Pappas: Steele’s Rankings are a Feast

By By Nick Pappas

By Nick Pappas

We’ve reached the dog days of summer. The Lakers folded like origami chickens in Game 6 of the NBA Finals and the Celtics returned to the days of Bird.

And with that return came lazy-eyed channel flipping.

Desperate and hungry for sports, we’ve latched on to anything we can find. I hate watching soccer, but find myself glued to the Euro Cup. I fall asleep watching golf, but coaxed myself to jump up and down during the U.S. Open playoff between Tiger and Rocco.

It isn’t enough. The leftover food in the fridge might fill your stomach, but it only leaves you craving a hot meal.

It seems Phil Steele has provided the appetizer. In a move that has wily Cougar fans up in arms, the rankings guru vaulted the Utes to No. 14 in his preseason poll, three spots above No. 17 BYU.

One thing I’ve learned since the age of four-don’t question a BYU fan’s faith. Cougar football is like everything else in Provo-it’s their religion. The little preseason morsel was the top ranked story at the Deseret Morning News, and at last count 281 comments deep.

So, who is Phil Steele? Who is this wunderkind who has crowded the message boards like a Friday night at The Cheesecake Factory?

His website doesn’t promise much. Take a look yourself: www.philsteele.com. At first glance he seems like a snake charmer. The home page is full of razzle-dazzle, bright colors and silly graphics. A message flashes on and off telling you that the 2008 College Preview is “At Newsstands NOW!!”

His writing promises less. He’s your friend who can’t form a coherent sentence, hasn’t slept with a girl since Clinton was in office, but can read you the entire lineup of the 1982 Utah Jazz.

Suffice it to say, the man is no English major.

But don’t be fooled. Phil Steele and his staff of 30 are truly the prophets they claim to be. A study of preseason prediction accuracy over the last five years puts Phil Steele’s flashy magazine well ahead of his competitors, with Athlon in a far second and Lindy’s and The Sporting News tying for third.

The man and his magazine are the real deal.

Cougar nation is crying louder than if they found out the prophet is Swoop. And, as much as it pains me to say it, they might have a case. BYU has a two game winning streak against Utah and are 16-0 in conference the last two years. They continually tout their returning offense, led by an unbreakable Max Hall.

It’s a shame defense wins games. Like they do with most things, BYU fans are keeping their eyes covered. Looking too closely at a defense returning just 3 starters could corrupt them.

The Utes, on the other hand, begin the season with a full plate. Brian Johnson returns as the main course with two tasty side dishes of Darrell Mack and Matt Asiata as running back.

More importantly, our defensive secondary is the best in the league, even without Steve Tate, and our special teams has a significant edge. Louie Sakoda has proven himself the best kicker in the conference, if not the country.

It all leaves me anxious for the season to start. Both teams rising in prominence will only help the conference. If Phil Steele’s rankings are any inclination, fans can expect an epic showdown in Rice-Eccles Stadium on Nov. 22.

Let’s hope, in the end, BYU will be the ones left hungry this time.

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