The college football summer doesn’t really start until Phil Steele’s College Football Preview starts showing up at bookstores.
The owner of “the most accurate magazine over the last 23 years” and “the book the experts cannot do without” has unleashed his 352-page college football reference guide that is a must-have for any college football fan.
For those who listen to 11 Personnel, the admiration both Nick Roush and myself have for Mr. Steele is well known. For 27 years, the Ohio native has been creating these magazines which have an absolutely ridiculous amount of information and abbreviations no one really understands. For the eighth year in a row, I am a proud owner of this college football masterpiece. After taking a few days of injecting it into my veins, here are some takeaways from the 2021 version.
Kentucky OL take was a miss
There is no getting around this, but Steele missed on his ranking of Kentucky’s Big Blue Wall. With a No. 50 overall ranking, this prediction was way off.
Before the addition of Dare Rosenthal, Kentucky still had a first-round talent at tackle with Darian Kinnard while Luke Fortner is one of the better interior line players returning. Meanwhile, Kenneth Horsey and Austin Dotson all played quality snaps last season. No way there are 49 better lines than Kentucky.
Clemson defense will be elite
There is no denying that Brent Venables is one of the best defensive coordinators in college football. This fall, the talent and coaching combination could make the Tigers very scary on that side of the football.
Clemson could play four former five-star recruits along their defensive line at one time — Bryan Bresee, K.J. Henry, Myles Murphy, and Xavier Thomas. Elsewhere, Mike linebacker James Skalski and safety Nolan Turner were preseason All-Americans. Meanwhile, the Tigers have three more all-conference players.
Dabo Swinney will once again roll over the ACC.
The normal contenders — Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State — are all replacing record-breaking quarterbacks which has many looking for an outsider winning a national championship in the College Football Playoff era. Since there appears to be an underachieving perception hanging around Kirby Smart’s Georgia program, there is another program that is receiving all of the love.
Spencer Rattler was the No. 1 quarterback in the 2019 recruiting class, and Steele is drinking the kool-aid. The expert calls for Rattler to win the Heisman and for the Sooners to bring home their first national title since 2000. Thanks to a resurgence under defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, the Sooners are a trendy pick.
Not sure I’m ready to jump all in on Lincoln Riley just yet despite a 45-8 overall record after four seasons.
There is no hiding from the fact that things have been messy for Scott Satterfield heading into year three. The Cardinals are fresh off a tough 3-7 year and that was before the offseason happened. Satterfield lost his top skill players and a ton of staffers.
Steele is not a believer in Louisville picking the Cards to finish sixth in a soft ACC Atlantic after Clemson at the top. With a tough non-conference schedule, things could get really hairy for Louisville in 2021.
After beating Georgia in the Cocktail Party last season, Dan Mullen had the Gators riding high. Behind an electric passing attack, the Gators were deadset on playing Alabama in Atlanta for a College Football Playoff berth.
That still happened, but losing three games to LSU, Alabama, and Oklahoma to end the season took a lot of wind out of Mullen’s sails in Gainesville.
Now Florida is transitioning to Emory Jones at quarterback while big questions loom for defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. With just three home games and drawing both Alabama and LSU out of the SEC West, Steele calls for the Gators to finish outside the top 25.
Kentucky has a winnable game when Florida rolls into Kroger Field on Oct. 2.
Kentucky has a great opportunity in 2021
Kentucky doesn’t appear in any top 25s, but the schedule is outstanding. Per Steele’s top 40 which is created on expected finish projections, the Wildcats face just two top 25 teams — No. 5 Georgia and No. 17 LSU. To dig even further, Kentucky will play nine teams in 2021 that finish outside of Steele’s top-60.
Steele believes Kentucky could be a betting favorite in eight games. Talk about a golden opportunity.
After having a top-10 schedule last year, Kentucky’s schedule rank drops all the way to No. 84 this season. If the Wildcats are able to pull just one upset over Florida, Georgia, or LSU, a 9-3 record and top 25 finish is 100 percent on the table.
Who’s ready to make another premium bowl trip in January? If everything goes right and a couple of SEC teams make the College Football Playoff, an appearance in the Sugar Bowl is not out of the equation.