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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 31, 2009

Forecasts call for drought in Manoa

By Ferd Lewis

Please say it isn't so, Phil Steele.

For those who don't peruse the magazine racks during the summer, Steele is the author of "Phil Steele's College Football Preview" one of the more voluminous, fact-packed and, often, on-mark preseason forecasters of college football fortunes.

Now, preseason talk is cheap about $7 to $10 per magazine but Steele has carved a niche following here. In 1999, for example, he touted the University of Hawai'i to be the most improved program in the nation and the Warriors made an NCAA-record turnaround from 0-12 to 9-4.

In 2007, Steele picked UH to win the Western Athletic Conference and go to a Bowl Championship Series game.

Which is reason for concern now because, for 2009, he picks UH to tie for sixth place in the nine-member WAC with Utah State. A fate, if it were to pan out, that would mark UH's worst finish in 10 seasons.

Of course, Steele also picked UH first in 2003 and the Warriors finished fourth.

This year, defending champion Boise State and Nevada are 1-2 in most magazine forecasts. UH is coming off a 7-7 (5-3 WAC) season in which the Warriors finished behind Boise State and in a three-way tie for second place with Nevada and Louisiana Tech.

Of his UH pick, Steele writes: "My main concern is just two returning starters (fewest in the WAC) on defense with 11 of their top 13 tacklers gone. UH will be potent offensively but after finishing first in the WAC in 2007 and second last year, it looks like a bigger step back in 2009."

While Steele forecasts the most precipitous drop for UH, three other of the early-issued magazines The Sporting News, Lindy's and Athlon all see the Warriors as fifth-place worthy.

"Hawai'i will be hard pressed to remain in the upper tier of the WAC," notes Lindy's football annual. "This team is still in transition as it tries to redefine run-and-shoot approach."

Writes GamePlan Magazine, "Hawai'i fans have grown very accustomed to winning in recent years, but this looks to be the weakest team this school has fielded in several seasons."

Adds GamePlan, "We may be out on a limb here, but we feel Hawai'i is headed for their first losing season in several years."

For UH fans, this is a good season to hope Steele has an "off" year and the crystal balls are out of focus.