ESPN Grade is a new way to think about college football polls -- uniting on-field outcome with educational results.
A top 25 football program's ESPN Grade is calculated by combining its ranking in The Associated Press and USA Today coaches' polls, then adding its position in a top 25 sorted by football graduation rates.
So if a university is fifth in one poll, sixth in the other and 10th in graduation rates, its ESPN Grade would be 5 + 6 + 10 = 21.
Only teams receiving a vote in either the AP or coaches' poll are ranked in ESPN Grade -- it's an academics-adjusted ranking of the power teams, not of all teams in college football.
Both the NCAA and the federal Department of Education calculate graduation rates by allowing six academic years, because many students don't complete college in the traditional four years. That means the most recent stats gauge freshmen who entered college as early as 2006.
This is the most generous metric of athletic graduation, granting credit for transfers both in or out. NFL early entrants have little impact on graduation rates -- the most recent year for which statistics have been released had 53 early entrants, about half of 1 percent of upperclassman scholarship players.
ESPN Grade will refresh in midseason, when the NCAA is expected to release the next set of graduation statistics, from June 2014.
At the end of the season, ESPN Grade will produce a final ranking. Factoring in graduation rates could produce a different No. 1 than will be named by the new College Football Playoff.
Game day, commencement day: Both matter. ESPN Grade takes the next step, integrating win-loss performance with diploma performance.