2016-08-09 10:12

Let's have a quick overview over the


Of cause there will be no conference prediction in this case, since all teams are playing 12 self-scheduled games, so basically all non-conference.
Still, all teams will have an impact on the College Football landscape and it's worth a look.
It's as 2 seasons ago a group of 4 teams playing as independents, in 2015 it were only 3 teams.
Newcomer is UMass, leaving the MAC for a better fitting conference.
Good luck in finding one, the football-only membership is hard to sell and since the team does not really field a contender, geographically better suited conferences will likely not like to share big dollars with such a team (AAC) and a better fitting conference regarding strength is either totally spread (CUSA) and / or just far away (SBC) and not attractive regarding money.
For this and the next season they will stay independent, which might be a good move, assuming the Big 12 will grab some teams from other conferences and UMass might be able to sneak in that conference to fill the void.

BYU is again heavily discussed for the Big 12 expansion, but this won't happen too fast, so this season and eventually next season will BYU be again an Independent.
But it looks like they would like to join and the goal to become the "Notre Dame of the West" is gone.

The 4 teams are:
United States Military Academy, or Army Black Knights
University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Brigham Young University Cougars
University of Massachusetts (UMass) Minutemen

This bunch of teams has basically nothing in common, so I will not compare them against each other.
The trend is that you don't survive as independent very long, except you are Notre Dame with a special TV contract, so I think over some season this group will almost disappear.
Long term it's even possible that Notre Dame will have to give up its status as indy team.

My way-too-early-pick for this bunch is (only based on wins, since this is no real conference):
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-2)
BYU Cougars (7-5)
Army Black Knights (5-7)
UMass Minutemen (3-9)

I don't think it was a wise decision for the UMass Minutemen to leave the MAC without a backup plan.
This team is basically still in transition from FCS to FBS and it will not draw a lot of attention.
UMass is a basketball known university, but football is a mess.
I think the AD would like to get in UConn territory and would like to join the American, the problem is they are too weak.
OK, they had no choice than to leave the MAC, since they didn't want to join in all sports (The play Atlantic 10 for most other sports), but that was clear from the start.
Anyway, they will survive the next 2 seasons and after that the football landscape will have changed, again.
Driven by the Big 12 expansion the following domino effects and eventually also because of new marketing contracts looming for several conferences.
I'm still sure we will see a conference dying the next few seasons, either merging with another one or getting split in half and sending teams to 2 different conferences.
Mark Whipple, the Minutemens HC, is in his 3rd season of the second stint with the team.
So far he managed to get 3 wins each season inside the not so strong MAC conference.
Now they will play as independent and the schedule is challenging.
They start with Florida as road trip and do play also Mississippi State (home) and South Carolina (road) as SEC teams during the season. Losses.
From the ACC they play Boston College at home which could be interesting for a quarter or two, but I doubt a win here.
The CUSA will send FIU (home), Old Dominion (road) and Louisiana Tech (home) as more beatable opponents.
They might get 2 wins out of this, eventually only 1 or even zero.
Tulane at home is beatable and the FCS team Wagner should also be a win.
Unfortunate for UMass is the Troy game as a road trip and the SBC team might win this, BYU on the road is out of reach and as season final they travel to Hawai'i, which could be a win or a loss, likely a loss, if you believe in the good home field advantage of Hawai’I under such conditions.
Overall I think they will finish with 2 to 4 wins, likely 3.

The Army Black Knights suck, that's the bottom line since seasons.
Jeff Monken is in his 3rd season and so far he did manage to turn the Army against the wall, with 4 wins in 2014 and 2 wins in 2015.
Wrong direction ....
Fine, you do need 3 to 4 season in general to make something happen, but I'm not sure whether the triple option is the best suited offense for this Academy.
Maybe it's a political statement, GROUND ATTACK <-> ARMY, yes!
They will suck again this season, is my take on this. If they don’t, Monken will be a Hero and I finally might like to see an Army-game again.
They will start against Temple on the road, will play Rice at home and will then travel to 3 games on the road against UTEP, Buffalo and Duke.
Rice and Buffalo might fall to the Knights, but I doubt it.
There first big hope for a win is a FCS game against Lafayette (Leopards! Great nickname ;-) ) followed by the home game against North Texas.
Since those possible 2 wins in a row will make them lacy, they will lose to Wake Forest (road) and Air Force (home, Commander-In-Chief-Trophy), play Notre Dame on neutral site to lose another one and will then relax against Morgan State (FCS, at home).
Given all that, who thinks they will beat Navy at season final in the traditional Navy-Army-Game for the Commander-In-Chief-Trophy?
I don’t think so, too.
Summed all up I see 3 to 5 wins coming. Some do see even 6+ wins! Not me.
I think they will fall short a bowl spot.
PS: If Monken really wants to impress me, he needs to win 7 or 8 games.

It will be a lot of talk around the Brigham Young Cougars this season.
The team might be a quite perfect fit for the Big 12 to add, since it's big, it's available and it's well known national.
There are only two things which do not fit well for the Big 12.
The first is the distance from Big 12 territory to Utah.
West Virgina is the most far eastern team and they would have to travel quite far.
I see this as a minor thing, since there are a lot of teams traveling quite far with less money.
The next is even more significant, the Cougars are part of the mormon church and therefore do not play on Sundays.
For college Football is that no problem, beside eventually a bowl, but for other sports, like Athletics, it's a no go.
Not sure whether this can be solved. All Big 12 Athletics on Saturday?
Breaking the rules for Athletics from BYU point of view?
A Football-only-Membership?
Honestly I don't think the Big 12 will move a lot to get this 2 new teams (or even 4 new teams) and THIS might be a move they don't want to make.
Regardless, the Cougars will play football as independent this season and they will try to be better than last season.
They have a new HC, since Bronco Mendenhall did bolt for Virginia (not a smart move from my point of view, but who knows).
Kalani Sitake is a former BYU player and was Oregon States DC and assistant HC in 2015.
Before that he was LB coach and DC at Utah.
Good hire?
We will see.
He selected a tough season to start his first HC gig.
BYU is not shy regarding competition and they selected Arizona as season opener, a Holy-War-Match against Utah, followed by UCLA and West Virginia.
That's tough. Of cause they will try to win some if not all games, and for sure they will win a few, but I'm confident they will only win 2 games max out of this.
It gets a bit easier against Toledo under a new HC, but is followed by a road trip to Michigan State.
Ole Miss at home sounds better than a road game, but still a very competitive team and playing Boise State on the smurf turf will also not help to win easy.
It gets better in November with a trip to Cincinnati and a FCS home game against Southern Utah and an almost FCS game against UMass, only to close the season against Utah State (The old wagon wheel rivalry).
I think realistic is to assume 6 to 8 wins.
More would push them right into the TOP 25 and even in consideration for the BIG Bowls, less would be a disappointment and the clock would start ticking for Sitake.

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are almost where they want to be, but something is missing.
They do regularly win a lot of games, but in the big games they often do lose.
Last season they had on paper 4 tripping stones (Texas, USC, Clemson and Stanford), and they fell twice (Clemson and Stanford) which did cost them a playoff spot.
Not that bad, because they would have been blown out of the stadium, which was shown in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State. No chance. Something is missing.
Granted, they had several injuries last season and maybe it was a great season under such conditions, but overall Notre Dame wants National Championships to ensure the revenues as an independent team.
The last national title is from 1988 and the program had some hard times since then.
Brian Kelly is now in his 7th season, which is the longest streak as ND HC since Lou Holtz, that coach who won the last national championship 1988.
This season the schedule looks OK, but includes again 4 bigger tripping stones.
Texas as season opener, Michigan State in the 3rd week, Stanford in mid-season and USC on the road at season final.
All those can be won, but they could become close games and even losses.
Most dangerous games from my point of view are the game against Miami and Virginia Tech.
Both teams got new coaches and those did inherited not really bad teams, which might become this season great teams with some motivation and that kind of change-atmosphere a new coach sometimes brings to a team.
The rest games (Nevada, Duke, Syracuse, North Carolina State, Navy and Army) do have to be won, but they are very likely wins.
Summed up is Notre Dame potentially again on the edge to get playoff considerations, if they win the big games and those opponents do win as expected and don't collapse, like Texas did last season.
I think Notre Dame needs an almost perfect season to get into the playoffs and honestly my expectations are, they will drop a game or two on the way to end of November.
Still, 9 to 11 wins are possible.

Summed up are the independent very far apart from each other and will play only a minor role in the annual college football playoff circus. With only Notre Dame really in contender mode the other 3 teams will look for bowl spots or simple improvements to survive.

Rating (2 users):

Tags: Block of Granite

 Share on Facebook  Share on Twitter