College Football Playoff committee chair Jeff Long dropped by CBS Sports Radio on Wednesday to discuss the second installment of the committee’s playoff rankings, which were released Tuesday evening.
Long began by fielding a question about defending national champion Ohio State (9-0), which is undefeated but has looked pedestrian for much of the season. Some college football analysts have the Buckeyes as the No. 1 team in the country, while others question if they should even be in the top four at all.
How does the committee quantify or assess No. 3 Ohio State’s resume?
“Ohio State is a team that has a strength of schedule that’s representative, but their strongest games are out in front of them,” Long said on Tiki and Tierney. “But again, the difference with this committee is we’re watching these games, we’re analyzing these games and then we’re spending 10 hours discussing those games, looking at all the statistics and comparing teams against each other. In the eyes of the committee, they feel Ohio State is a strong team, and they anticipate – well, they don’t anticipate because we rank on the information we have – but they see Ohio State as a strong team.”
Brandon Tierney asked if there was one person – or multiple persons – on the committee who have been outspoken against the Buckeyes this season.
“In that room with 12 people, I would say everybody is chiming in, talking about, analyzing weaknesses and strengths,” Long said. “We’re comparing Ohio State against Notre Dame, against Iowa, Alabama – all those teams around them, we’re comparing them. And yeah, absolutely there’s people that will point out strengths, they’ll point out weakness, they’ll challenge the coaches in the room. So yeah, there’s a lot of challenging and back and forth on strengths and weaknesses of teams.”
Long was also asked about No. 5 Iowa (9-0), No. 6 Baylor (8-0) and No. 8 Oklahoma State (9-0). Why are those teams ranked as such?
“Iowa has (been) strong on both sides of the ball,” Long said. “They’re not flashy. They’ve been consistent. They’ve got two top-25 wins on the road, so I think that has really influenced the committee and gave them respect for Iowa.”
Baylor and Oklahoma State, meanwhile, are both undefeated, but the committee wants to see more from them before ranking them any higher.
“They both have the majority of their tough strength-of-schedule games in front of them,” Long said. “The Big 12 schedule is backloaded, so it’s difficult for the committee to really evaluate them because they haven’t seen them against top-level teams yet. I think Oklahoma State’s win against TCU at home was convincing, and it moved them quite a bit in our rankings. So I think we’ll see, particularly in the Big 12, the strength of their schedules are yet to come.
Long, the athletic director at Arkansas, also addressed the notion that committee members are biased toward their university, alma mater, conference, etc.
“All of us made a commitment to join this committee and act in the best interest of college football,” Long said. “We challenge each other before we go into that meeting every week. We check our hat at the door – that’s the term we use – and we check those allegiances, those relationships, those institutions we worked at, and we keep that outside the room. We think that’s really important. The management committee chose this group of 12 for their high integrity, and we take that as a real source of pride, that we’re not going to let bias creep into that room. And as chair, I check that, and we have others that check that. And I’ll be honest with you: It really has not entered the room.”
That’s good news for No. 7 Stanford (8-1), especially since Pat Haden stepped down from the committee in October. Should Stanford be worried that the Pac-12 doesn’t have a representative AD in the room?
Long says no.
“We’re not chosen to represent a conference,” he said. “When Pat Haden was chosen, he wasn’t representing the Pac-12 at all. That’s not something that we’re concerned about in the committee. We don’t represent a geography. We don’t represent a conference. There are certainly people that are very familiar with the Pac-12. Dr. (Condoleezza) Rice is from Stanford. Tyrone Willingham used to coach in that conference – both at Stanford and Washington. So there’s people in that room that know the Big 12. And again, it’s not like we’re representing those areas. We’re representing college football.”