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CFP Committee Explains Final Rankings

After a long and extensive process, the College Football Playoff committee has selected the top four teams to play in the coveted games on New Year's Eve. Committee chair Gary Barta answered questions from media members following the release of the final rankings.
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And then there were four. 

The College Football Playoffs are set after long hours, days, weeks and months of trying to figure out who exactly are the best four teams in the country. 

Heading into conference championship weekend, many questioned what the College Football Playoff committee would decide. 

Would two SEC schools ultimately make the playoffs? Was there any chance Cincinnati would be knocked out of the top four despite a win? What would Notre Dame, Baylor or Oklahoma State have to do sneak into the final four? Is Georgia's spot guaranteed if they lose? 

Sunday was college football's equivalent to judgement day, as teams awaited ESPN's long and fairly dragged out television circus that would eventually reveal the teams in the College Football Playoffs and accompanying bowl matchups. 

College Football Playoff Matchups

  • No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Cincinnati | Cotton Bowl (semifinal) | 1:30 p.m. Arizona | Friday, Dec. 31 | ESPN
  • No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 Georgia | Orange Bowl (semifinal) | 5:30 p.m. Arizona | Friday, Dec. 31 | ESPN

New Year's Six Bowls

  • Rose Bowl: No. 11 Utah (10-3) vs. No. 6 Ohio State (10-2)
  • Sugar Bowl: No. 8 Ole Miss (10-2) vs. No. 7 Baylor (11-2)
  • Fiesta Bowl: No. 5 Notre Dame (11-1) vs. No. 9 Oklahoma State (11-2)
  • Peach Bowl: No. 10 Michigan State (10-2) vs. No. 12 Pitt (11-2)

Committee Chair Gary Barta's Final Comments

Opening Statements

"Good afternoon, everybody. Well, it's been an exciting weekend. We started Friday night watching games and meeting, and then all day yesterday, and then when the games concluded last night, we went late into the night and went through our ranking process, got up this morning and continued through that, and when it was all said and done, you saw how it came out.

"Alabama No. 1, Michigan No. 2, Georgia at No. 3 and Cincinnati at No. 4.

"Here's some indication or some explanation of why we ranked the teams the way we did. Alabama at 12-1, Michigan at 12-1, Cincinnati at 13-0, all three of those are conference champions, and we took that into account certainly. 

"Alabama had beaten the previously ranked all year long Georgia Bulldogs at No. 1, and Michigan had beaten the previously ranked No. 13 team in Iowa, and then Cincinnati remains undefeated, the only undefeated team left in the country, and they had beaten the previously ranked Houston Cougars at 21. In each one of those games, those winners were in a dominant fashion.

"Georgia had its one loss, and that loss of course being to Alabama, No. 3 coming in, and really had been the dominant No. 1 all year long.

"Notre Dame came in at No. 5. I know that the committee has talked about that one of the protocols that's available during championship weekend is to discuss whether or not the coaching change at Notre Dame was going to come into effect and impact our rankings. 

"The Committee talked about it, but, in fact, did not see that as a factor in our evaluation.

"As for the New Year's Six bowls, you saw that the Rose Bowl chose No. 6 Ohio State to play the Pac-10 champion in Utah, and the Sugar Bowl chose No. 8 Mississippi to play the Big 12 champion, No. 8 Baylor. 

"Then the committee matched up No. 5 Notre Dame against No. 9 Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl, and then finally the committee also paired No. 10 Michigan State against ACC champion No. 12 Pittsburgh in the Peach Bowl."

Cincinnati Representing G5 Schools

"My honest response is the committee nor I have talked about the precedent of Cincinnati or a Group of Five. What we did is just watched Cincinnati play all year and watched what they were able to accomplish.

"They're the only undefeated team left in the country, and they won their conference championship last night. They beat a really good No. 5 Notre Dame on the road at their place, and it wasn't as though it was a fluke. Cincinnati won that game straight out.

"In recent weeks they beat East Carolina, they beat SMU, obviously last night they beat Houston. The committee doesn't talk about conferences, it doesn't talk about Group of Five, autonomy five. The committee really focuses on who are the teams in front of us, who have they played, who have they beaten, etcetera. 

"So maybe at some point I'll look back on it, but as of today, we felt Cincinnati was the fourth best team in the country."

Placement of Teams in Fiesta and Peach Bowl

"The committee, we talked a lot about what's the best way to go about this, and we felt strongly that the most fair way to go forward was to use our rankings as the determination.

"We went in order of the way that they were ranked, so Notre Dame was at 5, Oklahoma State was at 9, so those two were paired together, and then Michigan State was 10 and Pittsburgh was 12, so those two were paired together.

"Then we considered geography for which bowl to send each of those pairings to, and we sort of moved the West and the Midwest to the Phoenix area and then moved those teams that were a little bit further east to ACC country and to the East Coast. That's how we went about it."

Alabama and Michigan Difference in Rankings

"Yeah, last night as we had the opportunity to watch -- we had all the information on those two teams coming in. We'd watched them play. They were both in that top grouping going into championship weekend. As we watched Michigan, certainly dominated Iowa and looked strong doing it.

"When it came down to it, the win that Alabama had against Georgia; Georgia had been our No. 1 ranked team all year long, the top defense in the country all year long. So not only did Alabama beat Georgia, but the way that they were able to control the entire game. 

"When the committee got into the room, and we did have a lot of discussion between those two, there was a strong consensus that Alabama was No. 1 and Michigan was No. 2."

Seedings and Matchups They Would Create

"Yeah, just to elaborate a little bit more, we come into the room and we talk about the teams that we're going to have in that first grouping, and we usually start off with; we talk about the first six teams. We compare their body of work. 

"Obviously we'd had all the information coming into this weekend, so we focused on three of those teams ended up winning a conference championship, one of them, Georgia, lost in the conference championship.

"We don't talk at all about matchups. We talk about who comes out as No. 1. I just talked about how Alabama ended up ahead of Michigan. But we put Michigan at No. 2, and then we had conversation about where does Georgia fit in that, and then how does Cincinnati fall into place.

"So we talk about where everybody fits in terms of our committee's feelings on the ranking order and not about potential matchups, and then after the ranking, after the top 25 is done, then we start to talk about matchups, where those games are going to go, as well as start to talk about the bowl placements for the other New Year's Six bowls."

Ranking Ohio State Ahead of Baylor 

"The committee does not talk about conferences, so we don't break down the strength or weakness of a particular conference. We focus just on school by school, team by team. So that's the answer to the second one.

"To your first question, Ohio State is a team that the committee has thought very highly of all season long. They've been in the top 5. I think at one point they were at No. 2 in the country. Their loss to Michigan moved them down, but they're still, if not the best offense in the country, certainly one of the best offenses in the country.

"Baylor absolutely gets credit for their win, their championship win. They have wins over top-15 teams. One of the things the committee did talk about, and that was the loss to TCU. That definitely came up in the conversation.

"When the vote occurred, all those things were discussed, and based on those types of factors, the committee just felt that Ohio State was a better football team than Baylor. Both terrific teams, but that Ohio State was the better team."