So, what does Phil have to say about the Falcons?
He ranks us #83 on the power poll, which is how good your team is going to be, absent considerations about schedule. His overall rankings only go to 50, but he does not have BG in the top 50. (There are 127 FBS teams, for reference).
Speaking of schedule, he says BG has the #78 toughest schedule
There are a couple of common things he looks at. One of them is turnovers. It is a little counter-intuitive, but the idea is that a team that has a huge turnover margin one year (+11 or more) and historically 65% likely to have a worse record the next year. BG was +12. (The idea here is that turnovers are at some level a result of luck. You watch how a fumble drops or a tipped INT happens...there is luck involved.
A couple notes on turnovers. Matt Johnson threw 569 passes with 8 INTs last year. He threw a pick on 1.4% of his passes. Not being negative, but we're unlikely to match that number again. (For comparison, Zach Terrell was picked on 2.3% of his passes. At that rate, Johnson would have thrown 13 picks and BG is only +7. Knapke was 2.5% during his year as a starter).
Also, BG was 10-4 and could have a worse record and still enjoy a very successful season.
Another big thing is experience. Overall, BG is the 8th most experienced team in the MAC.
Inside that, there are some interesting numbers.
BG #1 in FBS in returning o-line starts
BG #127 in returning yards on offense (that's last).
BG is #27 in returning tackles
Says BG "probably" will be the pre-season favorite to win the East. He has Akron and Ohio ranked as co-favorite in his rankings. Notes BG plays Akron and Ohio U on the road--which is going to make it difficult, though BG has been a strong road team historically.
The positional ranks are interesting as well.
Ranks Knapke #5-#9 QB in the MAC (#5 in a four-way tie). I think this is probably fair. The tie is with Toledo, Ball State and Akron) and the QBs ranked worse are Buffalo's new QB, JD Sprague at OU and the kid at Miami.
He ranks BG #2 at WR. This is a shocker..I can't imagine where this came from. It is a tie with Toledo, so it is actually #2 or #3, with Akron in the top spot. Granted, it was before Rhodes was dismissed, but even so, I am not sure what observable phenomenon it was based on.
Ranks RB #6. Probably fair,
Ranks OL #1. Agree.
Ranks DL #8. I will be doing a more extensive preview as things get closer but for now, I think this number is kind of generous, too, and this is the area that worries me most about BG.
Ranks LB #1. Nice.
Ranks DB #4. Written with the assumption Clint Stephens would be in uniform.
In other rankings, the Orlando Sentinel is more positive about BG, ranking the Falcons #53.