What the CFB Playoff Chairman had to say after first poll released


It didn’t take long for the College Football Playoff Committee to spark controversy. After releasing their first poll of the 2019 season, the backlash to it has been loud.

After the reveal on national television, Rob Mullens held a teleconference to take further questions from media members around the country. Below are a few of the questions he received and his answers to them.

Rob Mullen‘s opening statement:

“Our first week of rankings for the 2019 season is complete. As you've seen, Ohio State is ranked No. 1, LSU No. 2, Alabama No. 3, and Penn State No. 4. The committee's job is to enter the room with a blank sheet of paper, meaning we start with an open mind as we consider the strengths and weaknesses of every team, from opening day through this past Saturday. Nothing else matters.

We consider a team's win-loss record, its strength of schedule, head-to-head match-ups, games played against common opponents, and eventually we'll look at who is a conference champion.

Because this is the first week of our rankings, let me remind you of how this committee operates. This process created by the commissioners is subjective. The committee has 13 different people, some of whom are athletic directors, some are former coaches, players, and one is a former journalist. Each is an expert in college football and that's why they're on the committee. We watch the games. We evaluate data and statistics, and in the end each expert uses his or her judgment to rank the teams based on who they think is best.

Inside the room, we push each other. We challenge each other. We want to be certain we have it right. We often go back and forth, debating the ins and outs so that our deliberations can be vigorous and all- encompassing as possible, which brings me to this week's rankings.

Ohio State is No. 1 because of their overall consistent dominant play each week as well as their strength on offense and defense. Undefeated LSU is No. 2 because of its tough schedule and marquee wins over Florida and Auburn. Alabama is No. 3 because committee members are impressed with its overall performance and quality of play on both sides of the ball. Penn State is No. 4 because of its strong play, which includes wins over Michigan and Iowa.

Penn State's strength of schedule gave it an edge over an impressive Clemson, which we ranked No. 5. As always, I'm grateful to the members of the committee for the many hours and hard work they put in each week before we gather. It's a quality group of people, and I appreciate their time and efforts. I welcome your questions.”

Q. Rob, when you talked about Minnesota and Baylor, you specifically mentioned their strength of schedule. You mentioned Minnesota's conference record and you mentioned Baylor's four non- conference opponents' wins, but when you talk about Alabama, there is not a reference of strength of schedule, which is also questionable. At what point does the Selection Committee value eye test more than resume?

ROB MULLENS: “Well, there's no point, one point. Obviously we watch all the games and see the data, and what you see when you watch Alabama is obviously outstanding playmakers. They've been dominant against their schedule, and while it may not be as strong as some others, when you watch the games, they certainly have been dominant.“

Q. Just curious how the discussion went between Clemson and Penn State, especially regarding the close win that Clemson had over North Carolina.

ROB MULLENS: “You know, we had a lengthy discussion about Penn State and Clemson, two really, really good teams, both strong defensively. In the end, what it came down to, and again, much debate, Penn State has marquee wins against 14th-ranked Michigan and a road win at 18th-ranked Iowa. In addition, they have a non-conference win over Pitt, which is a pretty good win at this point. So sure, the close win over North Carolina is a factor because we're looking at the entire resume, and what we see with Clemson is an impressive team, an offense that's improved in the last few weeks, outstanding quarterback, outstanding running back. I hope that answers your question.”

Q. You have a lot of one-loss teams; you've got Georgia top among those one-loss teams. Why do you think Georgia ranked the highest among those one-loss teams?

ROB MULLENS: “Obviously Georgia has beat two top- 15 teams, No. 10 Florida, No. 15 Notre Dame. They are the only defense to hold -- they're the only FBS team to not give up a rushing touchdown, which is a pretty strong statement. Obviously experienced quarterback, elite running back, but I think the separator for them at this point was the two top-15 wins.

Q. You mentioned Ohio State's consistent dominant play on both sides of the ball. Obviously all of these teams at the top have won by convincing margins in all of their games. How did the committee quantify the Ohio State dominance? Was this just an eye test thing, or were there metrics you're relying on, and can you expound on what it was that really exemplified that dominance?

ROB MULLENS: “Sure, it was both. Obviously we have data. They're highly ranked in just about every statistical category, both offensively and defensively. Again, when you watch their games, they play at a consistent high level. Again, on both sides of the ball, explosive offensive playmakers, outstanding defense, probably the best defensive player in the country at this point. Very efficient, very consistent.“

Q. I was just curious with seven undefeated teams I think it was, how would you describe the difficulty of this ranking, and can you tell us what the biggest debates were about this time?

ROB MULLENS: “Sure. Well, every ranking has its unique challenges. We take this task very seriously. We understand the importance. Everybody spends considerable time preparing for it. Each has its unique challenges, and it's not just undefeated. We're trying to compare teams in winning matters, but you're comparing teams with different schedules, with different numbers of losses against different schedule strengths, so all that goes into it. And we have a lot of debate. Obviously there was lengthy discussions about 1 and 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 through 9. There was lengthy discussions really across the board. But those are the ones that I can think of right off the top of my head.”

Q. I understand the argument for strength of schedule for Ohio State and LSU; Ohio State has been a little bit better than Clemson, than LSU. Clemson is the only team in the top 4 for both total offense and total defense, only team in the country with seven Power Five wins, only team to hold every opponent under 300 total yards. Just curious how do you reconcile Alabama? I can even understand Penn State with their strength of schedule beating Iowa and Michigan, but Alabama's strength of schedule can't be much harder if at all than Clemson's, how you reconcile not having Penn State above Alabama if you're going on strength of schedule?

ROB MULLENS: No, sure, that's one piece of it, and we do have those discussions. I think at the end of the day, when the committee watched Alabama, what they saw is a team that's being dominant against that schedule, and that was the difference between Alabama and Penn State.

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