Category Archives: Phil Steele Makes My Eyes Water

Steele, Georgia and returns

Agree with his premise or not, you’re aware that Phil Steele puts a fair amount on emphasis on returning experience and production in his college football projections.  He’s posted data on three specific areas, listed here, along with Georgia’s ranking:

I don’t there’s much of a surprise in any of that.  Other than the o-line, here’s a lot of production returning.  Whether that amounts to more than a hill of beans is dependent on — guess what? — the offensive line establishing itself at least as a competent unit and just as a general principal, some coaching up.  It’s the second year for the staff, so that’s not an unreasonable expectation… which isn’t the same thing as a guarantee.

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Phil Steele on Georgia 2017: once burned, twice shy

22nd nationally, second in the SEC East.

“I actually picked Georgia second in the East this year,” Steele said. “I think they may be the preseason favorite to win the East when the SEC media votes, but I went with the Florida Gators No. 1 (in the East). I have the Gators No. 9.”

When it comes to the offensive line, I believe the technical term for this is “damning with faint praise”:

Steele feels that even though the Bulldogs’ offensive line has to replace three starters with a fourth switching positions from guard to center, the unit should show marked improvement in 2017.

“They underperformed my expectations last year,” Steele said. “I thought coming into last season, with 98 career starts coming back, they would have an outstanding offensive line. But they did not produce that way last year.

“They lose a couple guys off the line, but I am sort of looking at the fact that they almost have to be improved. They lose 120 career starts and only have 46 coming back. I have them rated my No. 48 offensive line in the country. That is not great – that is not one of my top 25 offensive lines, but I do think that they will have a little bit more potential. Generally, when you see an offensive line underperform like that one year, they come back the next year and play a little bit better.”

No where to go but up, bitchez!

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An early look at the new direction

Phil Steele’s 2017 mag is available on iTunes, if you’re so inclined (I wait for the old school mag, myself).  Patrick Garbin has a rundown on Steele’s unit rankings for Georgia.

That is about as reserved as I’ve seen Steele project Georgia in the preseason, which is probably why I don’t have much of an objection to those rankings.  Given the quality of the last two recruiting classes, it’s a lot more important to see where the rankings wind up, rather than where they started, anyway.

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Maybe the SEC East will be a little tougher than I thought.

Phil Steele does a pretty good job predicting what the first AP Top 10 of the season will look like.

As mentioned on Monday, my predicted AP Top 10 was a perfect 10-for-10 in 2016! The EIGHT year totals are very strong. When I predict the AP Top 10 in February/March (about a HALF YEAR ahead of the actual AP poll), I have now hit on 76 of 80 teams. That means hitting all 10 teams in four of the eight years and missing by just one team in the other four years. Once again, predicting the top ten teams in the AP poll 5-6 MONTHS in advance, the record is now 76 out of 80 or 95%!

Now, obviously, that first AP Top 10 is no guaranteed predictor of success for the rest of the season, but it’s at least a decent indication of the nation’s better teams… which is why Steele’s projection for 2017 is making me pause a bit in considering how the SEC East might play out this season.

Here is my 2017 Projected AP Top 10.

1.  Alabama
2.  Ohio State
3.  Florida State
4.  USC
5.  Oklahoma
6.  Clemson
7.  Penn State
8.  Washington
9.  Wisconsin
10. Florida

[Emphasis added.]

I look at Florida and see a team that’s got a fair number of significant questions:  a rebuild job coming on defense (including a new coordinator), uncertainty at quarterback and a slide in recruiting over the past couple of seasons.  I don’t think the Gators are going to be a bad team by any means — after the past two years, you can’t help but have a solid measure of respect for McElwain — but top ten in the country and second best in the SEC is a little more than I was expecting.

Is it just me, or does that surprise you, too?  And if it’s a legit impression, what, if anything does that do for your assessment of Georgia’s chances in the East in 2017?

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Phil Steele’s got your returning starters right here.

Here’s why that matters:

For instance, last year there were 19 teams that returned 16 starters or more, including their QB. Of those 19 teams, 12 had a better record in 2016 than they did in 2015. Four had the same record, and only 3 of the 19 had a weaker record.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, there were 14 teams that returned 11 or fewer starters that did not have a returning starter at QB. Of those 14 teams, 0 had a better record. Of the 14 least experienced teams, 13 had a weaker record in 2016 than they did in 2015 and one had the same.

And here’s why that matters to us.

SEC
RK TEAM TOTAL OFF QB DEF
T3 Georgia 17 7 1 10
T3 Kentucky 17 8 1 9
T9 South Carolina 16 10 1 6
T9 Vanderbilt 16 9 1 7
T25 Auburn 15 8 1 7
T25 Missouri 15 10 1 5
T48 Florida 14 9 1 5
T48 Tennessee 14 7 0 7
T71 Arkansas 13 7 1 6
T71 Mississippi St 13 7 1 6
T86 Texas A&M 12 5 0 7
T103 Alabama 11 6 1 5
T103 LSU 11 6 1 5
T103 Ole Miss 11 5 0 6

That’s right. Georgia is tied for first in the conference and third nationally.  This will also mark Georgia’s first season with a returning starter at quarterback since 2013. (I don’t count Lambert last year, because we all knew he was just holding down the fort temporarily until the coaches moved Eason in.)  I don’t see how that can hurt.

As for the rest of the SEC, a few notes…

  • Yeah, I think we can discount Alabama only bringing back eleven.
  • On the other hand, Ole Miss is really adding up the suckitude for 2017.
  • Only three SEC teams don’t have returning starters at QB.  A sign of better times to come?
  • The top four teams are all in the East.
  • Missouri led the conference in total offense and was fifth in scoring offense.  The Tigers bring back all but one starter on offense this season.  Whoa, baby.

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Thursday morning buffet

Rounding things up to fill the breakfast bar…

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“Kirby Smart could have them believing.”

I picked up my Steele’s 2016 College Football Preview Saturday night and spent much of yesterday with my nose buried in it. From 2012-5, Steele was pretty high on Georgia’s chances.  Not so much this season, though.  The Dawgs sit at 29th in his composite power rankings, although he ranks them 23rd after factoring in scheduling.

It’s pretty easy to sum up his qualms about the team.  Although there’s talent and coaching pedigree, Georgia is lacking in experience and Steele puts some emphasis on the learning curve Smart and his program have to track first.

Here are some bullet points to help you see the picture Steele paints:

  • All-American teams.  Steele picks four teams.  Georgia has two players, Nick Chubb and Greg Pyke, both third teamers.
  • All-SEC teams. Again, four teams of 29 each.  Georgia places a total of nine on them.  Pyke is the only first teamer, as Chubb makes second team.  Two newcomers, Eason and Catalina, make his fourth team.
  • Top individual units.  Georgia makes seven of his eight lists of the top 45-50 at each position group.  The whiff is at special teams, which is understandable.  Best showings are at running back (4th) and offensive line (7th).  Georgia barely makes the cut at two others, though — defensive line (45 out of 46) and quarterback (48 out of 50).  (To add insult to injury, Steele ranks Georgia Tech at 27th in quarterbacks.)
  • Conference unit rankings.  Georgia doesn’t place first in any category.

Put it all together and you’ve got a team that is “a legitimate contender in the SEC East”.  That’s a considerable notch down from labeling Alabama, LSU and Tennessee national title contenders.

But Steele also sees Georgia as one of his Surprise Teams, noting that the Ole Miss game may be the only one Georgia enters as an underdog this season.  He then goes on to say,

In the last 3 years Georgia has been favored in 36 of their 39 games but have a disappointing record of 28-11 in that span.  Sometimes a coaching change (Richt was there 15 years) can bring a different attitude and maybe take care of business in that favorites role.

There are a couple of statistical trouble spots he notes.

First, over the last 14 years, teams with three or more net close wins in a season have an almost 80% chance of having a weaker or the same win total the following season.  Georgia had a net of four close wins in 2015.

Second, over the last nine years, Steele found no school losing more than 34 or more starts from a team that finished with 10 or more wins improved its record the following season.

All in all, there’s enough uncertainty about Georgia’s 2016 chances to reinforce my ambiguity about the season.  I do think the schedule is weak enough for nine wins; it’s that tenth one that makes me feel at times like I’m reaching.  We’ll see soon enough.

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