A properly tempered sword will sport Auburn colors*
First off, let me say that I enjoy reading Phil Steele’s magazine and daily blog. If ever I need to know how many starting offensive linemen are returning for a given team year to year, or how each SEC team’s yards per play compares to any other at a glance, it’s just a quick search in his archived articles. His annual articles related to such data and his comprehensive magazine are anticipated by college football fans for weeks before thier publication dates. They’re a wonderful blend of hard numbers and oftentimes very astute analysis.
That being said, at other times much of Phil’s analysis is either puzzlingly vague or laughably absurd. Many of his regular articles are either overly simplistic or completely irrellevant in any rational analysis. Why this occurs in amongst his other fine articles is unknown. I can only surmise that as his entire business revolves around keeping his readers engaged, he sometimes chums the water every now and then just to keep them occupied while he works on other more relevant material.
For example, some of his more common articles involve the return of key position players for various teams. While this might seem to be an important factor in assessing a team’s potential, it is often misleading in the extreme. Take last year’s report on % of Offensive Yards Returning. I looked at what Phil reported and added the actual yards per game in 2013 for each of the SEC teams. Sorting first for Phil’s numbers from his mid-summer article shows what seems like important data on returning talent.
Granted, he pegged a few teams correctly – Alabama and LSU started and ended in the top five and Vandy and the Gators stayed at the bottom, but few other teams are anywhere near what his numbers would suggest by the end of the season, least of all the team that led the SEC in running the ball last year. Marshall, Artis-Payne and Grant had zero yards in 2012, and although Tre Mason was a thousand-yard running back, it was under an entirely different offensive scheme that woefully under-utilized his true talent.
So my question is, if Phil Steele’s data is so often irrelevant day to day, what about his predictions for the coming year?