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A Simple Test for Those Ranking College Football Teams

Who is the best team in college football? It is August and not a single game has been played. Yet the coaches have already produced a ranking of college football teams which tells us that Ohio State is the best team in the land. Texas and USC, the contenders for last year’s national championship, are ranked #2 and #3. One wonders, though, on what information these rankings are built upon.

Ohio State lost nine starters from its defense last year. Yet, despite these departures, it is believed the players who will take the field this year – many of who must not have played significantly last year -- will lead Ohio State to the National Championship.

A similar story can be told for Texas and USC. Texas finished last season without a loss, defeating the USC Trojans for the National Championship. The quarterback that appeared to play a significant role in that outcome – Vince Young -- is now playing for the Tennessee Titans. Despite the departure of this talent, Texas is considered the second best team in the country. In other words, with Young the team was the best. Without Young, though, only one team is thought to be better.

A similar story can be told for USC. USC was lead on offense by Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush. Leinart, if he ever signs, may play for the Arizona Cardinals this year. Bush is slated to star for the New Orleans Saints. With these players USC lost to Texas last year. Without these players, USC is still expected to be the third best team in the nation.

Given all this, one suspects that the pre-season rankings are, well.... suspect.

Next up is the media, who are also going to rank the teams before any games are played. Before this ranking is posted, though, I propose a simple test for those voting in the Associated Press poll.

If you are voting, please name the eleven starters on offense and defense for each of the Division I college football teams this season.

I am not asking for an evaluation of these player’s abilities. Just a name. And you have to know all of them.

Here is my reasoning. If you do not know the abilities of the players who will take the field this year, you cannot project who is going to be good or bad. And you cannot know the abilities if you do not at least know their names.

My sense is that no journalist can name every starter on every team. I could be wrong, but that is my sense. And without this information, I am not sure one can even begin to formulate a ranking that has any real meaning.

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