There isn't a specific day, but much like Billy Madison sprints to the mailbox on "Nudie Magazine Day" in his self title biopic, as soon as Memorial Day hits, I am racing to the nearest bookstore (It took me a while to find one this year, but apparently they still do exist) to load up on the year's college football preview magazines.
As the years have gone by, the selection of college football magazines has grown, and like pretty much everything else in life, college football fans like myself have been struck with the growing paradox of choice in regards to our glossy prognostic reading choices. There are fewer and fewer Barnes and Nobles' out there, but in the last few years I have found myself frozen in the sports section of their magazine racks on summer days, trying to make it clear that I wasn't looking at the nearby muscle or nudie magazines while thumbing through the plethora of college football previews and deciding which ones to plunk down my hard earned cash on.
What I hope to do here is prevent you from trying to guide you in your quest to secure the best printed preview of not just the 2012 college football season overall, but which will appeal most to Pac-12 fans along with giving a peak at how they rank the teams in the conference heading into the season.
The original and the one I grew up with. Regardless of the 2012, Athlon's gets some serious points for the "Sidelines" feature which always had a few pages of cheerleaders, although it would also have some tailgating recipes or something that I would regularly ignore. Unfortunately, I must start off their section by pointing out that the "Sidelines" cheerleader section has been reduced to just one or two tame pages this year.
Athlon's has held onto a clean but fun layout for years now and is probably the most consistent of any of the preview magazines out there, and this year is no different. They also originated the comical sections at the front of the magazine that has little tidbits about the upcoming season's worst match-ups and players with comical names and such before the heavy lifting of the individual team previews begins.
Also, take note that Athlon's also releases editions that include content that almost primarily focuses on one individual conference with just a little bit about the national scene. This is great if you are mainly just a fan of one conference and don't need profiles on every team around the country. Be careful that you identify these properly though, as I once accidently picked up one in an airport in Cincinnati only to later realize that it was pretty much only about the Big 10.
The 2012 Athlon's version has the best feature stories and front section of any of the preview magazines, but their team previews are rather brief, so if you want in-depth analysis on Pac-12 teams I recommend picking up the Pac-12 specific edition.
5. Washington State
6. Oregon State
5. Arizona State
The Holy Grail of college football preview magazines. Phil's book is by far the thickest and most detailed of the bunch, along with being put together by a guy with the best porn star name ever. Phil's is year in and year out the best option for the fanatical fan of any team, but not the one who wants to have the first 20 or so pages filled with little foibles about players with funny facts and new hire rankings. The 2012 edition is much of the same of what you would expect and filled with all of the back sections about random abbreviations that I still don't understand and passing efficiency defense. If you are an obsessive fan who already knows a little bit about a lot of teams and just wants the rankings, stats and details, go with Phil.
Phil is so awesome that he gives you a whopping four all-conference teams, so you can know who he think are the 16-20th best offensive linemen in the conference. I have to commend anyone who can explain who the 20 best linemen in the Sun Belt Conference are, let alone the Pac-12. He always seems to scout the Pac-12 a little bit better than the other guys, though he does seem to overrate UCLA each year for some reason (but don't we all?).
Also, after many years of wondering what the guy who I give eight dollars each year looks like, I found Phil on Wikipedia and according to his photo he is a Georgia Bulldogs fan who looks nothing like his porn star name would suggest other than the fact that he has a mustache.
4. Oregon State
6. Washington State
5. Arizona State
Always kind of the little brother to Athlon's as it has a very similar setup and content but is usually a little harder to find. If you are going to buy more than one to couple with Athlon's or Phil Steele, Lindy's is a good option but I feel like the magazine is kind of dated.
The 2012 layout looks too similar to what it did when I was a kid and the content is similar to Athlon's but less detailed and expansive, so really it is pretty much a poor man's Athlon's. Lindy's team and conference previews are also a little smaller than Phil Steele's and the layout and content less up-to-date than Athlon's.I wouldn't go as far as to say that this is the "80 and Over" of the college football preview magazines, but it is just a notch below Athlon's and Phil.
It's actually ironic that Lindy's pre-season rankings of the Pac-12 are literally exactly the same as Athlon's so I won't list them out. It should also be noted that Lindy's will usually release single conference focused previews, though I have not seen one for the Pac-12 yet this year.
I recommend picking up Lindy's if you are like me and want to pick up every preview magazine you can find or if it is just the only choice at your local store or airport.
This is the first year that I have seen USA Today's effort at a preview magazine and it is kind of what you would expect, colorful with a large national focus, particularly on the marquee schools in college football. It is the kind of preview I guess you would pick up at an airport for a quick overview of the national scene but not much detail on specific teams.
ESPN the Magazine & Sports Illustrated
The two sports magazine giants release their preview issues later in the summer and I feel like they fall into a different category as they usually focus more on larger features than breaking down teams and providing an in-depth preview. I usually pass these by unless I end up getting them for free as they are usually fairly brief and cater towards the casual college football fan.