Everything the College Football Playoff Committee said to justify the new CFP Rankings

The fourth release of the College Football Playoff Rankings are out, and color me shocked. The group-think committee went against history and actually vaulted Ohio State up above Alabama to the No. 2 slot behind Georgia, and just ahead of Cincinnati. Folks in sweet tea and grits country won’t like it, but OSU’s resume is stronger than the Crimson Tide’s, and the Buckeyes are playing better. So yeah, it makes sense.

After each rankings reveal, College Football Playoff Selection Committee Chair, Gary Barta, has to come out of the cave and sit in front of the firing squad of media members to justify why the group ranked teams the manner in which we see them. It’s a thankless and impossible job (hint: he has to act like he agrees with everything) but it’s the course that’s been set for “transparency” and accountability.

Or so it seems.

Each week we like to regurgitate everything Barta says in response to questions he gets from media members so you can get an idea of what went into making the sausage there in Grapevine, Texas. It’s no different this week.

Here is everything the CFP Committee said through the voice of Gary Barta on Tuesday night.

Introduction

BRETT DANIELS: Welcome, everyone, to the fourth College Football Playoff Selection Committee teleconference for the 2021 season. Joining us again tonight is Bill Hancock, the executive director of the College Football Playoff, along with Gary Barta, College Football Playoff Selection Committee chair. I’ll turn it over to Gary for his opening comments.

GARY BARTA: Thanks, Brett, and good evening, everybody. Happy Thanksgiving. As Brett mentioned this was our fourth meeting for the CFP Selection Committee this year. You’ve seen our rankings, Georgia 1, Ohio State 2, Alabama 3 and Cincinnati at 4.

Undefeated Georgia continues to dominate, to just play great football on both offense and defense, so they came in at No. 1.

Ohio State following its incredible performance against a good Michigan State team is No. 2. The committee was certainly impressed by their win on Saturday.

Alabama comes in at 3 coming off a relatively close win against Arkansas. In the eyes of the committee, that result when you combined it with Ohio State’s performance against Michigan State resulted in the ranking of those two teams.

Cincinnati was previously ranked 5. They won again. Their victory over a good SMU team combined with Oregon’s loss led the committee to rank Cincinnati at No. 4.

Oregon, Michigan State and Wake Forest all dropped in our rankings, and that’s probably not a surprise. That’s a reflection of how soundly each team was defeated last week in combination with the teams around them winning their games.

We will return next week for our second to last ranking, and as always, just appreciate the hard work of the committee. With that I’d be happy to take any questions.

On whether Ohio State’s offense or defense was more impressive against Michigan State

GARY BARTA: It certainly gets your attention, though, when they’re up 49-0 at half. They had three receivers all over 100 yards for the game, and CJ Stroud played great again. I will say this, though. You mentioned their defense. They were able to hold — we all know that Kenneth Walker is a great running back, and Ohio State was able to hold him pretty much ineffective.

Some of that had to do with once the score got away, I think Michigan State had to play a little different. But to your point, solid performance both offensively and defensively.

On the committee’s consensus about Michigan at No. 5

GARY BARTA: Michigan, we’ve talked, especially the last several weeks about just them being a complete football team. They’re well balanced. Their offense and defense are both ranked nationally in most categories. Their best win to date is at Wisconsin. They also had a good win at Penn State. Very good football team, well-balanced, and obviously looking forward to watching Ohio State and Michigan play this weekend.

On the three-team Big 12 teams and the potential of how strong the team that survives that could be

GARY BARTA: Well, I don’t want to predict how strong the survivor will be. You make a good point. You have Oklahoma State at 7; they’ve beaten Baylor. You have Baylor ahead of Oklahoma and you have Oklahoma 10-1, their only loss to a good Iowa State team. You’re right, they’re fairly bunched close together. There’s games to be played among that group.

I think you know my answer about projecting. I’m not going to project forward other than to say that we get to see some good football ahead.

On the value of a conference championship still

GARY BARTA: It continues to be another piece of information, datapoint, whatever you want to call it, that the committee will certainly pay close attention to. Those are generally games against two really good football teams, so it’ll be an important piece of the evaluation in that last ranking.

On Clemson’s close losses against ranked teams and what it meant for the Tigers entering the rankings for the first time

GARY BARTA: We definitely talked about it, and we did talk about how Clemson played Georgia in that first game, their other losses against Pitt and North Carolina State. To your point, they played — they didn’t have a bad loss. Their best win was the win this weekend. Prior to that, they really didn’t have a signature win.

One of the things, though, the committee has been impressed with, Clemson has been playing really strong defense all year, so even though they haven’t been in the top 25, the committee has been watching them every week.

On how difficult the discussions are in regard to Cincinnati and its schedule

GARY BARTA: I don’t want to say it’s difficult, but as you know, we have 13 people in the room, and there’s a lot of opinions. The discussion goes back and forth.

What I meant, and for everyone listening, we look at these — when we rank, we look at groups in pods. So we did compare Cincinnati upward with Alabama, Ohio State and Georgia. But then we also had them on the board with Michigan and Notre Dame and Oklahoma State.

The fact is there’s only three undefeated teams left, and Cincinnati is one of those, Georgia and UTSA being the other two. The win against Notre Dame at Notre Dame has always impressed the committee.

The strength of schedule is always a conversation with Cincinnati. It still was a conversation this week, but they played an 8-2 SMU team, and not only did they play them, but they controlled both offensively and defensively.

Just a week ago, the committee had Cincinnati ahead of Michigan, and Michigan played at Maryland, they won, Cincinnati beat an 8-2 SMU team. So when we have all the discussion and then eventually there’s a vote taken, the vote came out with Cincinnati ahead of Michigan again, 4 and 5.

On why Michigan continues to be ranked ahead of other one-loss teams like Notre Dame and Oklahoma State

GARY BARTA: I think the win at Penn State has gotten the committee’s attention. Michigan has also been a well-balanced team pretty much all year, so it’s been a consistency for most of the year. Notre Dame started out a little bit slower. They’ve certainly come on. But they’re also — their last three games, they totally manhandled Georgia Tech.

Georgia Tech, Navy and Virginia were their last three wins, so they haven’t had the strength of schedule that they had earlier.

Oklahoma State, their defense has been terrific. They have a great win against Baylor. Texas Tech couldn’t do anything against Oklahoma State’s defense this past weekend.

Their offense shows signs at times. They do enough, Spencer Sanders and that group do enough, but they’re more defensive-minded. They have the loss on the road at Iowa State.

So all of that is considered, and that just gives you a sense of some of the things we talked about among those three teams.

On how close the top three teams of Georgia, Ohio State, and Alabama are

GARY BARTA: You know, we have conversations, and you can get a sense through conversations and people’s opinions and their questions kind of how people feel about each team. Georgia is undefeated, and I just said a minute ago that there’s only three undefeated teams left, and for Georgia to be 11-0 and against the schedule that they play continues to get the committee’s attention.

The defense that they play, they have the best defense in the country, Jordan Davis and company, and their offense is still a top 10 type offense. They do have wins against Clemson and Arkansas.

When we voted, Georgia came out on top. There was more conversation between Ohio State and Alabama. I went through that a little bit earlier in terms of why the committee put — ended up putting Ohio State ahead of Alabama this week, but both are considered to be great teams, not just good teams.

All three of those teams received great conversation. Ohio State offensively is considered to be the strongest in that group, but Ohio State’s defense is better. Georgia may be the best defense there, and Alabama both offensively and defensively. It’s just exciting to see those teams continue to get better every week.

But when it came down to the vote, Georgia, Ohio State and Alabama in that order this week.

On Oklahoma and Oklahoma State’s growing perception

GARY BARTA: Oklahoma only has one loss. You’ve heard us talk previously about the strength of their schedule not being as difficult as some of the others. The Iowa State win was a heck of a football game, first of all. The fact that they were able to hang on and win that game, the committee certainly considered that. Their only loss is to a really good Baylor team.

There’s never a discussion about separation; right now it’s 7, 8, 9 and 10. When this week occurs, obviously Oklahoma State and Oklahoma play each other, and that will be a piece of information that will be important to add to the conversation.

On whether Oklahoma State is also being evaluated with the teams ahead of it as well

GARY BARTA: To say yes because they’re ranked No. 7, and their defense continues to be strong, they certainly get included in discussions with people above them, with Michigan, but you are where you’re ranked. Right now they’re at 7, and as I said earlier, they have a big game coming up that can add to their resume.

On evaluating big numbers on offense vs. a strong defense, specifically with Oklahoma State

GARY BARTA: You know, last week I said the committee watches every team is a little bit different in their style, and the committee watches every team and starts to recognize their style.

I know this, and I’m not saying this to be smart-aleck; if you win 23-0, if you don’t let the other team score, you’re going to win. Defense wins championships and all those things.

The challenge is can that defense hold up against a dynamic offense, a much more dynamic offense. If they end up continuing to win by playing great defense, the committee will recognize that and rank them accordingly.

I only say that their offense hasn’t reached some of the levels of some of the offenses because if you’re a complete team you have both sides of the ball. They’ve earned the right to be No. 7 because they’re only giving up about 13 points a game, at least in conference play, and so they’re a terrific team. We’ll just have to see the rest of the way out how it plays.

Who advocates for Iowa when Barta (Iowa AD) recuses himself for those discussions

GARY BARTA: Well, you know, as you know, not only do I put a hat on the door, we all do figuratively and literally, but I’m not in the room when Iowa is discussed. So when I come back in, what I’m told is how the ranking turns out.

In terms of advocate, there’s really not an advocacy for anybody. There’s 13 teams, 13 individuals having discussions, 12 when I’m not in the room for Iowa, having discussions about how they feel about each team. There is a conference representative, so each conference has people on the city who talk to the conference on a regular basis to get the conference feedback, but there’s really not an advocacy. It’s people’s individual opinions on how Iowa plays, what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are and where they think they belong, in this case 16th.

Feedback asked on why Iowa is No. 16 vs. Michigan State at No. 12

GARY BARTA: I think one of the things the committee talks about with Iowa and one of the things I certainly recognize watching them every week is defense is certainly a strength, and some wins over Iowa State and Penn State and Minnesota and no bad losses and having won three in a row. But beyond that, I don’t have a lot of conversations one-on-one about why Iowa is here or why Iowa is not there.

BRETT DANIELS: This concludes this week’s Selection Committee call.

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