The SEC loves to remind everyone how good it is. The ACC says to "Bring your A-game." The Pac-12 walks and talks like a Duck. And Bob Stoops represents the Big 12's bragging rights against the SEC. The nonconference schedule is the one time during the season when head-to-head results determine which conference is truly the best, but if you ask the members of the College Football Playoff selection committee, they don't seem to care too much about conference hierarchy.
The committee has made it clear that strength of schedule will be a factor in determining the top four teams, but how is that metric determined? The bulk of games are played against conference opponents, so it would make sense that the committee would need to determine which conference is the best before it determines who has the toughest schedule.
In wide-ranging interviews with four committee members last week -- Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long, Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich, Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez and former NCAA executive vice president Tom Jernstedt -- none cared to compare conferences.
"At this point in the process, I don't think in terms of conference strength," Long said. "I think at the end of the day that's something we'll look back on and say [how relevant conference strength was.] ... The balloting process we do will compare teams against each other and who they've played, and I think that's less about conference than it is who they've played, even within a conference."
"I don't think there's any need to make a judgment as to this conference is better than that conference," he said. "You sit there and evaluate this team versus that team. Our obligation is to select the four best teams."
Here's a look at their responses to a few other topics:
Do you pay attention to the other polls, the AP Top 25 and the coaches poll?
DR: You look at them, but I can't say that I study them at all, knowing that we're going to have to make our own independent decisions associated with that. They're out there and they're good for the fans. They're good for benchmarking at early points in the season, but for our task, and what has to happen at the end, there's a lot of football that needs to be played.
TJ: At this point I review and am interested in all of the information I can gather, from all different sectors. I have a chance to sift through it between now and when we have our first meeting, and I'll make my own evaluations and assessments day by day and week by week, and study and review and prepare myself for our first in-person meeting. So by the time we get to Dallas on Oct. 27-28, I will make judgments on my own based on the information I've accumulated the preceding 7-8 weeks.
BA: I look at them, sure. Are they meaningful? No, but I'm aware.
Do you compile your own top 25?
JL: No, I'm not doing a top 25 at all. I'm simply, looking, evaluating and processing. I purposely haven't paid a lot of attention to the polls that are out there. I know they're there. You can't watch a game and not know who some of the top people are, where they're ranked, but I'm purposely not looking at a top 25 and have not put a top 25 down at all in my practice. Mine will be leading up to that very first meeting where I'll have the maximum amount of information I can prior to ranking.
BA: I list my own top 25 every week. I've got one of our statisticians help me. He works in our sports information office and he's a stat nut. We look at statistics, we watch film together, we sit down and he and I talk about the games and put our things together.
DR: Not yet. I still think it's maybe a little early. Maybe before we head into that room in Dallas I'll figure out exactly how I want to come up with that just so it's not the first time doing that at the end of October, but right now, it's still a little early.
TJ: No, but I am looking at every poll that comes out just out of curiosity. It registers, and I keep track of it, but I've not done my own.
What's the one thing you're looking for when you're watching these games? Is there one statistic you rely on more heavily than the others?
DR: At this point in time there isn't. The reason why is because -- I'll take Clemson for an example. We scored 73 points against South Carolina State. That's an outlier. If you're looking at a particular statistic, such as turnover margin or how many times did you score when you were in the red zone, or defensive touchdowns or turnover margin, all of those different things. Right now, it's too early to be able to say that that is a definitive statistic. There are a group of more highly correlated statistics that over time have been shown that those things working together produce most of the time a very successful team. But I don't think that for me there would be one statistic that would be a group of those.
BA: Wins first. There's a statistic on relative offense and relative defense performance. In other words, let's say a team scores 50 points four games in a row, but the teams they're playing give up an average of 45, and then you've got someone who's played a very difficult schedule and they're averaging 21 points a game, but the teams they're playing only give up an average of 10 points. There's a huge difference there. That variation on both offense and defense are very telling statistics. Your average starting field position, your turnover margin. There's a whole battery of statistics I gave [the statistics company] a list of that I'll take a list of. We can all tailor our own stats.
TJ: No, I'm just gathering as much information as I possibly can and sorting through it, and I'm still in that process right now.