CollegeFootballNews.com Preview 2017: Independent Preview
The 2017 CFN Independent Preview with the top players, teams that will surprise and disappoint, and shoes to fill.
2017 Independent Preview
This whole independence thing seems to be working just fine.
Notre Dame might have gone 4-8 last year, but it keeps printing money thanks to its friends with benefits deal with the ACC, its TV deal, and all the other things that go into being Notre Dame.
Staying relevant is hardly an issue with as many high-profile games as the Fighting Irish play, and the same goes for BYU, who never takes it easy, facing a dangerous and fun first part of the schedule.
Army turned a corner last year with its win over Navy and trip to a bowl game, while UMass is at least getting its share of paycheck moments, even if it’s not showing enough results on the field.
But will it be enough going forward? Will independence continue to be the right business deal for BYU and Notre Dame, who are in different spots in terms of what’s on the table, but continue to be thrown out there in the realignment discussions.
It’s ACC or bust for Notre Dame, with a long-term deal through 2037 – if we’re all still alive by then – to at least play five games against ACC teams.
With the way the Big Ten and SEC are getting money thrown at them in bunches thanks to their TV deals and by building up the overall product, the key will be to make the addition of the Irish as a permanent member in all sports big enough to get the ACC to the level of the other Power Fivers in terms of revenue.
BYU is a bit stickier. The Big 12 needs the Cougars – but can’t seem to make a call to get it done – the Pac-12 doesn’t really want them, and the Mountain West would take a massive step forward with them. But for now, life as an independent is working.
It’ll work out even better if BYU can start out at least 6-1.
At some point, Notre Dame and/or BYU have to test the College Football Playoff committee. The idea of a conference championship being the be-all-end-all, No. 1 key part of the puzzle was blown up by Ohio State last year, and Oklahoma was able to get in two years ago at 11-1.
If BYU can survive LSU, Utah, Wisconsin, Boise State, and Mississippi State with just one loss, and own the back half of the season, how do you leave it out?
How could Notre Dame not get in with 11 bowl teams from last year, and with Michigan State the lone opponent that title get a swag bag?
Of course, both programs would love for that to be a problem to argue about in late November, and while it probably won’t happen – both teams appear destined for a a few early losses to end the debate before it can begin – at least the hope is there.
And the programs get to keep all of their money.
Independent Team That Will Surprise
It’s all relative. BYU is going to go bowling – and it’ll be a whole lot easier with this year’s schedule a whole lot better looking than last year’s, at least before the season. But the key will be whether or not the Cougars can a) get to ten wins and make it a fantastic year and b) if they can royally screw up Wisconsin and/or LSU and/or Utah and/or Boise State along the way. Don’t be surprised when they make a whole lot of national noise.
Independent Team That Will Disappoint
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
It’s all relative. Considering Notre Dame is someday supposed to be good enough to be a regular in the College Football Playoff chase under Brian Kelly, but it’s not going to happen this year.
The Fighting Irish are going to be more productive, and they should easily get to a decent bowl game, but with Georgia, USC, NC State and Navy to deal with at home, and Boston College, Michigan State, North Carolina, Miami and Stanford on the road, once again, it’s not going to be the season Domers are hoping for. However …
Independent Game Of The Year
USC at Notre Dame, Oct. 21
If the Irish can get by Georgia early on, there’s a shot they could get to their midseason week off 6-0 – the second half of the season is harder. While USC will be deep in the heart of the Pac-12 season – with a game against Utah before going to South Bend – Notre Dame will have a week off to prepare. The Trojans lost the last two times at Notre Dame, and if it’s three in a row, it might be a big enough moment to change around the Irish program.
5 Big-Time Players Who Deserve A Bigger Spotlight
Five players who have been a bit under the radar on a national level, but should rise up and be among the season’s best players.
1. TE Adam Breneman, Sr. UMass
2. LB Fred Warner, Sr. BYU
3. FB Andy Davidson, Jr. Army
4. LB Francis Bernard, Jr. BYU
5. DE Daelin Hayes Soph. Notre Dame
Independent Coaches On The Hot Seat
Since there are only four Independent head coaches, here’s the hot seat ranking considering the pressure they’re under to win now, or else …
1. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
2. Mark Whipple, Massachusetts
3. Jeff Monkey, Army
4. Kalani Sitake, BYU
5 Games That Independent Teams Had Better Take Very, Very Seriously
Independent teams play a whole slew of interesting games. These are the relatively easy ones – relative to each team – they can’t afford to lose, but could.
1. Miami University at Notre Dame, Sept. 30
2. BYU at UNLV, Nov. 11
3. Massachusetts at Coastal Carolina, Sept. 2
4. Buffalo at Army, Sept. 9
5. BYU at Fresno State, Nov. 4
5 Best Pro Prospects
1. OT Mike McGlinchey, Sr. Notre Dame
2. OG Quenton Nelson, Sr. Notre Dame
3. WR Equanimeous St. Brown, Jr. Notre Dame
4. LB Fred Warner, Sr. BYU
5. RB Josh Adams, Jr. Notre Dame
5 Biggest Shoes To Fill
1. Notre Dame QB Brandon Wimbush for DeShone Kizer 2. BYU RB Squally Canada for Jamaal Williams 3. Army LB James Nachtigal for Jeremy Timpf 4. Notre Dame DT Jonathan Bonner for Isaac Rochell 5. Army LB Scott Washle for Andrew King