We're a week past July 4, which means the real countdown for the 2011 season can start.
The first kickoff is less than eight weeks away, but let's take one more look back at college sports last year before we plunge headlong into the '11 season.
While there is no doubt the SEC rules the roost in college football, the Pac-10 (technically, it's the Pac-12 now) can make the strongest case as to the best league overall last year.
Here's a closer look.
THE DIRECTORS' CUP METHOD
Gee, here's a stunner: Stanford won again, for the 17th consecutive year.
The National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics annually presents the Directors' Cup to honor what the group calls "the best overall collegiate athletics program in the country." Schools are allowed to count their 20 highest-scoring sports - 10 men and 10 women.
Stanford finished in the top 10 in all 20 sports and won two titles - men's swimming and women's water polo. Ohio State was second, California third, Florida fourth (the school's 27th consecutive top-10 finish) and Duke fifth.
The ACC had four schools in the top 10, the Big 12 and Pac-10 two each and the Big Ten and SEC one each.
The Pac-10 had five of the top 16, six of the top 21 and eight of the top 30. The ACC had five of the top 17, but the next ACC team was 45th. The SEC had just one of the top 18 but six of the top 25 and eight of the top 36. The Big Ten had three of the top 15 and seven of the top 29. The Big 12 had three of the top 12, but the next Big 12 team was 32nd. The Big East had had just one in the top 33 (Notre Dame, at No. 18).
The highest-ranked non-Big Six school was the Mountain West's BYU at 37th. The only other non-Big Sixer in the top 50 was Princeton (Ivy) at 38th. Tulsa (Conference USA) was 52nd, TCU (Mountain West) was 53rd and Denver (Sun Belt) was 54th.
Here's a look at national titles by league. There are 37 Division I national titles, including two in football (FBS and FCS). Big Six conferences won 31 of them, two fewer than last year.
PAC-10 (9) Men's gymnastics: Stanford
Men's swimming: California
Men's tennis: USC
Men's water polo: USC
Softball: Arizona State
Women's golf: UCLA
Women's indoor track: Oregon
Women's swimming: California
Women's water polo: Stanford
SEC (6) Baseball: South Carolina
Football (FBS): Auburn
Men's indoor track: Florida
Women's gymnastics: Alabama
Women's tennis: Florida
BIG TEN (5) Men's volleyball: Ohio State
Women's hockey: Wisconsin
Women's lacrosse: Northwestern
Women's volleyball: Penn State
Wrestling: Penn State
The Big East's Seton Hall, at 238th, was the lowest-ranked Big Six school. The lowest-ranked Big Six school that plays football was the Big East's Rutgers at 158th. The lowest-ranked school that plays FBS football was Eastern Michigan at 279th.
The winner: The Pac-10. Eighty percent of the league's teams were in the top 30. That bests the ACC, which had the most in the top 10 and five of the top 17; its sixth school, though, was 45th.
THE CAPITAL ONE METHOD
Perhaps getting tired of Stanford annually winning the Directors Cup, ESPN and Capital One teamed up for a new award: the Capital One Cup.
The Cup rewards schools for points in 13 men's sports and 13 women's sports. The award's official website says the sports have been chosen "based on fan interest, school participation and other factors." Points are awarded for a top-10 finish in NCAA championships and final official coaches' polls.
The sports that were chosen (again, this is based on the somewhat-nebulous criteria of "fan interest, school participation and other factors) were baseball, basketball cross country, football, golf, hockey, indoor track, lacrosse, outdoor track, soccer, swimming, tennis and wrestling for men; and basketball, cross country, field hockey, golf, indoor track, lacrosse, outdoor track, rowing, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis and volleyball for women.
Unlike the Directors Cup, which doesn't separate by gender, there are two Capital One Cups - one for men's programs and one for women's programs. Florida won the men's award and Stanford won the women's trophy.
There were three SEC programs in the men's top 10, with Auburn tied for third and South Carolina tied for seventh. The rest of the top 10 had two schools from the Pac-10 (Stanford in fifth and California in sixth) and one school each from the ACC (No. 2 Virginia), Big East (No. 7 Connecticut), Big Sky (No. 7 Eastern Washington), Big Ten (No. 10 Ohio State) and Big 12 (No. 3 Texas A&M).
On the women's side, Stanford was one of four Pac-10 programs; Cal was third, USC sixth and Arizona State seventh. The Big 12 had two (No. 2 Texas A&M and No. 10 Texas), and the ACC (No. 9 North Carolina), Big East (No. 5 Notre Dame), Big Ten (No. 7 Penn State) and SEC (No. 4 Florida) one each.
The Capital One Cup doesn't go nearly as deep with its standings as the Directors Cup (just 75th for the men and 62nd for the women).
The winner: The Pac-10. When you combine the top 10 of the men and the top 10 of the women, the league had six of the 20 slots, plus a winner. The SEC had four of the top 20, plus a winner.
THE 'BY THE NUMBERS' METHOD
In this category, we look at two variables. The first is how the leagues fared in what I consider the "big five" sports (football, men's and women's basketball, baseball and softball). The second is how many slots each league filled in the Elite Eight in each sport (there are 10 spots in football, using the BCS bowls as the measuring stick) among the "big five."
The SEC won two titles, in football (Auburn) and baseball (South Carolina); it's the third year in a row that the SEC has pulled that double. The Big East (Connecticut in men's basketball), the Big 12 (Texas A&M in women's basketball) and the Pac-10 (Arizona State in softball) had one title each.
Schools that won multiple national titles (these seven schools won 15 of the 37 Division I national titles):
3 Texas A&M (Big 12): Women's basketball, men's outdoor track, women's outdoor track
2 Cal (Pac-10): Men's swimming, women's swimming
Florida (SEC): Men's indoor track, women's tennis
Notre Dame (Big East): Fencing, women's soccer
Penn State (Big Ten): Women's volleyball, wrestling
Stanford (Pac-10): Men's swimming, women's water polo
USC (Pac-10): Men's tennis, men's water polo
As for the Elite Eight slots (there were 42), the Big 12 and SEC each had 10, followed by the Pac-10 with seven, the ACC with five, the Big East with four, the Big Ten with two and the Colonial, Horizon, Mountain West and West Coast with one each.
Connecticut and Florida led with three slots each; it's the second year in a row the Gators had three. Baylor, California, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Stanford and Texas A&M each had two.
Both of the Big Ten's slots were in football, while the Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC had at least one "Elite Eight" team in each of the five sports. The SEC had at least two in each sport except women's basketball.
The winner: The SEC. The SEC won two national titles and tied for the most "elite" appearances.
THE CHAMPIONSHIP METHOD
There are 37 national titles available to Division I teams (three of those - fencing, rifle and skiing - are open to all divisions), including two in football (FBS and FCS).
The Pac-10 led with nine team champions. The SEC was next with six, followed by the Big Ten and Big 12 with five each, the Big East with four and the ACC with two.
In all, 10 Division I conferences won at least one title, while two Division II conferences also came away with crowns, in men's golf (the Peach Belt's Augusta State, which competes in Division I in golf) and men's hockey (the Northern Sun's Minnesota-Duluth).
Winner: The Pac-10. Six league schools combined to win the nine titles.
Bring on the All-Stars
We're in the midst of baseball's All-Star break, so what better time to recognize some former college stars who have gone on to major-league stardom.
Here's a look at a darned good team that could be made up of former college players who have been chosen for this year's All-Star Game.
Catcher: Detroit's Alex Avila attended Alabama First base: Florida's Gaby Sanchez attended Miami Second base: Milwaukee's Ricky Weeks attended Southern U.
Shortstop: Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki attended Long Beach State
Third base: Boston's Kevin Youkilis attended Cincinnati Left field: Milwaukee's Ryan Braun attended Miami
Center field: The New York Yankees' Curtis Granderson attended Illinois-Chicago
Right field: St. Louis' Lance Berkman attended Rice Starting pitcher: Philadelphia's Cliff Lee attended Arkansas Starting pitcher: San Francisco's Tim Lincecum attended Washington Starting pitcher: Detroit's Justin Verlander attended ODU
Starting pitcher: Anaheim's Jared Weaver attended Long Beach State
Starting pitcher: Texas' C.J. Wilson attended Loyola Marymount
Reliever: San Francisco's Brian Wilson attended LSU
Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.