity to play that team again, and beat them, how does that change the view of the committee of that previous loss?
ROB MULLENS: That's a bit of a speculative question. We're not looking forward. I don't know really how I can answer that question. We look at each game individually. Collectively I don't know that it will reflect back.

Q. It will still count as a loss, in your mind?
ROB MULLENS: If they lost the game, the results are the results, and we have those results.

Q. What distinguished the three-loss teams from each other? Specifically with the three SEC three-loss teams, what held Kentucky five spots back from the other two, even with the head-to-head win over Florida?
ROB MULLENS: Total body of work. I mean, Florida had the head-to-head over LSU. Obviously Kentucky did have the quality win over Florida and over Mississippi State.

Again, I think it's just total body of work. When you start to line those up, when you get to the end of the year here, sometimes it is more difficult to distinguish. But when you look at Florida's overall body, with their wins, it put them at 9, LSU at 10, then Kentucky at 15.

Q. When you're looking at a team like Ohio State, how they've improved over the course of the past month from a loss to Purdue to a win over Michigan, how much do you weigh that loss that they had a month ago against the way they just performed this past weekend?
ROB MULLENS: Well, we look at every game. It's up to each committee member how they weigh them. Obviously we look at game 1 through game 12 or 13.

As I mentioned earlier, we saw the impressive win over Michigan, the complete game. But I saw the Maryland game the week before, and every other game.

It's about the full body of work. That's why we watch the games. That's why we discuss it. That's why we look at the data.

Q. When you're looking at both teams' full body of work, how much are you weighing the strength of their wins versus what their losses were?
ROB MULLENS: All of the above. I mean, again, we look at every game. The wins, the losses all get lined up, and we measure them.

Q. Other than the fact the final ranking is the one that means something, the other difference is there's at least one factor or criteria that you can apply that's not even available to apply in these preliminary rankings. We don't have any conference champions yet. Obviously that's one of the factors if you start distinguishing among like teams. Is there a way to consider, from your experience in the past, give us insight into how that changes things in the final selection versus all the previous ones?
ROB MULLENS: It's another data point. When you look at the protocol, it's very clear when teams are comparable at the margins, there's four things to look at: obviously head-to-head, comparable opponents, strength of schedule, then the one you mentioned, conference championship. It is the one data point that becomes available at the end of the season that's not available during.

Q. Back to Ohio State and Oklahoma. Two schedule questions. Which has the stronger schedule either in the eyes of the committee or from the data that you have at your fingertips? When you do look at the common opponent in TCU, because you're not looking at running up the score or margin of victory, what are you looking at against that particular opponent for both of those teams?
ROB MULLENS: Taking the second question first. Both of them played TCU away from home. That's pretty consistent, I would say with comparable results. Very similar there.

The first part of the question, again, you look at Oklahoma, you see their only loss is to a ranked Texas team at a neutral site, impressive road wins against ranked West Virginia, ranked Ohio State.

You line that up against Ohio State with a loss against Purdue, then obviously an incredibly impressive win versus Michigan last week, then a quality road win over Penn State. That's how you start to line it up.

Q. Do your analytics say one strength of schedule is significantly better than the other or are they fairly comparable?
ROB MULLENS: I mean, they're in a similar band. One is at the end of one band, and the other is at the end of another one. So they're comparable. One has a little bit stronger schedule. Oklahoma has a little bit stronger schedule than Ohio State at this point.

Q. When Washington State suffered its second loss this past weekend, it fell from 8 to 13. It's now behind four three-loss teams. Would it be fair to say the non-conference schedule is what's keeping them so much further back than the other two-loss teams?
ROB MULLENS: You know, it's always a function of more than just one thing. Obviously they lost to a Washington team, which allowed Washington to jump ahead of them. Then you start comparing them to some of the other teams around them. Penn State, two of their three losses are to CFP top-10 ranked teams in Ohio State and Michigan.

Strength of schedule is one piece of it. That certainly is a part of it, but it's more than that.

Q. You've been asked about Ohio State and Oklahoma a lot. I still feel like I don't have a sense necessarily for how you came to this decision. Why is Oklahoma ahead of Ohio State?
ROB MULLENS: Again, we evaluated teams 4, 5 and 6 in that ranking. Talked a great deal about their full body of work. I think I mentioned, but I'll repeat it, that Oklahoma's only loss is to a ranked Texas team on a neutral field. Impressive wins against a ranked West Virginia, a ranked Iowa State. Historic offense. We understand the defensive struggles.

Ohio State, impressive win over Michigan. Certainly their most complete game. Quality road win over Penn State. Loss to Purdue. Somewhat inconsistent in the second half of the year. But, again, most complete game against Michigan.

As the committee voted it, they voted Oklahoma 5, Ohio State 6.

Q. The big talk today is the Oklahoma-Ohio State comparison. Coincidentally, the athletic directors of those schools are on your committee. I know they're not in the room, not in the discussion or the vote. Has that added any kind of element of tension or even fun? How has that dynamic played out in your discussions this week?
ROB MULLENS: As you know, when we agree to serve on this committee, we all check our hats at the door. We understand the importance of the integrity of the process. We've had a very strict recusal process. As you mentioned, you're blocked from voting for your school. You're removed from the room if your team is up for discussion.

In the five years that integrity has carried through, and it continues to. We're all professionals. We all understand the task at hand here, the importance of it. Everyone's certainly carried that out.

GINA LEHE: Thank you, Rob. Thank you to the media members on tonight's call.

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