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May 31, 2009

It's Hit Newsstands!

This past weekend, the Bible of college football was released--Phil Steele's College Football Preview.
I consider myself somewhat of an aficionado of preseason college football magazines. In 1982 when I was just seven years old, my parents bought me my first--Lindy's with Herschel Walker on the cover. Not long afterwards, I was acquiring every and any preseason college football magazine available. During most summers the number of these previews in my possession could easily total in the double-digits. A decade ago or so, I figured that, for the most part, all of these magazines basically gave the same information and unveiled similar rankings/predictions. There was and is one, however, that was certainly different, stood out from the rest, and one of the few, in my opinion, worth buying.
I bought my first Phil Steele annual in 1995--his first edition. Ever since then, like many football fans, I cannot go without it and look forward to its release every June.
As advertised, Steele's mag is more than 300 pages "jampacked with information" while it is also "the most accurate preseason magazine the last 10 years." It's the only magazine that will analyze Louisiana-Monroe as much as the USC Trojans or might go into detail about a team's third-string center. As far as accuracy, it was the lone magazine that picked the Dawgs to win the SEC East in 2005 and one of the few that did not rank Georgia #1 or #2 nationally in 2008. (Steele had us ranked #9 and second in the SEC East behind Florida.)
Steele, who also runs the sports service Northcoast Sports, once filled his preview with football gambling-related material. However, his annual has grown thicker with more thorough and detailed facts and analyses as Steele has apparently learned to separate his profession into two different ones--football handicapper and football writer. Best of all, the magazine is of the opinion of only one individual--Phil Steele--as he writes every single preview himself. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this is one factor that makes most of the other previews inferior as they usually have dozens of contributing writers. (Lindy's, for instance, has nearly 80 listed contributing writers for its 2009 edition.)
Steele's magazine predicts great things from Georgia for the upcoming season. Again, this is just one man's opinion, but an opinion regarded highly by many college football enthusiasts. Several things that caught my eye:

  • The Bulldogs are ranked second in the SEC East behind, obviously, Florida and 13th in the nation. We're 11th in Steele's Power Poll which considers team strength and talent and not schedule. Georgia is forecasted to play Illinois in the Outback Bowl.

  • "Phil's Forecast" on the Dawgs concludes by declaring, "[Georgia] makes my list of surprise teams which means I think they are a surprise (non-Top 10) National Title contender." Georgia is the seventh-ranked "surprise team" for the year.

  • The Dogs are impressively ranked in the top 30 (of the 120 FBS teams) in seven of eight positional units (all except quarterbacks): 3rd best offensive line in college football, 5th best receivers, 9th-linebackers, 13th-defensive line, 18th-special teams, 20th-defensive backs, and, surprisingly to me, 30th best running backs.

  • All five of Georgia's projected offensive linemen (Boling, B. Jones, Glenn, Sturdivant, and C. Davis) are on Steele's first through fourth preseason All-SEC teams. No other SEC squad has more than three.

  • Steele is rather high on Caleb King, projecting him as a 4th-team All-SEC member and the 17th best "draft eligible" running back in the nation. In comparison, Oklahoma State's feared Kendall Hunter (1,555 rushing yards, 6.5 avg., 16 TDs in '08) is ranked lower at 20th. The magazine also lists eight favorites for the '09 Heisman Trophy, followed by 11 "contenders," 28 "possibilities," and 19 "darkhorses." King and A.J. Green are mentioned among the possibilities while Joe Cox is regarded as a darkhorse recipient of the trophy. This says a lot about King--a back many do not feel should even start for the Dogs.

Steele and I also agree on Georgia Tech's positioning, ranking the Yellow Jackets 28th. It looks like we're in the minority of those who think Tech is not a Top 15 squad. However, I do strongly disagree with Steele's assessment of Ole Miss--#6 in the nation, SEC West champion, and a Sugar Bowl birth. I just don't see the Rebels contending for the SEC title this year; they'll likely be as successful as last season--8 or 9 wins, that's it. Although, admittedly, I sure am glad the Bulldogs don't have to face them until 2011...

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