Rating the college football preseason magazines

In college football on September 1, 2009 at 8:08 pm

USC Spring Game

Once college football season ends in January, spring and summer can’t go by fast enough. During those long eight months, one thing (besides Spring ball) keeps me sane: college football preseason magazines. Mind you, they don’t usually hit the newsstands until July, but it does make the final two month wait a little more bearable.

Which ones do I read? Well, first off there are a couple of publications that I won’t even pick-up anymore. For example, I’ve given up on Sports Illustrated’s college football preview, due to its lack of true national coverage and consistently wacky national rankings (I have a memory of Oregon State being ranked #1 in 2001). Then there are other magazines that I can’t even find. I guess they prefer Internet orders.

For the most part, I stick to the magazines available at the local Walmart or Sam’s Club (can’t beat the discount). I’ll occasionally make a special trip to Borders or Barnes & Noble when I’m really desperate. I’m not too concerned about how accurate the predictions are, but I do expect the team info to be correct. Here’s a list of the four magazines (in alphabetical order) I buy year-after-year and how I rate them.

Athlon Sports National College Football Edition
Design and layout: Excellent, creative, tight design; well organized; easy to read.
Information: Not enough features; love Athlon’s take on the top units; good recruiting coverage; “Sideline Spirit” is a waste of precious page real estate.
Photos: Very good; clear, sharp, professional looking photos.
Final analysis: It’s a good publication overall, but needs more features. Disappointed in Athlon’s decision to discontinue production of the Western Edition, which I have enjoyed for years. It contained in-depth information on the Mountain West and WAC. Here’s hoping for its return.

Lindy’s National College Football
Design and layout: Adequate; design looks overly manufactured; lacks cohesiveness and polish from section to section; some type problems.
Information: Great! Lots of interesting tidbits; couple of feature stories; top units; top players; top conference and non-conference games; just a lot of fun to read; token lower division information.
Photos: A little sparse and small, but nice action shots.
Final analysis: A solid mag with good info. Not up to par with Athlon or Sporting News as far as aesthetics, but still worth the $8 cover price.

Phil Steele’s College Football Preview
Design and layout: What design? Utilitarian; type often too small; literally crammed together; difficult to read.
Information: Excellent; always knows stuff the other mags don’t; not really into the gambling info; interesting, but very technical content.
Photos: OK; not much room for photos; seems like images are viewed as a hindrance, taking up precious space that could be used for more info.
Final analysis: If you want info, this is where to get it. Again, not the most user friendly piece, but if you have some patience and a magnifying glass, you can’t beat the coverage. Phil definitely does his homework.

Sporting News College Football
Design and layout: Very good but lacks punch; nice use of type; cool use of icons; comfortable to read.
Information: Similar to Lindy’s, but not as much stuff; extensive FCS, DII, DIII and JUCO info. Inclusion of previous seasons statistics a plus; “5-year Trend” chart is a nice touch.
Photos: Good photos; professional; what’s expected from a national sports publication, but like Lindy’s, a little sparse.
Final analysis: A first-class publication with a good balance of info and design. I don’t like the decision to limit info on lower-tier, Non-AQ teams to half a page. Duke, Vanderbilt and Washington State get a full page. Why not Memphis, Air Force and Hawaii?

If I were only allowed to purchase one mag a year, (By the way, I don’t have this problem. Thanks honey!) I would have to choose the Sporting News for its overall balance. Although, if Athlon had produced a Western Edition, they probably would have won hands down based on what they produced last year. (I’m sure Athlon will be kicking themselves when {and if} they read this post.)

Thanks again publishers for keeping me sane. In two days, order will again be restored to the universe.

  1. Athlon and Lindy’s really don’t offer much that you can’t find online with a 30 second google search. Steele’s is the only one I would contemplate buying.

    • Good point. I guess I’m a little “old school” when it comes to these publications. I do my fair share of web scouring, but I still enjoy the experience of thumbing through a good old-fashioned magazine from time to time.

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