The College Football News 2021 Independent preseason rankings along with a quick take on every team.
This is NOT a ranking of where the teams are going to finish. This is based on how good we think the Independent teams are going into the 2021 season.
2021 CFN Independent Preseason Rankings
1. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Quick Take: There’s a consistency to the Irish now under Brian Kelly with four straight double-digit win seasons and five in the last six, and this year’s team should get there again with a schedule that’s a wee bit easier than it looks. The defensive ends are good, S Kyle Hamilton is great, and the success will be there on offense even if it’s more steady than sensational.
Notre Dame Preview | Schedule
2. Liberty Flames
Quick Take: Just about everyone is back, the skill guys around star QB Malik Willis are outstanding, and there’s a buzz after a breakthrough 2020. Talent-wise it’s a good team, but there’s a little national roll-slowing needing to be done when comparing it to the top 25ish Power Five programs. However, with the veterans in place – and with a manageable schedule – another one-loss season is a doable goal.
Liberty Preview | Schedule
3. BYU Cougars
Quick Take: If was the common refrain last year – “But they didn’t play a Power Five program.” Well, now they do – it wasn’t the Cougars’ fault that no one wanted to play them, by the way – and without Zach Wilson under center. This is still a terrific team with plenty of great parts, but the schedule is tougher – seven Power Five teams on the slate – and there’s some reloading to do.
BYU Preview | Schedule
4. Army Black Knights
Quick Take: Expect a fantastic record thanks to a manageable schedule, but, as always, the O will control the clock and tempo against just about everyone. Also, as always, they’re going to be a very, very tough out for the better teams on the schedule.
Army Preview | Schedule
5. New Mexico State Aggies
Quick Take: The Aggies had the benefit of a spring preseason with a few games to see what they have in place to work with. The answers weren’t all that great, but they have a few explosive parts and should have just enough of an offense to pull off a few wins.
New Mexico Preview | Schedule
6. UConn Huskies
Quick Take: After not playing last year, this is almost a new team in several spots around a few terrific parts. There are just enough good players to build around, but it’s going to be a rough, rough run saved by two FCS games and a few more winnable dates.
UConn Preview | Schedule
7. UMass Minutemen
Quick Take: The bar is set at just scoring. The Minutemen went 0-4 last year against four Group of Five programs, and they were outscored 161-12 with just one touchdown. The defensive side has some decent parts, but it’s going to be a bloodbath offensively over the first half of the season before things ease up.
UMass Preview | Schedule