- Written by INSIDE99

Here it comes...that time of year when the Preseason College Football magazines and polls start rolling out. But what goes into a preseason ranking? How do we determine poll position? There are several factors that come into play when making that determination and I am going to see if I can lay them out the best I can. Here is a "flexible" chart I go by when making those decisions with the most important factors towards the top.

1. RETURNING STARTERS / KEY LOSSES - these numbers can be misleading at times. Ranking gurus sometimes put too much emphasis on this factor, much like recruiting gurus use numbers such as 40 speed and bench press too often when grading a high school player. It doesn't always translate once the ball is snapped. Nonetheless, this statistic rules.

2. PREVIOUS YEAR'S RANKING AND RECORD - this area should hold as much weight as the first. Generally the two get combined and come to form something known as a "power rating" which can be measured in numbers.

3. INTANGIBLE MEASUREMENT - talk about tough, this one area is what separates the real polls from the pretenders. This includes information such as recruiting success the last 3 years, newcomers, transfers, redshirts, backups, and requires large amounts of educated speculation. Why? Because this info is not always easy to find and requires more time and research. Info on starters and star players is easy to locate, but what about the redshirt freshman that was a Gatorade Player of The Year in high school, or backups that need to fill holes? I use the term educated speculation because none of these numbers can be added up, as many players falling into this category haven't had enough snaps. Opinions come into play, which requires shuffling through the hearsay. You would be amazed at the number of emails I get talking about this redshirt freshman All-American, or this new transfer will be another superstar, all before he has played a down.

4. CURRENT HISTORY - quite the oxymoron. This definition falls under how a team has faired the last 5-10 seasons. Boy, does Florida ever make an example of this category heading into 2003…pretty important. So the Gators have lost a ton from last season, but it becomes difficult removing them out of the Top 25 because of what has been accomplished the last 10 years. Consistency! Kansas State is another team in 2003 that lost some key players, but so many Top 10 finishes as of late keeps them in consideration. If I didn't know this category, the Cats wouldn't have seen the light of a Top 10 position.

5. COACHING - what more can be said here. Believe it or not this is a small factor. Larry Cooker...does a new coach effect rankings? Apparently not enough to keep the Canes from winning titles. Is JoPa going to turn things around? Can Tyrone Willingham make the calls to get 9 wins again?

One factor I refuse to use in my Preseason predictions is the schedule issue. I do not look at toughness of schedule 95% of the time when making predictions. Anyone that does is operating under a completely different set of rules. So I will submit two polls. One is a preseason poll; the other is a poll where I feel teams will finish. Folks can use that one to grade in January.

2003 TEAMS THAT ARE HARD TO READ: Here is my list of teams that lost so many players from 2002, it's hard to figure out where to place them. You will see these types of teams vary depending on the poll:

1. Southern Cal - No more Carson Palmer, no established RBs (a huge factor), but solid talent across the board.
2. Penn State - The great Larry Johnson has departed. Has JoPa recruited the kids necessary to pull in a Top 25 ranking?
3. Iowa - Lost the kitchen sink on offense. Kirk Ferentz is one of the best coaches in the nation. It should be interesting watching this team and how they develop.
4. Boise State - Only 10 starters back. Then again, there is the Dinwiddie factor.
5. TCU - Another team with huge loses. They have shown consistency however over the course of the last 3 seasons.

With all of the polls that will be out there, watch out for the ones that provide no data whatsoever to back their claims. They just list #1 though #25. To me, this is what separates the creditable's from the wanna-be's.