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Revisiting Phil Steele

Remember the consternation a couple of weeks ago from Phil Steele ranking Texas #11?

  I just bought the magazine, and see where his ranking comes from. He has a logic behind it, and thought that would make for interesting discussion.  Unless you would rather talk conference realignment.

Three things you have to know first- Steele tries to base his forecasts on quantifiable data, his forecast rankings take into account actual schedules (his power rankings don’t, and are based on assessed relative strength) and he is not carrying an anti-Texas or pro-OU bias.  

He writes that UT has the Big 12's best staff, and the nation's best defense. He has the Sooners next on both counts. On his straight power rankings, he has OU #1, and Texas #8. He has Texas #11 in predicted rankings because he figures we lose to OU and at NU. Here's why, along with my comments:

1. Texas scored a lot of points relative to the yards we gained last year. He thinks we'll regress to the mean in 2010.

TTR’s take:  We scored a lot of points on defense and special teams, which increased our points/yardage ratio.  It also allowed us occasionally to shut our offense down early, as games got away (the game in Stillwater is a good example).

2. We had only the 3rd best yardage differential in the Big 12, behind OU and NU.

TTR’s take:  Valid point, but we had several games where Colt just wasn’t himself, whether due to illness or injury.  Since he was the linchpin of the offense, that severely hurt our yardage.  Yes, I know we won’t have Colt at all next year.

3. He is very unimpressed with our returning offensive talent, with only the receivers getting a national rank as a unit (26th).

TTR’s take:  We did not have an impressive running game, nor OL. I really can't quibble with his takes there (it really is remarkable how better prepared the Texas defense is for this season). Also, Gilbert is unproven, no matter what we want to wish.  Steele has him currently at 7th best in the conference, which I kind of understand, but would be surprised if he really ends up this year outperformed by Arnaud, among others (he has TAMU, OU, and Mizzou tied for #1 QB units in the B12, and UT 7th). If Gilbert is a star, we'll be fine. But make no mistake- stardom from him is required to for us to be contenders this year.

4.  Texas has less experience returning than our peers. 

TTR’s take:  True.  However, Muschamp has made sure that our backups on defense get quality reps in big games, so I’m not too worried there. 

Basically, Steele’s prediction is based on a predicted outcomes of two games:  Texas/OU and Texas/NU.  We’ll know by mid-October how good this prediction is.  Steele doesn’t use qualitative assessments, but we can.  Given that Texas has played to its potential the last couple of years, with more big wins than OU has had the last several years, while never quitting like the Sooners did in Lubbock, I like Texas’ chances.