Preseason College Football Magazine Report:
Historically, Athlon has been kind to Virginia Tech in its preseason rankings. Three times in the last five years, Athlon has ranked the Hokies higher in the preseason than any other major preseason magazine. Last year, Athlon picked the Hokies #6 in the country. In 1996, they tabbed the Hokies to be #11, and in 1995, they had Tech at #15. In those three years, the Hokies finished #2, #12, and #9.
Each time, it was the highest preseason ranking given to the Hokies among the major college football preseason magazines, which I define to include Athlon, Lindy's, The Sporting News, Street and Smith's, and Sports Illustrated.
In 1997 and 1998, however, Athlon joined the rest of the pack and ignored the Hokies, not ranking them in the Top 25.
The point is, although Athlon's overall preseason rankings have not been very accurate when compared with other magazines, their record with the Hokies is pretty good. 1998 is the sole exception, but then again, no one expected the Hokies to be as good as they were in 1998.
This year, Athlon slots the Hokies at #16, behind Lindy's (#11), Street and Smith's (#10), and The Sporting News (#13) (Sports Illustrated has not come out yet). Hokie fans can only hope that Athlon's knack for getting Tech's preseason ranking close to correct is taking a year off for the 2000 season.
Now for the review of the magazines. Although they're produced by the same company and have the same look and feel, Athlon's National and Eastern (Big East) edition magazines contain very different information.
The National Edition is very simple and straightforward. Sure, they list their rankings, All-America teams, and predicted orders of finish in the conferences, along with some sparse recruiting information. The real meat of the magazine is the team previews, one page dedicated to each of the 115 Division 1-A teams, from #1 Florida State down to #115 UConn.
Each preview includes analysis and a depth chart. It's not a lot of information about any one particular team, but it is very balanced and makes a great reference if you're interested in knowing who the backup middle linebacker is for the #103 Bowling Green Falcons (it's Chris Haneline, a sophomore who wears #50 and already has a varsity letter from his freshman year).
The depth charts give you a quick idea of how loaded a team is at any given position, because returning starters are listed in bold, and the number of varsity letters that the starters and backups have earned is also listed.
At a glance, for instance, you can see that #30 ECU is deep and experienced in the middle of their defensive line, where the two-deep on their two defensive tackles and one nose guard consist of five seniors and a junior, with a combined 15 varsity letters amongst the six of them. If those players are any good, they'll be able to match up well with VT's experienced offensive line, and could even cause trouble at the center position for Tech.
On the other hand, you can see that according to Athlon, #36 Georgia Tech will start three first-time starters on their offensive line, not one of which has earned a single varsity letter, and two of the three are freshman. This bodes well for VT and their young defensive line.
As an aside, VT's defensive line depth chart looks positively frightening to Hokie fans: no returning starters in the two-deep, and only two of the eight players in the DL two-deep have earned letters: David Pugh and Chad Beasley, with two letters each. Every other DL has a big fat "0" next to his name.
So Athlon's National Edition serves as a great reference for checking out matchups and learning about each and every Division 1-A team.
The Eastern Edition has a totally different focus, concentrating on the Big East and selected "Regional Teams": Army, Navy, Penn State, Marshall, UConn, Notre Dame, the Ivy League, the Patriot League, and the Atlantic 10. There's very little info on other teams from around the country, other than the Big East teams and the regional teams that are covered.
The Eastern Edition is cluttered up at the beginning with more articles than the National Edition, none of which I care to read. There are articles about Alabama's Coach Mike DuBose, whether or not student athletes should be paid, and four players from the "Class of 1980." It's all national-level stuff that is reprinted in each regional edition of Athlon's, I assume, and has no relevance to VT or Big East football.
Once the Big East coverage does begin on page 55, it's pretty colossal. They have four-page rundowns on each Big East team, including analysis, a depth chart, rosters, returning leaders, 1999 schedule and results, and the 2000 recruiting class. Just for good measure, four feature articles about Big East teams are thrown in, including a Q&A with Tech's Michael Vick.
The information is great, but as for the info on the "Regional Teams" … yawn. Army? Navy? UConn? Notre Dame? At least there are no ACC teams listed.
Bottom line? If you have access to both the National and Eastern Editions of Athlon, buy them both, and you'll be armed with as much info as you could possibly want about the Hokies, the Big East, and teams around the country.
Source for 1995-1999 data:College Football Preseason Magazines
National Player Rankings
Big East Prediction
All Big-East Players