You may have been surprised to learn that the De La Salle High School football team jumped from No. 4 in USA Today’s National Rankings last week, to No. 1 this week. This was despite the No. 2 and 3 teams in the poll, Byrnes-Duncan (S.C.) and Lakeland (Fla.), winning its games on Friday.
Needless to say, fans of Byrnes and Lakeland were quick to express their disappointment in the latest rankings. But national polls are a tricky business, and shouldn’t really be taken too seriously. For instance, Byrnes barely beat an unranked Moeller-Cincinnati team at the Kirk Herbstreit Challenge on Sept. 16. Moeller was the No. 10 team in Ohio, and here they were giving what was supposedly one of the best teams in the country all it could handle. Also, if you remember, De La Salle was USA Today’s No. 1 team at the start of the 2004 season. But it became apparent that the Spartans were nowhere close to being that good at that time, as they started the season 0-2-1.
You hear coaches and players of other teams around the country talking about how this or that is going to affect their national ranking. Coaches are scheduling high-profile out-of-state games to boost their national ranking and to get in the running for a mythical national championship. The funny thing is, you never heard the coaches at De La Salle talking about how scheduling Mater Dei, Long Beach Poly or Mission Viejo could give them a shot a national title. But the fact that Spartans played in so many high-profile games while winning national titles in 1998 and from 2000-2003 has led others to believe that you have to do the same thing.
The bottom line is, De La Salle may or may not be the best team in the country. All polls are subjective, regardless of how much work and research goes into them. I’m of the opinion that because their defense has allowed over 300 yards a game so far, the Spartans are not there just yet. But if the defense shines in a win over Mission Viejo Saturday, then De La Salle can probably lay claim to being the best in the country once again.