Phil Steele’s College Football Preview Magazine is among the most anticipated annual publications for college fans, simultaneously serving as a bellwether for fall camp and a thirst quencher for fans longing for precious college football coverage. His predictions are hot off the presses and, as expected, he has the Tide atop the rankings. On Alabama:
“The Tide had yet to win a national title when preseason No. 1 under Nick Saban and while they barely got into the Playoff, they finally accomplished that. Alabama has two solid QBs, my No. 2 RBs, No. 3 OL, No. 4 DL, No. 1 LBs and No. 8 DBs in the country. They are once again the deepest team in the country and unlike 2015 and 2016 when they were No. 124 and No. 116 on my experience chart, Bama is No. 50 on the exp. chart this year. Saban recruits the best talent and develops it and the competition at each position makes everyone better. Bama will be favored by double digits in every game on the schedule and the SEC Title Game could be a national title rematch, but even if they’re 12-1, they’ll probably still make the Playoff.”
We will have plenty of time to debate that last sentence, as being heavily favored in every game says as much about the schedule as it does the Tide. According to Steele, Alabama will face only three ranked foes this season, and one of those is #25 Arkansas State.
“Arkansas State is just No. 73 in my Power Poll, but was arguably the best team in the Sun Belt last year and returns QB Justice Hansen. They do face Alabama on the road, but they could end up being favored in 11 games this season.”
Steele is quite bearish on the SEC as a whole. After the Tide, he has the Georgia Bulldogs at #5, but you then have to go all the way to #17 to find the Florida Gators, which seems generous for a team coming off a 4-7 season. Auburn and Mississippi State check in at #19 and #21, respectively, and that’s it. Five out of 14 SEC teams ranked, only two in the top 15.