ESPN The Magazine polled 135 college football players to break down the upcoming season from both a national and a conference perspective.
The results for the Pac-10 were interesting.
First, the players not only picked Stanford to win the Pac-10 championship -- 44.4 percent -- they also named Jim Harbaugh as the best coach (44.4 percent). Said one player: "They were terrible when I first got here. That's all Harbaugh -- he's brought in a completely different level of player."
Best player was Washington QB Jake Locker (33 percent).
But this question -- and answer -- struck me:
1. Is your school in the right conference? YES: 66.7 percent | NO: 33.3 percent.
Which conference do one third of the Pac-10 players polled want to be in?
It's notable that players from the Big East (100 percent), SEC (100 percent), Big Ten (93.8 percent) and ACC (93.3) were overwhelming happy in their conference. As for the Big 12, 25 percent said they were not in the right conference.
Judging from the offseason news about commissioner Larry Scott raiding the Big 12 in order to build the Pac-16, perhaps the Big 12 players want to join the Pac-10.
Or do the Pac-10 players want to join the Big 12? Confusing? Yes.
Wait. There's more!
Turning to a national perspective, guess whose uniforms rate No. 1.
This was an Oregon landslide (53.7 percent). One Big Ten star was particularly blown away. "I don't even have to think about that one," he says. "I almost wanted to transfer there just for those uniforms." As for worst unis, winner Wyoming's brown-and-yellow jerseys elicited 18.9 percent. Wonders one player: "The worst colors ever? What is that, piss and poop?"
Ah, the generation gap. Traditionalists make fun of Oregon's uniforms. But players love them.
As for best coach, that's Alabama's Nick Saban, which I'd second, though Florida's Urban Meyer has to be 1B. But a Pac-10 coach did get mentioned.
As for the last coach you'd ever want to play for, players aren't rooting for USC's Lane Kiffin (29.6 percent). "He's an awesome football coach," says one O-lineman. "But he took a program for one year, talked a lot, then left them out to dry."
But guess what: The first part of that statement will be what matters going forward -- and by that I mean whether it proves true or not.
And, again, sorry to disappoint the folks who constantly pipe the tired "Jake Locker hasn't done anything" but the reality is the players see the same things that NFL draft experts do. To the question of the nation's best player:
Shocker! Reigning Heisman winner Mark Ingram won with 51.1 percent of the vote. But No. 2 was a real surprise. Forget Terrelle Pryor. The dual-threat QB players love is Washington's Jake Locker (14.1 percent). They're in awe of the senior's talent (4.39 40, drafted by MLB) and understand why both Mel Kiper and Todd McShay project him as a possible No. 1 NFL pick in 2011. "Best QB in the country. Best prospect, too," says a fellow top draft prospect.
Finally, you can read what players think about a potential playoff here.