July 15, 2004
By: Rob Wilson
For some folks July is the only month of the year when they will actually push the grocery cart down the aisle that contains the greeting cards and magazines. The reason is that the preseason football magazines usually arrive about that time. While magazines that cover college basketball have improved dramatically, they hit the newsstand when there are a ton of other things going on. But those preseason football magazines come when live college sports has all but ground to a halt.
By now the most avid fans probably already have dog-eared their magazines to an unreadable, sloppy mess, but if you're just getting started here is a quick primer on who has FSU where in Athlon's, Sporting News, Phil Steele's College Football Preview, and Street & Smith (Game Plan and several others have yet to hit the newsstand).
We'll save the predictions on the national finishes for last and start with the All-America teams. Alex Barron, who was a consensus All-American at offensive tackle last year, was a first team preseason All-American in all but one magazine. In fact, Barron did not make Sporting News' second team either. Those who like to suggest a bias by the publication will be fueled by noting that magazine names Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen as the best in the ACC. It also lists Georgia Tech's Jon Tenuta as the best defensive coordinator and Maryland's overall coaching staff as the best in the league. SN then comes back and picks FSU to win the expanded ACC and finish fifth in the country. Hmm?
Back to the conference finishes where Athlon's picks FSU to finish second to Miami in the ACC, College Football Preview, Street & Smith and the Sporting News all predict FSU to win the ACC championship and take the automatic BCS berth.
The addition of Miami and Virginia Tech to the ACC this year, and Boston College in 2005, appear to have increased the respect for the strength of the league, but most fell short of raising the bar just yet. The exception was the Sporting News which picked the ACC as the nation's best conference. Athlon's sees the ACC as the country's third best conference behind the SEC and Big12 and College Football Preview agrees with that assessment. Street & Smith does not rate the conferences.
Some of the magazines have a practice of not ranking a player at all if he finished the previous year injured no matter what assurances they have that he will be back. I remember that Mel Kiper did not have Sam Cowart rated highly coming into his senior year and when I asked him about it he said he loved the guy as a player, but his policy is if they are coming off an injury, he does not rate them until they have played. So assumptions should not be made either way about the absence of Craphonso Thorpe from most of the preseason lists. College Football Preview does have Thorpe listed as a second team All-American, but none of the others do.
The Sporting News ranks the positions nationally listing their Top 10 and two of the Seminole units found their way onto the lists. The magazine lists FSU's offensive line as the best in the country and the offensive backfield as the seventh best.
College Football Preview picks the Top 25 individual units in the country and FSU's finished among their best at receiver (third), defensive back (fourth), offensive line (fifth), defensive line (fifth), quarterback (12th), running back (12th) and special teams (21st). It goes on to list the Top 60 players at each position. FSU's top 10 finishers on their lists were Alex Barron as the nation's top offensive tackle, Craphonso Thorpe as the third best receiver, Jerome Carter at fifth among strong safeties and Chris Rix seventh at quarterback.
Athlon's rates the units within the ACC only and they have FSU rated first at offensive line and defensive backs, second at wide receiver/tight ends, third at quarterback and defensive line, fourth at linebacker and fifth at running back.
Now, drum roll please, here are their Top 10 predictions for the season:
Athlon Sporting News College Football Preview Street & Smith 1. USC 1. Georgia 1. Oklahoma 1. USC 2. Oklahoma 2. USC 2. USC 2. Georgia 3. Georgia 3. Oklahoma 3. LSU 3. Oklahoma 4. Miami 4. LSU 4. Florida State 4. LSU 5. W. Virginia 5. Florida State 5. Georgia 5. Florida State 6. Texas 6. Ohio State 6. Miami 6. Texas 7. Michigan 7. Miami 7. Michigan 7. Miami 8. LSU 8. Texas 8. Texas 8. Michigan 9. Florida State 9. Virginia 9. W. Virginia 9. Florida 10. Ohio State 10. Michigan 10. California 10. TennesseeWondering which prediction is best? According to a study by The Village Voice a few years ago Playboy's annual preseason poll was the most accurate over a 10 year period. There is actually an accuracy rating service called Stassen's which suggests that College Football Preview magazine has been the most accurate over the last five years followed by Lindy's, Athlon's, Sporting News, Game Plan, and Street & Smith (note, there were several publications dedicated to gambling in the list which will not be listed here and only sports magazines were featured so Playboy was not evaluated).
The final note during this wonderful time of debate as to where teams will finish would be the dates of the BCS bowl games. The Rose Bowl will be Saturday, January 1 at 5:30 EST, with the Fiesta Bowl to follow at 8:30 EST on the same day. The Sugar Bowl is Sunday, January 2 at 8:00 EST. The BCS national title game will be at the Orange Bowl in 2005 with kickoff scheduled for 8:00 EST on Tuesday, January 4. Not to put the cart before the horse, but if three of these four polls are correct FSU fans need to keep an eye out for their opportunity to buy bowl tickets. Once again FSU boosters and season ticket holders will be able to order tickets to all of these BCS bowls when the ticket office begins enrollment, but will be charged for only those tickets for the bowl that FSU is playing in. A berth in the national title game or similar circumstances will likely cause restrictions in the number of tickets allotted to each applicant.
Preseason Magazines have Head Coach Bobby Bowden's Seminoles ranked as high as 4th