Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Dispelling Steele

All the preview magazines have a similar outlook on this year’s BC team: Good experience, love Ryan, think Jags will continue TOB’s success, think our ACC schedule is tough but our non-conference schedule is favorable. Overall most mags have us as an ACC contender and a definite bowl team. The one exception is Phil Steele. The College Football gambling guru thinks we'll be last in our division and miss out on bowl season. Who cares about one outlier, right? Well Steele puts together the best preview and is always good at identifying the five or so BCS teams that will be much better than expected. As Orson pointed out, his trick to finding the “surprise teams” is to look at programs with veteran teams that were unlucky in his “close games” category the previous season. Logic and statistics state that these teams will get lucky and revert to the mean (the mean in this case being more wins). It is the same “close games” stat that causes Steele to slot BC so low this year. Last year according to Steele's stat we had five close wins with only three close losses. So in his rankings this year he predicts BC will be 2-6 in these same types of games. Wins against Army, Bowling Green, and UMass won’t be enough to get us into a bowl if the close games break as he predicts,

I respect Steele, but I am not worried about his predictions. Since the ACC expanded (and faced extreme parity) Steele’s had trouble predicting the teams in our division. Look at 2005.

NC StateBC
BCNC State
Wake ForestWake Forest

He was way off and the division proved one of the most balanced in BCS conferences. The winner had a 5-3 record and the 6th place team only bottomed out at 3-5.

Steele also missed the boat on the Atlantic Division in 2006.
FSUWake Forest
Wake ForestFSU
NC StateNC State

This year he sees the division like this:

1. FSU
2. Clemson
3. NC State
4. Maryland
5. Wake Forest
6. BC

In his explanation of BC’s surprising slotting he hedges claiming anyone (including BC) could win the Atlantic. I like our chances and think that Steele overlooked Jags’ impact on close games. TOB’s notorious conservative style caused some games to be much closer than they should have been. Our near collapses against Central Michigan last year or against Boise State in 2005 are classic TOB games that skew the real story behind the “close games.” If Jags really does put his imprint on the team Steele won’t have to worry about BC reverting. But don’t expect Steele to admit he was wrong about BC in next season’s magazine. The guy is great at telling you what he got right, but rarely admits to his missteps.

My advice regarding all these magazines stays the same: buy them to learn about other teams but don’t get too caught up in what they think or write about BC.

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