If you are a college football fan, you have to love the Phil Steele Football preview. It is, hands down, the best of its kind. How many times have you read in a "name brand" preview about the contributions a player is likely to make....knowing he left school in February.
You don't get that kind of thing from Phil. You get nothing but smart and thoughtful analysis, an absolute butt-load of stats, and you get an accurate idea of what to expect. Phil's predictions are consistently the best.
So, with that in mind, we look at what he had to say about the Falcons...and, you know, hope he's wrong. Because he is calling for a tough year for BG.
A couple notes.
First, he didn't think much of BG last year, and we exceeded his expectations.
Second, Steele has a couple formulas he applies. For example, teams which lose significant numbers of players are likely to be worse the next year. Also, teams that benefit from huge turnover margins tend to have bad years the next year.
Anyway, first and foremost, the Falcons are young. He projects us tied for 5th in the East, with Akron and Miami. Some other parts of his projection.'
He ranks us tied for #9 at QB and #8 at RB. (As in 9th best QB and 8th best QB in the MAC).
On every other measure on the regular teams, he has us 11th:
OK, so if that actually comes true, I think we can all agree we are in trouble. Will it? That is why they play the games.
In particular, I think he is underrating our WRs. While they have not done much on a stat sheet, I believe that we have some good players ready to emerge---especially Kamer Jordan and Shaun Joplin.
Similarly, though less so, I believe the O-line will be a little better than he suggests. We have good players back up there and I think we will see an improvement.
This is dangerously close to my own preview, but it is too early for that. Some other observations from Phil:
On power rankings, we rank a little higher than the #5 in the East he sees for us. The reason is that BG does not play Akron this year, and therefore has, in general, a tougher road to travel than our conference opponents.
We are, based on his calculations, the most inexperienced team in the MAC. In fact, we are #118 out of 120 in the FBS. We have 41 returning O-Line starts, where a solid number is somewhere in the 60s or 70s. We return only 21% of our offensive yards and 44% of our tackles. You get the idea.
A team where we are in experience has an 81% chance of having a weaker or same record. The six teams in that boat are OK St, East Carolina, Tennessee, Ole Miss, BG, and one of our opponents, Troy.
BTW, the MAC is the 11th toughest conference, ahead of only the Sun Belt.
Anyway, that's the grim story from Phil Steele. On paper, it is hard to argue with any of it. If we have players who are capable of doing more, no one has seen it yet. I believe Coach Clawson has the program on the right track, and we will see this year how resourceful he can be.