Daily Blog •February 3, 2015

TAKING THE BLINDERS OFF Phil Steele Blog 2/3/15

The Sunday after Thanksgiving, which was November 30th last year I started Part I of the magazine process. I went through a towering stack of reading on each team, taking me through their season day-by-day then I wrote the QB, RB, REC and ST positions. The second half of January I went through my notes, analyzed the positions after players declared for the draft, then ranked and wrote the OL, DL, LB and DB’s.

It’s now February and I’ll call this Part II of my magazine writing process and of the 4 parts, this is my favorite as I have the fewest amount of deadlines and I get to take the blinders off.

Let me explain that comment. When doing an individual position, such as LB’s for Arkansas St, I don’t want to be influenced by who ASU is playing during the year or if I have them as an improved team, on my Most Improved List, my Surprise Team List or if I think they’ll be down a notch. I’m just focusing on the LB’s for ASU and how they rank in my overall power ratings not even who they stack up versus other Sun Belt teams. It’s human nature to have some sort of bias and if I had determined back in November that ASU had a soft schedule and was going to have a great year with a high amount of returning starters, I may be biased in my LB writing, slanting them upwards. For the same reason, had I noticed that ASU had a tough schedule and lost a lot of players at all of their positions this year, it may have influenced my write-up of the LB position. I honestly did not look at any other factors. I don’t look at how any other positions are coming into the season, I don’t look at their schedule, I haven’t looked at any of it, YET. I just had the blinders as I looked at each position.

Now, by taking the blinders off, February allows me to see the team’s for the first time, together thanks to going through each position and doing my up/downs as well as grading each position and factoring them into all of the other power ratings (9 sets in all). These ratings will of course change during the spring. Many things affect them including: their signing classes, injuries and defections during the spring, late signees and graduated transfers coming in. This gives me a preliminary set and now I can see for the first time which teams are the tops in their conference at this moment and which teams will be near the bottom. Later in the month I’ll get to the hits and misses which is a team conference schedule based on if they play all the top teams in the conference or if a team avoids all the top teams in the conference in conference crossover play, it’s what I call hits and misses.

About mid-February, around Valentine’s Day I put out my projected AP Top 10. I’ve been doing this now for six years. It’s the middle of February and I project the team’s that will be in the AP Top 10 when it comes out in August. A lot of folks say it’s way too early - a half of year in advance to forecast who will be in the Top 10 in the AP but that is not the case. Below to the left you will see that I correctly projected ALL 10 teams that were in the opening AP Top 10 and also had 5 in the exact spot (bold).

My projected AP Top 10 had:
1) Florida St
2) Alabama
3) Oregon
4) Auburn
5) Oklahoma
6) Ohio St
8) Michigan St
9) Baylor
10) South Carolina

Actual AP Top 10 released Aug 16, 2014
1) Florida St
2) Alabama
3) Oregon
4) Oklahoma
5) Ohio St
6) Auburn
8) Michigan St
9) South Carolina
10) Baylor

In the six years that I have posted my projected AP Top 10 in February, six months in advance of the actual AP Poll, 56 of the 60 teams have made the AP Top 10. Only four teams out of the 60 did not. One of them was Notre Dame, the year after they played in the Title Game as they lost QB Everett Golson over the summer. Keep in mind this is not my Preseason Top 10 - I have a long way to go before I determine who I’ll put in the Top 10 but make sure you check mid-February for my projected AP Top 10.

Now, what I’m going to be doing for the next two weeks I also consider fun. I go through last year’s games, play by play, for each team. If the two teams are playing this year, I look at which ones are improved or weaker, the series history, how they’ve done at this site, motivating factors, new coaches and coordinators as well as situational edges and I come up with who I think will be favored and by how much. This helps me gauge the team’ that will be favored in most of their game’s this year and the ones that will be a dog.

By putting how much the team is favored by, it gives me the probability of each team winning. For example: If I have a team favored by 21 points, odds are in the 95% category they’ll win that game. If I have a team favored by 3 points, it’s almost like being a toss up game, but they have a slight edge. This will ultimately help me in May when I’m going through where each team will fare in conference play and final records, Top 25 rankings.

Today I’ll be going through all the Sun Belt games. First I compare all 9 sets of my power ratings and play the game with each set. Obviously if a team has the edge in all 9 sets my confidence level in that matchup is very high compared to if a team had the edge in 5 or 6 sets. Also in February when I find time, I start going through the miscellaneous magazine articles such as the one article that’s been included since my first magazine came out 21 years ago and that is Turnovers=Turnaround. I’m always looking for hidden factors to help me predict the upcoming season and it’s part of the reason that mine is the most accurate Preseason magazine every year. Check it out yourself at

2014 Preseason Prediction Accuracy

Last 3 years Preseason Prediction Accuracy

Last 5 Years Preseason Prediction Accuracy