You can always tell the credibility of a national poll by the homework that's done behind the scenes scouring the nation's more than 17,000 high schools to determine who are truly the best high school football programs. It's an inexact science that we all know and understand, and truly difficult from the polling end to avoid naysayers finding cracks somewhere in the analysis.
Here in Texas, our perfect evidence in evaluating the latest national polls and finding a "crack" is to see which of the polls include Lake Travis High School outside Austin, and which polls don't.
Slow down now, Lake Travis fans. We have nothing at all against the Cavaliers, who are again riding the success of UT-bound quarterback Garrett Gilbert, soon-to-be-record-setting wideout Cade McCrary and new coach Chad Morris, the latter of whom knows a thing or two about leading championship programs. Our contention is that Lake Travis , enrollment 1,751, is hardly one of the top programs in the nation when a matchup for the reigning Class 4A, Div. II state champions against any of the top 20 Class 5A schools in Texas would be a tall, tall order.
However, in the national polls this week, Lake Travis is rated No. 20 by Rivals.com, No. 12 by MaxPreps.com as well as Fab 50, and No. 24 in the USA Today rankings.
The National Prep Poll is the only respected national source which has Lake Travis unranked.
Again, we love the growing program at Lake Travis, we know all the school's history (good and bad) dating back to respected coach Don Cowan and such great players that Gilbert has followed such as Ryan White, Todd Reesing and Robert Turner, just to name a few. But a 4A Texas high school in the national polls? You're kidding me.
We would have felt the same way during the past decade about Texas High in Texarkana, Ennis, La Marque or Highland Park (great 4A programs deserving of every accolade they receive) if any appeared in a national poll. It's not to say that Lake Travis or any of these 4A powers couldn't play with schools in the national top 20 or 25 but find me a knowledgeable source here in Texas who says that the pecking order of the top 4 right now is (what many of the polls say) Euless Trinity, Plano, Galena Park North Shore and Lake Travis.
Like Lake Travis, Longview and Wichita Falls Rider may also fit that bill this season: very, very good 4A programs that could win a state championship in December, but a national ranking is out of the question as an expectation.
There's a reason why state-ranked Longview lost to 5A Allen last weekend. Even if the Lobos had won, no one in East Texas would have expected the Lobos to gain national attention even if a perfect season was accomplished this year. It just doesn't happen - or shouldn't happen, for 4A schools here in Texas .
Outside the state of Texas , where private schools traditionally compete with public schools and a Class 2A school regularly lines up against the best in its own state, is a totally different matter.
One could make a similar argument about our Oklahoma neighbors Jenks and Tulsa Union: two great programs in their own state, but out-of-their-league when matched against most of the nation's top schools. If you're waiting for Jenks or Union to play a 5A power in Texas any time soon - don't hold your breath. It's not going to happen.
Back to Lake Travis: the only scar on the 2007 ledger for the Cavs (15-1 as 4A, Div. II state champs) was a loss to 5A Westlake . It wasn't an upset then, because we just don't expect 4As to defeat 5As, unless you're talking about a great 4A program matched against a poor 5A. Lake Travis does play a hefty 5A schedule during its non-district season and last weekend held off Round Rock Westwood, 27-20. An upset? Hardly. Westwood probably isn't one of top 50 programs at the 5A level in Texas .
Notably, Lake Travis and Westlake play again on Thursday night in the " Battle of the Lakes" live on FSN Southwest. We're picking Lake Travis (the highly-regarded Padilla Poll also has LT has a 15-point favorite), because Westlake is no longer a top 20 school at the 5A level here in Texas. But it shouldn't make ESPN's ticker if the result is in favor of the Chaps.
We wouldn't make the same selection if it were Lake Travis against Odessa Permian, Spring Westfield, Abilene or Katy - just a handful of some quality 5A schools that are a notch below Trinity, Plano and Galena Park North Shore .