Bill Hancock says there's been no talk of expanding playoff field

GRAPEVINE, Texas -- After what he described as one of the most contentious debates in the five years of the College Football Playoff, executive director Bill Hancock said there is still no movement to expand the playoff beyond its current four-team field.

"There's been no talk about a format change in the meetings of the commissioners and the presidents who manage the CFP," Hancock said Sunday, adding that he didn't expect any changes to the selection committee's protocol, either.

This season's debate was different from years past because two-loss Georgia, which lost in the SEC championship game to Alabama on Saturday night, was seriously considered for the fourth spot -- so much so that some committee members voted for the Bulldogs at No. 4. It was the first time a two-loss team that didn't win its league was in the conversation. Georgia didn't get enough votes, though, to finish in the top four, landing the Bulldogs at No. 5 -- ahead of Big Ten champion and No. 6 Ohio State.

"This was the kind of debate we wanted when we created the playoff," Hancock said. "We wanted diverse opinions, we wanted people who wouldn't hesitate to state their feelings, and man, we got it."

It was the third straight year the Big Ten champion was left out of the top four, though Ohio State did finish as a semifinalist in 2016 without winning its division. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told ESPN on Sunday he accepted and respected the committee's decision.

"Looking forward to a great bowl season and very proud of our champion OSU, who will be playing in the Rose Bowl against Pac-12 champ Washington," Delany wrote in a text. "Eight other B1G teams will be ready to compete in the best bowl lineup in the country. We had a great year, won many games vs. ranked teams and had a great conference race and championship game.

"The committee deemed others better, and that's their job," he said. "I respect and accept the results, although I'd love to have one or two teams playing. Looking forward, not backwards. Congrats to players, coaches and teams selected for the playoff and wish all of them the best going forward."

Selection committee chair Rob Mullens said there was "little debate" about No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Notre Dame, but that "there was division" and "occasionally contentious" debate about No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 5 Georgia and No. 6 Ohio State.

Mullens said there were some committee members who believed Georgia deserved to be No. 4, but not enough of them thought the Bulldogs were "unequivocally" one of the four best teams, which required the group to rely on its protocol.

If teams are comparable, the committee members use conference championships, head-to-head results, strength of schedule, and results against common opponents as tiebreakers, but none of those criteria are weighted.

In the end, Mullens said, Oklahoma earned the nod at No. 4 because it was "a one-loss conference champion with a dynamic offense, and their one loss was a close game to a ranked team at a neutral site," referring to Texas. Georgia was No. 5, he said, because "of their wins against highly-ranked teams, their impressive performance against Alabama in the conference championship game, and because of how balanced a team they are."

Georgia was ahead of Big Ten champion Ohio State, Mullens said, in part because of the Buckeyes' inconsistent play at times, and Ohio State's only loss was to an unranked team in 6-6 Purdue, while both Oklahoma and Georgia lost to ranked opponents.

While the Big Ten champs finished No. 6, Mullens said conference championship wins are still "very important" in the eyes of the committee.

"When you look at the history of the playoffs, look at the number of conference champions that are in the playoff," he said. "It's a large percentage, so it carries plenty of weight. But there's other factors, strength of schedule, et cetera, and as we went on in this debate, that conference championship was a key piece for Oklahoma, and it did make a bit of a difference, but those teams were so tightly together, in the end the committee thought that that put Oklahoma at 4, Georgia at 5, given their strength of schedule with only a loss to a No. 1 team and I think ultimately our No. 11 team. Their body of work was pretty strong. And then Ohio State's inconsistencies, as I mentioned in my opening statement, put them at 6."

This was the final year for selection committee members Bobby Johnson, Herb Deromedi and Jeff Bower, three coaches whose terms will expire in February. Hancock said there will continue to be coaches on the committee, but he's not sure yet if all three replacements will be coaches.