College Football: First Look at Phil Steele’s 2008 Preview

InTheBleachers.netSenior Analyst IJune 10, 2008

Before I begin what can only be described as a partial, only marginally coherent look at Phil Steele’s gargantuan 2008 College Football Preview magazine, I want to say a big “thanks for wasting my freaking time” to the Barnes and Noble of Ellicott City, Maryland.

Phil Steele magazine advertises that it is sold at Barnes and Noble bookstores, and this I have never had reason to doubt, seeing as I’ve found the magazine in the chain’s stores in the past and that I’ve read of others buying this year’s preview from their local B&N.

However, Ellicott City’s Barnes and Noble decided it was too good for Phil Steele, and upon my fourth trip to the bookseller in a week I was informed that they had not only not received a shipment of the preview, but they were not carrying it.

For this I could only stare in utter befuddlement, silently accusing their high-flung, mocha-latte, high-school-English-teacher crowd of sabotaging the American way of life and likely giving the terrorists an upper hand in our country’s War on Terrorism.

Long story short—I stormed out of the establishment, refusing to ever enter again, and hustled off to the local newspaper store, where I found a Steele with a Big 10 cover and promptly purchased it.

I have also informed all of my relatives to never again buy me those stupid Barnes and Noble gift cards, seeing as the only reason I don’t throw them out on the spot is that I’ve traditionally used them to buy college football preview magazines.


Quick Hits

OK, on to the preview.  First off it’s the same as always, which is a really good thing.  The only part I noticed that changed is the Spring Game review, which will be posted alternatively on the website once June 20th rolls around.  There is more “hardcore” information than I remember (322-323) and more half-page spreads dedicated to different trophies and awards.

Phil has also expanded his coverage to 70 pages for FCS teams, although once again you have to buy the $6.99 Pac-10 preview once it comes out in July (my advice for hardcore FCS fans—check back with the site over the summer, as Phil released free PDFs of each FCS conference during a two-week stretch of July last year).

I’ll leave you to suffer through Phil’s online countdown of the final five teams in his Top 25 if you haven’t already bought the magazine, but I will say that Phil’s No. 1 team is (surprise, surprise) almost everyone else’s number one team, and not the one that starts with a “U” and ends with a “C.”  If that doesn’t tell you who it is, I don’t know what more to say.

His pick for the National Championship game is this team against the team which has lost the last two.  He DOES NOT project a non-BCS bowl team in his Bowl predictions, although he admits several of his power rankings call for either Utah, BYU, or Boise St. to make it to a game.

Interestingly enough, he’s also very high on Tulsa to possibly run the table, which he says several of his power rankings call for (provided, of course, someone in Conference USA actually plays defense).

A couple of team and conference picks which stood out to me—Boise is first in the WAC and has a better chance at making a BCS bowl than Fresno St., a team which many other services are VERY high on (I agree with Phil on this one).  He’s also very high on Florida Atlantic taking the Sun Belt, and even pegs the Owls 37th in his Top 40.

USF is Phil’s surprise team, followed by Clemson, Texas Tech, and Auburn.  Phil likes Western Michigan in the MAC, which he traditionally has been an expert on.

Notre Dame, as you’ve probably heard, is his choice as the Most Improved team.  Phil is curiously high on Penn State and Mississippi.


For the Navy Fans

For you Navy fans, Phil is noticeably less enthusiastic about the Mids’ chances this year, predicting either a 6-6 or 7-5 season.

While still projecting Navy to play Maryland in the Congressional Bowl, his tone flat-out makes you want to cry if you were expecting anything above seven wins in ‘08.

It’s not just the loss of Paul Johnson or the noticeably tougher schedule—it’s the way he describes the skill positions.

Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, perhaps the greatest Navy quarterback in a decade, is simply described as the first three-year starter in Annapolis since Brian Broadwater, while the running back unit is ranked 29th in the nation (as opposed to Top 15 projections each of the past two years.)

Most disconcerting is Phil's call for Air Force to take back the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy—despite his simultaneous projection of the Falcons as seventh in the MWC.

I may play devil's advocate for Navy in my annual email to Phil next week, but first I’m going to have to come up with some pretty good arguments to refute him on this one.  Eric Kettani, Navy’s leading rusher a year ago, is the only Navy player ranked in Phil’s position previews, coming in as the 12th-ranked fullback.

Random point having nothing to do with Navy—Phil left BYU receiver Austin Collie off his list of the Top 67 wideouts in the college game, a point which makes absolutely no sense to me, even if you are going off the assumption that the list is based on talent and not production.


Power Rankings

Phil’s well-known Top 40 is based on how he feels teams will finish the year and is largely affected by schedule (who you play, when you play, where you play).

His Power Poll is a combination of all eight of his famous Power Ratings and measures just how good a team is based on talent. Here are his Top 25 and Bottom 10 based on the Power Poll.

  1. Florida
  2. Ohio St.
  3. USC
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Georgia
  6. Missouri
  7. Clemson
  8. Auburn
  9. LSU
  10. Texas
  11. Texas Tech
  12. West Virginia
  13. South Florida
  14. Penn State
  15. South Carolina
  16. Tennessee
  17. Oregon
  18. BYU
  19. Wisconsin
  20. Virginia Tech
  21. Florida State
  22. Kansas
  23. Utah
  24. Notre Dame
  25. Alabama


110. Ohio

111. Akron

112. Colorado State

113. UAB

114. Idaho

115. Tulane

116. Utah State

117. North Texas

118. Florida International

119. Western Kentucky

120. Army


Heisman Frontrunners?

This guy is number one.  Beanie Wells, Pat White, Chase Daniel, and Graham Harrell round out the Top Five, with Knowshon Moreno, Sam Bradford, and Cullen Harper also getting the call in the “favorites” category.

If Maryland wideout Darius-Hayward Bey is a “possibility” for the Heisman, then I am a “possibility” to be your next Commander-in-Chief.

Obviously I encourage you to buy this magazine for yourself (although please, for my sake, avoid Barnes and Noble), but if there are any urgent team-specific questions I will be happy to address Phil’s outlook.

Likewise, if for some reason you desperately need to know where a player is ranked in Phil’s position rankings, I’ll give it a skim and let you know as well.

Otherwise enjoy the magazine, and remember to pay a visit to Phil’s excellent website.


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