The start of the 2007 college football season is still two days away, and yet the University of Southern California and Louisiana State University already have the inside track to the national championship.

The USA Today Coaches Top 25 poll went out and tapped USC and LSU the top two teams in the nation, almost a month before the tailgaters even tapped the first keg of the season. Now, remember these coaches didn’t even have their own rosters completely settled, yet they were supposed to evaluate those of every other Division I program in the country and rank them. Oh yeah, and set personal biases aside while ranking them. Given this, it would seem almost unfathomable that 45 out of 60 coaches agreed that USC is the best team in the nation.

What if, say, the movie industry used a similar modus operandi? What if the critics based their reviews on an actor’s peformance in his last film? What if members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences based their Oscar votes just on how good a director’s last movie was and how many talented actors, writers, designers and key grips he’s brought back or recruited to work on his current film? We’d all consider the movie industry a joke, right? I know what you’re thinking, but just play along please.

Well, the nominations are already out for this year’s bowl games. If USC and LSU go undefeated the rest of the year, they’ve pretty much clinched a spot in the championship game, regardless of how well every other team in Division I performs this year.

Of course, the USA Today Coaches Poll only counts for 1/3 of the BCS rankings formula. Fortunately, the Harris Interactive, which replaced the AP poll as the media poll and also counts 1/3, isn’t released until after each team has played three or four games. The other 1/3 is decided by the computer rankings, which begin just before the first BCS rankings are released, which this year will be Oct. 15.

But the polls are not all equal. The Coaches Poll, just by virtue of being the first and thus, most discussed poll, does influence the other two polls. It is essentially a measurement of preseason hype that just perpetuates more hype.

This is fine with the NCAA, which eats up the publicity the polls generate. As wildly popular as it is, college football still needs something to help it compete for media attention with the preseason NFL hype and baseball’s pennant races in August.

The NCAA is just doing what every other sports entity does – looking for ways to make a buck. But because that monolith is content to do without a legitimate playoff system (also for a buck), all this discussion is the foundation for what eventually unfolds in early January.

Perhaps college football should take this concept and run with it. Let’s vote on the Heisman Trophy right now. Why let any of those silly games get in the way?

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