2013-08-07

FBS - Preview - Independents

Before I start previewing the first BCS conference I will take a quick look at the Independent football teams.

Independents
Those teams are just grouped together because they did not have a place in one of the conferences.
Some are here on purpose (most of them); some are here, because they did not yet finish negotiations with their new conference or were too late to join for this season.
The speciality of this group is that they don't have conference games by default. They sometimes play against other independent team, but there is no round robin schedule for them to play each team.
They do choose their 12 opponents of the season like any other team in the FBS does with their non-conference games.
Negotiations over games in particular years or even game series over several seasons and sometimes decades.

Last season there were 4 teams listed as independents. Now there are 6.
It looks like some teams will move to conferences in the near future, but I think there has to happen a lot more until Notre Dame with its huge TV contract will elect to join a conference in football.
So probably the independents will be there for some time in the future.

For 2013, two more teams did join the ranks by force, since the WAC did not support football any longer and Idaho and New Mexico State did not land any invitation for this season.
But both will join the SBC in 2014.

In 2014 Old Dominion was supposed to play one season as Independent until they would join the CUSA in 2015, but the CUSA did allow Old Dominion to join the conference already in 2014, so no new team in 2014 here.
In 2015 Navy will join the ranks of the American Athletic Conference and leave its independent status.

But all this can change from season to season, since independent team can join easily a conference from season to season.
Notre Dame and BYU would probably only join a big BCS Conference and only if there would be a real benefit in that.

Teams added 2013:
Idaho (from WAC)
New Mexico State (from WAC)

Teams lost 2013:
NONE

The 6 teams are:
United States Military Academy, or Army Black Knights
United States Naval Academy, or Navy Midshipmen
University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Brigham Young University Cougars
University of Idaho Vandals
New Mexico State University Aggies

Army Black Knights
I'm no fan of Army football.
The two other service academies do show that even with different rules than the regular colleges and universities fielding football, the teams can compete and can play strong football.
Not on national championship level, but for sure also not as push overs.
Well ... except Army.
Rich Ellerson is the Headcoach in his 5th year and his record is 17-31 with a 2-10 season in his 4th season. Overwhelming …
I think we will soon see a coaching change for the Black Knights and it might even happen before the season final.

Highlight games are against: @Ball State, Stanford, @Air Force and against Navy on the last game of the season.
There are a few games in the schedule which will give them needed wins, but those four games mentioned will probably be all losses.

I'm expecting 2-4 wins for the Knights, a new Coach after this season, no Bowl and of cause NOT the Commander in Chief Trophy (which is given to the winner between all three service academies).

Navy Midshipmen
Ken Niumatalolo is in his 6th season and he did keep the Midshipmen on a very nice level.
Can't remember when it was fun to see the Notre Dame - Navy game BEFORE Niumatalolo took over. (To be fair, Navy won that rivalry game in 2007, the last season of Niumatalolo precessor)
Niumatalolo did win the Notre Dame game not only once, no he won it back-to-back in 2009 and 2010.
Since then Notre Dame got much better and the Midshipmen did lose again, but they are still impressive.
Last time Navy won back-to-back was ... 1960 and 1961!

Highlight games are against: Air Force, @Duke, @Notre Dame and against Army on the last season game.
Why Duke? Because I like how Duke did develop and it will be fun to see, how they will clash.
You are free to choose a different game.

The schedule is set to get easily a Bowl record.
I'm expecting a 7 to 9 win season here.

University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish
To be honest, I think it was wrong to put the Irish in the BCS-Bowl last season.
The stats were OK, but there were too many close games against too many weak opponents that it was clear they will lose against a juggernaut as Alabama.
This game would have been more fun if Alabama would have played Oregon I think.
But fine.
The Irish had their time in the spotlight and the big question mark will be, if they will be able to repeat this season (at least the path to the BCS-Championship game, from there on I think they want to win then ...)
I think their schedule is a bit tougher than last season, so if they will be undefeated after THAT schedule, they deserve a BCS-Bowl place for National Championship. But that was said also last season ….

Highlight games are against: @Michigan, Oklahoma, USC and @Stanford.

And those are really not all tough games. Unfortunately they lost their starting QB from last season Everett Golson due some academical issues. The new starter will be Tommy Rees, a Senior which did play some time, but never lived up the expectations.
At the end I think they will lose at some point, maybe even right on the 2nd gameday against Michigan and will carry the season to something around 7 to 9 wins.
No championship season this time.

Brigham Young Cougars
The Cougers still think they can become "the Notre Dame of the West".
Well, at least in financial terms they will probably need more than a few years to get to THAT status.
But on the field they are a force, even when they only had an 8-5 season last year (including a Bowl win).
BYU is one of the programs which has a long serving Headcoach.
Bronco Mendenhall did take over in 2005 and since then he is the "Ober-Cougar".
This season he did hire a defence coordinator and will concentrate on the Head coaching job.
Last season he did also coordinate the defense and that backfired a bit.

Highlight games are against: Texas, Boise State, @Wisconsin and @Notre Dame.
Why did I pick those games?
I'm currious to see,
- if Mack Browns Longhorns will have a second (or third?) spring,
- if BYU can handle the Broncos at home,
- how they will play in such a tough place as the Badgers home place and of cause
- the direct compare to Notre Dame is always fun.
I think most of those games will be close and they will maybe win a few of those. Which one? ... hard to tell. I'm expecting 1 or 2 wins here.
They lost against the Broncos as away game by 1 point and against Notre Dame by 3.

The Cougars schedule is much stronger than last season, so if they survive this with expected 8 wins they will eventually get rated and a better Bowl spot.

University of Idaho Vandals
It's hard to find kind words for the Vandals.
Robb Akey was hired to get the Vandals on track again and first it looked like he could deliver.
In his 3rd season he lead them to a Bowl victory, but since then the program did suffer again and he was let go during last season. (Total wins last season: 1)
Now Paul Petrino (brother of Bobby Petrino) is at the helm and it's his first Head coaching job.
In the first year (and last) as independent program, the start will be tough.
Don't expect much from the Vandals this season.

Highlight games are against: @Washington State, @Ole Miss, @Florida State and @New Mexico State
The game against WSU is the Battle of the Palouse, a rivalry played between both programs which are only 8 miles apart in two different states.
WSU is leading the rivalry by 52 wins and has a 7 game winning streak running.
I'm not expecting a Vandals win this year, but rivalries are always nice.
Ole Miss and Florida State will give the Vandals the chance to show that there is still some game in then, but I expect a loss in both games.
The New Mexico State game will be some kind of inoffical "who sucks more" game, since I don’t expect much from NMS either.

I'm expecting a 1 to 3 wins season and that's it.

New Mexico State University Aggies
New Mexico State did also suck big times last season, so no wonder they have a new Headcoach in Doug Martin.
He once was the Kent State Headcoach for some seasons, but did not much there.
Let's see, if he can do something here.
The Aggies were 1-11 last season and did even lose against Idaho.
Now they are an independent program for one season and will have to get through that.

Highlight games are against: @Texas, UTEP, @New Mexico and Idaho.
Texas will be a sure loss, but it's always nice to play a big name program.
That UTEP game is The Battle of I-10, a rivalry since 1914.
Last season did UTEP win, we will see what will happen this year, but I expect UTEP to increase the winning streak to 5.
The name of the rivalry is based on the interstate 10, where both universities are located along.
The New Mexico game is of cause a rivalry (Rio Grande Rivalry) which New Mexico leads big time, but in the last few seasons it was not that clear, who will win as the series might made you think.
New Mexico was able to win last season, after a 3 season winning streak of the Aggies the seasons before.
I'm, expecting a win of the Lobos, but who knows.
And as written above the Idaho game maybe the deciding game for the suckiest team of the season.
Sounds harsh and probably one of the teams will be better than 1 win already, but I'm still disgusted by their performance of last season, so no nice word from me at this point.

So my TIP is (with no real conference here in place, so only based on wins and losses):

United States Naval Academy, or Navy Midshipmen
University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Brigham Young University Cougars
United States Military Academy, or Army Black Knights
New Mexico State University Aggies
University of Idaho Vandals

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