It's almost September, and the college football season is hours away.  Fans across the country are preparing for the upcoming season, and the excitement is heating up.  It's early yet, but even my Golden Gophers might be able to win a game or three this season!  ESPN recently examined the ratings in the Top 56 metered markets around America from 2000 to 2011, and the results may be a bit surprising (see more below the jump for the cold, hard facts.)

I'm a sports betting kind of guy, but I never would have bet on the home of the #1 team in the land, USC, being only the 43rd highest rated college football market in the country.  Granted, Los Angeles has a lot going on and USC has had recent troubles, but a 1.4 local rating seems really low.  Another powerhouse in San Francisco, Stanford, finished 44th behind LA with a 1.3 rating.  Do people out west dislike college football? Or perhaps they just have better things to do with their time? It is California after all.

Probably a lot less surprising to the majority of college football fans, was the utter dominance of the South and the SEC in the 2011 ratings (as well as on the field).  Birmingham, Alabama finished 2011 at #1 overall, with a 5.9 rating.  Greenville, South Carolina (Clemson) finished 4th with a 4.1 rating, and New Orleans (LSU) and Atlanta (UGA) finished tied for 5th with 3.4 ratings. Despite their lackluster barely-better-than-.500 record, Jacksonville (UF) still finished 7th overall with a rating of 3.3.

Click "Read More" for some interesting facts from ESPN, and to see the Top 25 markets for 2011 after the jump.

 The state of Oklahoma was well represented in the final rankings: Oklahoma City finished #2 overall, with Tulsa not far behind at #7 overall.  They had ratings of 4.3 and 3.3, respectively.

– Columbus was the second highest-rated market in 2010, 2005, 2003 and 2000.

– 'Bama was the top-rated metered market every year except 2001, when Columbus knocked Birmingham to second place. Roll damn Tide.

And here are the Top 25 Metered Market final rankings for 2011:

No. 1       Birmingham: 5.9 rating
No. 2       Oklahoma City: 4.3 rating
               Columbus: 4.3 rating
No. 4       Greenville: 4.1 rating
No. 5       New Orleans: 3.4 rating
               Atlanta: 3.4 rating
No. 7       Jacksonville: 3.3 rating
               Tulsa: 3.3 rating
No. 9       Las Vegas: 3.2 rating
No. 10     Knoxville: 3.0 rating
No. 11     Dayton: 2.8 rating
No. 12     Greensboro: 2.7 rating
               Austin: 2.7 rating
               Charlotte: 2.7 rating
               Fort Myers: 2.7 rating
No. 16     Pittsburgh: 2.5 rating
               Nashville: 2.5 rating
               Norfolk: 2.5 rating
               Memphis: 2.5
No. 20     Cleveland: 2.4
No. 21     Orlando: 2.3
No. 22     Raleigh-Durham: 2.2
               West Palm Beach: 2.2
               Detroit: 2.2
No. 25     Cincinnati: 2.0
               Richmond: 2.0
               Portland 2.0
               Kansas City: 2.0
               Tampa-St. Petersburg: 2.0


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