Note: In preparation for my upcoming season preview column and podcast, I researched and took notes on every power conference team in CFB. I’m sharing my notes here, for anyone who is interested. Please keep in mind that these are just notes. (I’ve tried to clean them up, but there are plenty of abbreviations and some of the grammar may be suspect.)
Here are the nation’s forgotten teams, the Independents. Alright, so none of these teams are really “forgotten,” but I’ve got notes on them anyways. Notre Dame
Team: Everett Golson returns after 20 months away from football. (Suspended from school for cheating on a test.) Defense has to replace 6 players including Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt on the D-line. Should be running back by committee. Lose Zack Martin at left tackle (first round pick). I like this team a lot, but the difficult schedule is going to cause problems for them (see below). I predict an 8-4 record, but a team that’s better than what their record indicates. You won’t want to play them in a bowl game.
*Post-academic scandal update: Regarding the scandal itself, I don’t care. How many college football players cheat, don’t go to class? Most SEC football players wouldn’t get accepted to their schools if they played water polo. This isn’t an isolated incident, these players just had the bad fortune of getting caught. In terms of on-field ramifications, however, this is huge. They lose their top corner, top receiver, and a defensive end. That’s a lot of production. I’m sticking with my 8-4 prediction, but while I believe they had a legitimate shot at a BCS bowl* before, I think you can say goodbye to that. See you in the Pinstripe Bowl.
[*or whatever they’re called now]
Schedule: Very difficult, one of the toughest in CFB. Away games at Florida State, USC, Arizona State. Home against Stanford, Michigan, UNC, Louisville. Other games including Purdue, Syracuse, Navy, Northwestern might be easier for some teams but all of these teams are going to play Notre Dame like it’s their Super Bowl. There’s no such thing as an easy schedule for Notre Dame.
Team: A lot riding on QB Taysom Hill. He should be one of the nation’s best. They lost one of their starting WRs to injury for 2 months but they have a couple guys, Mathews and Leslie who should give Hill options. They should have a solid, but probably not great, run game. Good O-line. Bronco Mendenhall has worked to improve their defense by leaps and bounds. They should be very good this season. The team also has depth that they hadn’t had before.
Schedule: Open at UConn, then at Texas. The “big” names on the schedule are Houston, Virginia, Utah State, UCF, Nevada, Boise State, Cal. Every game on the schedule is winnable, but, is BYU really good enough to roll through these slightly-better-than average teams week after week? I say no. Many people think they’ll be undefeated. I predict somewhere between 9-3 and 11-1, depending on how their defense performs against high-octane teams like Boise/Houston/Nevada. I give them a good shot at upsetting Texas.
Team: They were bad last year, really bad. Average loss was by 20 points. This season they’re allegedly going to pass more. We’ll see. Don’t merit any more discussion until they prove themselves.
Schedule: At Stanford week 4 is automatic loss. Otherwise every other game is winnable. Really nice schedule overall.
Team: Same old Navy. All running, all the time. Lots of formations. QB Keenan Reynolds is back. He’s 15-6 lifetime as a starter, not bad. Attempted 11 passes per game. It doesn’t seem like their approach should work in this modern era, but somehow it does. LB Maika Polamalu (cousin of Troy) had to retire due to medical reasons, only to change his mind and return for this year.
Schedule: Only two definite losses. Ohio State first game. Notre Dame at home in November. Other challenges: vs. Rutgers, at Air Force, vs. SJSU, at Army. Manageable schedule overall. Expect another bowl game.