As Dan Jenkins' history of football polls that begins on page 28 so clearly points out, trying to rate college teams—either before, during or after a season—can be about as rewarding as wrestling Bubba Smith; all you can hope for is to get yourself exercised. Nonetheless, in this our annual College Football issue, we are entering the rating game once again, and in more detail than ever before.
We have always ventured out on some sort of preseason limb. In our early days we relied on famous football personalities to make our evaluations. Herman Hickman and then Red Grange chose our top teams—the Eleven Best 11s we called them—and perhaps because they knew how crazily a football bounces, they tended to be cautious, not really choosing a No. 1 team at all. " Wisconsin surely will deserve the national title if it wins all nine of its games," Hickman wrote in 1954. Wisconsin didn't.
Since 1962, however, the responsibility has been assumed by our own football staff, and it has always picked a No. 1, usually with commendable results. We called Texas as No. 1 in 1963 and had it on the nose. In 1964 we sagged with Auburn (6-4), but our 1965 and 1966 choices, Nebraska and Alabama, both went undefeated and untied, and you can't ask for much more than that, even though they did not get final No. 1 ranking.
This year, for the first time, our scouting reports are being focused upon the Top 20 teams of our choice, and it was felt more preparation than ever would be needed. Work began in February, when Editor Ray Cave called together members of the college football department—Jenkins, John Underwood, Mervin Hyman, Gary Ronberg, Harold Peterson and Mike Quinn—to talk about the tone, content and format for this issue. Our writers visited 40 major campuses during spring drills, assessing what coaches were saying—and looking for what they were not saying. Next our correspondents throughout the country were asked for reports, and they responded with 125,000 words of research and observation.
Then the arguments over the Top 20 began, and sectional loyalties were duly tested. Happily, our staff is a geographically balanced one. Miami's Underwood thought highly of Miami, Texas' Jenkins counterbalanced by seeing the Longhorns as far from long shots, and between them the interests of Midwesterners Peterson, Ronberg and Quinn were held in check. Easterner Hyman had little to talk about. When the Top 20 finally was agreed upon, a totally unbiased artist, Arnold Roth (Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Arts; expelled second year; no football team), was called in to illustrate the package.
Now last-minute changes are over—such as deleting the Arkansas defensive tackle who slipped on a bar of soap—and the selections are final. They will presumably raise the passionate reactions that most of our college football coverage does. But our writers arc unafraid and arc heading into this season with the same fervor that brought them through the last one—a season in which Notre Dame students closed out the year by burning 1,200 copies of our issue reporting the Spartan-Irish game, an act that prompted Jenkins, who was the author, to remark, "That puts me 1,199 effigies up on Ara." Before this season is out, Jenkins will probably increase his lead.