I haven't yet seen Phil's six-point font cornucopia of VHT's and "Turnovers = Turnaround!!!" at Borders yet, although my spies will surely let me know when the blessed event takes place (or maybe I'll just stalk the magazine rack there like Francis Dolarhyde waiting for the Tattler in Red Dragon, brandishing a knife and scouring the magazine for secret messages that Phil is sending to me).
Michael brings Phil Steele's Preview home and then gets in touch with his inner dragon.
Thanks to a totally anonymous post on the Victors board, I now have his Top 25:
7. Notre Dame
19. Boise St
Assuming that this is really his Top 25, I'm officially in love with Phil. Notre Dame and Ohio State, the chic picks at #1 and #2 in the mouth-breathing, "Defense? What's that? Games in 2005 other than the last two? How could they possibly be relevant?" college football media? Safely placed at #7 and #8. (Incidentally, I couldn't have been more heartbroken than when Orson from EDSBS.com made the following statement: "LSU’s the pick for us [in the West,] especially following their wipeout of Miami in the Peach Bowl. Momentum works most of the time, and we’re banking on it here." Since we're in a movie sorta mood this morning, I was William Wallace, he was Robert the Bruce, and I just figured out that he had been fighting on the side of the English against Mother Scotland. His next post ought to include the following admission: "I have nothing. Men fight for me because if they do not, I throw them off my land and I starve their wives and children. Those men who bled the ground red at Falkirk fought for [Michael from Braves and Birds]. He fights for something that I never had. And I took it from him, when I betrayed him. I saw it in his face on the battlefield and it's tearing me apart." Where was I, anyway?)
When defending the Charles Rogers Theorem (imbalance of skill position talent relative to line talent + playing better at end of previous season than for the previous 10-11 games = overrated), it's well beyond rage.
I'm not entirely sold on the Oklahoma pick, given their offensive line issues, but I do suspect that we're in for a vengeance from the Crimson and Cream this year. One of my other pet theories is that rivals often respond to their enemies successes with successes of their own. Michigan often has great seasons after Ohio State has had one and vice versa. You think that OU might have been a tad motivated this offseason by a never-ending fusillade of "Texas this" and "Texas that" (at least before Jimmy Clausen's hairdo and Tom Zbikowski's pugilism shifted the attention to Notre Dame)? I am fairly certain that Oklahoma will have a great defense this year. Whether they can block for Adrian Peterson is the million-dollar question.
I'm sold on Steele having Louisville ahead of West Virginia. Honestly, what separates these two teams? Two things: (1) WVU's miracle OT win over the Cards at home, a game that would almost certainly have turned out differently at a neutral stadium or at the Pizza Palace; and (2) WVU catching Georgia in major let-down mode after the SEC Championship Game on the same day that Louisville lost to Virginia Tech without their starting quarterback. This is what I love about Phil: he looks at the talent each team has, the schedule they'll play, and then feeds that information into his HAL 9000 and spits out consistently superior predictions. Every other preview seemingly consists of a series of subjective statements based on imperfect information and ends up with preseason rankings that look remarkably similar to the final rankings at the end of the previous season.
The one place in which I'm going to dare to disagree with Phil the Seer is Florida State, which surely looks good under his framework, given their bounty of VHTs and a relatively manageable ACC slate without Virginia Tech or Georgia Tech. I just don't think he's properly taking into account the awesome constipating force that is Jeff Bowden. This is one place that a subjective opinion is useful, although Phil's reliance on stats should clue him in that FSU's offense has underperformed for several years now.
The Arkansas pick is very interesting. I'm on record as saying that they are the most interesting team in the SEC in 2006, given their returning starters, their strong second half of the season, Darren McFadden, and the Malzahn-Mustain experiment. (I'll be interested to see if and how Heismanpundit dismisses the new Arkansas offense as another boring SEC miasma.) #13 seems pretty high, but if Phil is selling it, then I'm buying it. Phil also seems to agree with me about Tennessee winning the East, since he has them as the highest rated team in the division. Great minds, yada yada yada.