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Preseason polls are fun, sure, but useless

With sincere apologies to all "Jeopardy" fans, the answer is: Spam jelly, Carlos Boozer's credibility, Paris Hilton's underwear and preseason college football polls.

And the question is: What are some of the world's most useless things? OK, so maybe Spam jelly does serve some useful purpose. After all, it keeps that mystery meat-like substance fresh and pliable until it can either be served deep-fried, used to make a sandwich … or perhaps to patch a crack in your patio.

Heck, even Boozer's recent radio sports talk-show ramblings have been cause for much conversation and debate among Jazz fans. As for she's-a-celebrity-for-no-apparent-reason Ms. Hilton, and her apparent disregard for wearing a bra and panties, well, let's just say the less said the better.

But, honestly, what purpose do preseason polls serve? Does it matter that Utah, coming off its memorable BCS-busting campaign of a year ago, is ranked 18th in the first USA Today Coaches Poll released Friday? Or that the Alabama team the Utes thrashed in the Sugar Bowl is No. 5? Or that BYU was ranked 24th? Or that TCU came in at No. 17, and Boise State at No. 16? Or that defending national champion Florida, guided by former Utah coach Urban Meyer, is again the top dog in the land? Or that Notre Dame, coming off a pedestrian 7-6 season, somehow found its way into the Top 25 at No. 23? Sure, I suppose the rankings give college football fans something to talk about or even argue about ?— which, when you think about it, is pretty silly.

The polls show that a school has achieved a certain degree of national respect, or that the expectation level of a particular program is running high before the season actually starts.

But are they really useful or meaningful? No, not much.

After all, programs across the country barely began their fall practices last week; nobody has played a game yet this season, and the campaign won't officially kick off for a couple more weeks.

Isn't it a little early to list the Top 25 teams in the nation? Wouldn't it make more sense to wait, say, until three or four weeks into the season, when teams have actually played a game or two or three or four? Let's face it, rankings are often based on how a team fared last year. Many pollsters fail to take into account which players might've been lost from last year's team.

The process is inherently flawed. But I guess you've gotta start somewhere, sometime.

And one thing the polls do accomplish is that they get people talking about college football again.

That might be their only true, meaningful purpose.

Keep in mind that Utah wasn't even ranked at the beginning of the 2008 season — and wound up No. 2 in the nation (and No. 1 in the minds of many fans).

Indeed, when it comes to college football polls, it's that old cliche: It's not how you start that counts, it's how you finish.

And anyone who takes 'em too serious at this time of the year must have Spam jelly between their ears.