College Football starts September 1st, and even though thats over a month away, I am going to slowly start making my picks for each Division 1 conference. There are 11 different conferences (and 4 independent teams) so I am going to do this a conference at a time and then at the end, put them all
together for easier access and go ahead and take a shot in the dark at a national championship team.
There are many reasons to be independent and not be part of a conference. Those reasons are the reasons college football (and just about everything else in the capitalistic west) exists, money, money, money, and money. Basically the independents don't have to share any of their cake like teams
in conferences do. This is perhaps ironic (or maybe not so ironic) because the 4 independent teams are military schools and religious schools. None of these teams are going to contend for a national title, but they should all be formidable teams.
Tim Hyland writes "(Brian) Kelly's first season in South Bend was, in a word, difficult". It is going to take a few years for Kelly to straighten the team out like he wants it. Notre Dame fans have to be patient, which is hard to tell them, since they have been so mediocre for so long. They went 8-5 last year which is obviously not good enough for fans expecting a football powerhouse, but the reason I think fans should be patient with Kelly is what happened in Cincinnati. That program was a nothing program and he turned them around and experienced an undefeated regular season a couple of years ago. With all that said, there are serious expectations for the Fighting Irish this year from sports writers and fans alike. They are still looking for a quarterback, but Kelly had success in Cincinnati with a multi-headed QB attack. The defense wasn't that good last year and by all accounts won't be much better (and wasn't that good in Cincinnati honestly). Returning starters are always an important thing to look at while trying to size up a team, and Notre Dame has 8 on both sides, which is a very good amount. Let's face it though, they aren't going to beat Stanford, and will probably lose to USC and Michigan State. For a team that gets to pick their entire schedule, they didn't give themselves a lot of favors.
Fun pointless tidbit: One of Notre Dame's starting corners is name Gary Gray. Someone should inform his parents that there are more than 4 letters in the alphabet.
Final Prediction: Lots of smart people are picking the Irish to win 10 games, and one would expect an improvement over last year. However, I am not entirely buying it. They will be a decent team and will win at least 7 and probably closer to 8 or 9, but I doubt they will win 10.
They lost some key defensive players, especially in their secondary. They also lost their quarterback Ricky Dobbs, who was incredible at running that triple option. However, when you have a good system in place, like Navy does, personnel changes matter little. The defense appears to be the biggest worry, as I don't think there is much concern at all on offense. I think we will talk about Navy in the same way we talked about Mike Leach's Texas Tech. In Lubbock, it didn't seem to matter who the quarterback was (none of them had any NFL success), they seemed to break records every year. With
Navy, no matter who is running the offense, they will be in the top 5 in rushing and competing every year.
Fun pointless tidbit: Navy has played more than 1,200 games in its history.
Final Prediction: They start the year off with two easy wins against Delaware and Western Kentucky. But South Carolina will probably knock them over quite easily. However, the rest of the schedule looks pretty winnable. Their offense will carry them and they will easily win 7 games, and perhaps 8.
At the beginning of the year, this was one of the worst football teams in the nation (they jumped out to a 1-4 start), but they improved in the second half and got in the coveted New Mexico bowl. Their gambling odds to win the BCS are +10000, and that seems about appropriate. Even if they went undefeated, which won't happen this year, the BCS wouldn't let them win anyway. The quarterback Heaps is young and struggled last season, but the offense is good and talented, while the defense was not good last year at all, and no one expects that to improve.
Fun pointless tidbit: J.J. Di Luigi is their star running back. B.B. Mario is their fullback (okay that last part is a lie).
Final prediction: Their schedule includes Texas, TCU, Hawaii, Oregon State, and Utah. That schedule is by no means easy. Some writers are predicting a 9 win season, but I don't see how they win any of
those 5 above games. This is another team that is expected to improve, but it is hard to see by how much.
For the first time in over a decade, Army had a winning season last year. However, they lost half of their starters from that team, and it looks to be another rebuilding year. Just like the rest of the military schools (and Georgia Tech), they run the triple option, which will give them a chance against just
about anyone if they can play defense and avoid turnovers. The problem with military schools is that, for obvious reasons, they will never be as big as the major colleges, but they have a QB that is familiar with the system and knows how to run the option which could offset size differences.
Fun pointless tidbit: While in the FCS in 08, Rich Ellerson's (the head coach of Army) team was 2nd in passing.
Final Prediction: They have a pretty easy schedule, as they play no real big market team. In fact Rutgers (or Navy or Air force, its a toss up) may be the best opponent they have on their schedule. However, this is a tougher schedule than last year and they barely qualified for a bowl game last season. Writers don't seem to like this team very much, and I am not sure I am a big fan either. I figure their weak schedule will make them a bubble team for a qualifying bid, and they will win anywhere from 5-7 games. I doubt they will break the streak of 9 straight losses against Navy this season however.