The best college football team? Isn't it time to ask the fans?

McClatchy NewspapersOctober 2, 2008 

WASHINGTON — Alabama's nationally televised rout of Georgia between the hedges in Athens last weekend earned the Crimson Tide the No. 1 spot among college football fans in the weekly Ipsos Fan First Poll.

Oklahoma (4-0), which topped both the national coaches and sportswriters' polls by beating TCU, earned only a fourth place slot among the fans polled by Ipsos. Alabama ranked No. 2 in the sportswriters' poll and fourth in the coaches' poll.

The Ipsos Fan First Poll for the first time gives a voice to college football fans, the people who spend part of their fall Saturdays wearing alumni colors, tailgating or shouting at a television screen. More well-known surveys are filled out by coaches or jaded sportswriters who are paid to follow the sport.

Ipsos, however, asks the fans in an online survey that included 2,002 college football fans.

Holding steady in the Ipsos Fan First Poll at the No. 2 slot was LSU (4-0), while fans gave a generous bump to third from 11th place to Joe Paterno's Penn State (5-0) after the Nittany Lions took out Illinois over the weekend.

Texas (4-0), which destroyed Arkansas, capped the top five in the survey of a representative sample of the nation screened for college football fans.

Georgia (4-1), which had in Knowshon Moreno perhaps its highest hopes for a national championship since Herschel Walker helped lead the 'Dawgs in 1980, dropped to sixth this week when 'Bama (5-0) kept Moreno to only 34 yards. Ugh-uh indeed.

Rounding out the top 10 were Missouri (4-0), Florida (3-1) and previously top-ranked USC (2-1), which had kicked off a week of upsets with a fall to Oregon State. South Florida (5-0), at No. 10, got the biggest bump of the week from No. 21 after clobbering North Carolina State 41-10.

The highest ranking team that had previously been unranked by the fans was No. 15 Utah (5-0).

The only team to crack the Fan First Top 20 that didn't appear at all in other major top 25 national polls was Michigan State (4-1), which held onto the Old Brass Spittoon with a win over Indiana and nearly 200 yards from the elusive Javon Ringer.

Here's how the fans ranked the teams: 1. Alabama (5-0) 2. LSU (4-0) 3. Penn State (5-0) 4. Oklahoma (4-0) 5. Texas (4-0) 6. Georgia (4-1) 7. Missouri (4-0) 8. Florida (3-1) 9. USC (2-1) 10. South Florida (5-0) 11. Auburn (4-1) 12. BYU (4-0) 13. Ohio State (4-1) 14. Oklahoma State (4-0) 15. Utah (5-0) 16. Texas Tech (4-0) 17. Boise State (3-0) 18. Michigan State (4-1) 19. Oregon (4-1) 20. Virginia Tech (4-1) 21. Wisconsin (3-1) 22. Vanderbilt (4-0) 23. California (3-1) 24. Maryland (4-1) 25. Kansas (3-1) METHOD OF FAN SELECTION:

Fans, in this poll, are selected in a rigorous multi-stage process. First, a representative sample of U.S. adults is selected from the Ipsos online panel. Of this sample, approximately 62 percent are college football fans (here defined as watching at least one college football game in a year). Ipsos then selects "avid football fans," representing approximately 25 percent of all football fans (or 15 percent of the adult population). The definition of "avid football fans" is based on an index of how often the fan watches college football games on television, listens to games on the radio, attends games in person, as well as reads newspapers and magazine articles related to college football.

For this survey, a national representative sample of 2,022 respondents from Ipsos' U.S. online panel were interviewed online (1,247 college fans and 308 avid college fans). Weighting then was employed to balance demographics and to ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the U.S. adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. Statistical margins of error are not applicable to online polls because they are based on samples drawn from opt-in online panels, not on random samples that mirror the population within a statistical probability ratio. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.

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