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Close ... So Close

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The non-binding previews are finished (Arizona State is the last one, damn them all), and I finally got around Monday to picking up this year's copies of Phil Steele and The Sporting News. As much as I rely on the Web now for most of the stats, recruiting and history I used to look up in his magazine, the cover still fell off of last year's Steele, which makes this year's still glossy, non-dog-eared version look something like a particularly well-manicured Frankenstein's monster, or at least a car after an oil change, tire rotation, wash and wax, ready to roll. The guy at the checkout counter, who is probably not much of a football fan, noted my choices and offered, "Yeah, it's about that time, huh?" Yeah, it is.

On that note, I'm out for the rest of this week in part for some personal business, but also in preparation for the stretch run to the season, which I hope will be pretty intense in these parts -- the plan, if realized, is a weekly sketch of each major conference, including on-the-record picks backed by detailed, obscure formulas that would be just as valid if constructed by the same process I used to select teams for the non-binding preview series: that is, from random slips of paper in a giraffe-themed pencil holder. As far as I'm concerned, beginning next Monday, the offseason is over.

Happy trails, till then.