Every year, Phil Steele holes up in the television hive he calls his offices, watches tape until his eyeballs bleed, and comes out with his guide to college football. And most years, Phil picks a team to beat somewhere in college football that exceeds expectations, most often based on the fact that the team, while holding a losing record for the year, improved enough over the offseason to warrant an expectation of marginal improvement. And at those margins, the points will tip their way, and voila--winning season.
Margins are a bitch. Ask Ryan Succop.
It should be stated that what we just said is a gross oversimplification of Steele's methodology, a morass of calculations, formulas, intense film study, differential equations, animal sacrifice, and more than a few occult ceremonies.
But at the core, it's not too far from the basic thrust: that if you're looking for teams of value in 2007, go back and look and see who got the UFIA from fate on more than one occasion in 2006.
Given that...why not Boston College? In the hedger's nightmare is the ACC, a conference where margins of victory waned to mere splinters of points, they're as fine a guess as any, and not completely pulled from the ass, either.
If they handed out points for punting on third down, the ACC would be doing it due to the squeaky points margins in their in-conference games not involving Duke. Case in point: Boston College's combined losing margins in their three losses totalled twelve points in all, including a nutbreaking 17-14 loss to Miami in the OB with Lamar Thomas waiting by the elevator just in case a fight broke out on the field.
The argument for BC making up these points doesn't come from the schedule (on the road for Clemson and Virginia Tech look particularly nasty,) but from the carryover of the best conference quarterback, Matt Ryan, the implementation of a more aggressive offense, and new coach Jeff Jagodzinski keeping on defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani, whose defenses allowed former coach Tom O'Brien to play tightfisted hands on both sides fo the ball.
Jags, which Bill has informed us is acceptable shorthand for his long, Slavic surname, will let Ryan roll offensively in an attack that averaged 400 plus yards during the new coach's prior tenure as offensive coordinator for BC. We guess this because, reading from the Sports Simpleton's Psychology Primer, offensive coaches tend not to be as cautious as they might be when they have a seasoned, tough, and very talented quarterback at the helm. When you have Matt Ryan, who in addition to being all of those can take a man leaping helmet-first into his sternum without dying, and you are talking about a very real possibility of points production for BC.
Smart, talented, and has iron sternum: Matt Ryan.
ps. Why not Florida State here, since many of the same dynamics apply? (New OC, same defensive braintrust, etc. Florida State's schedule, for one--brutal, with games against Alabama in Jacksonville and at Boulder against Colorado. The mileage alone will fatigue the 'Noles, who by the end of the season will be burnt down to a mean, adamantine core. Just in time for Florida! Yay!
That 33-0 blowout last season to Wake Forest still troubles us, too. Their quarterback situation isn't great, either; when have two quarterbacks looked worse with three years experience? This year's gearing up for 2008, where they'll be burning bitches down again. 2007, though, will be about thinning the herd for new coaches Jimbo Fisher and Rick Trickett. At times, it won't be pretty out of necessity.