2014 Independents Preview
July 7, 2014
By Marc Lawrence
2014 Independents Football Preview
It Was Nice Knowing You
After a brief one-year romance as Independents, Idaho and New Mexico State have shaken their Independent status and headed out for the sun… the Sun Belt Conference, that is.
That leaves just four Independent teams for the 2014 campaign – Army, BYU, Navy and Notre Dame. But you had better take a picture - quick - as the ever-changing landscape of college football is forever evolving.
BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall is now making a case for the Cougars' inclusion into the Big 12.
"We would love to be in the Big 12," Mendenhall told an Austin newspaper. "I would love to be a member of that conference. I think that would make a lot of sense." Mendenhall said if the Big 12 is interested in expanding, BYU would have lots to offer.
"Our attendance is high enough. And our winning percentage is high enough," Mendenhall told the newspaper. "We have the entire Salt Lake City and Utah market as well as a worldwide following because of the church. There'd be a ton to offer the Big 12 because it's a money-generated world right now. You're talking about an amazing kind of brand."
It makes so much sense it will likely never happen. Our best guess: say hello, PAC 12.
Keep this thought in mind when handicapping the chances of three of these four INDEPENDENTS this season - Notre Dame, BYU and Navy: Collectively, under their current head coaches, namely the trio of Brian Kelly, Bronco Mendenhall and Ken Niumatalolo, they shine in games when taking points with their current affiliations, going 52-31-1 ATS combined.
Better yet, the triplets are 35-11-1 ATS collectively as 'dogs in games in which their clubs own a win percentage of less than .666 on the season – including a jaw-dropping 27-2 ATS from Game Five out.
Note: Numbers following team name represent the amount of returning starters on offense and defense, along with the number of returning linemen, with an asterisk (*) designating a returning quarterback.
ARMY (Offense - *9/3 Defense - 7/4)
TEAM THEME: YOU’E IN THE ARMY NOW
Jeff Monken, a triple-option disciple of Georgia Tech HC Paul Johnson whom he served under at both Tech and Navy before taking over at Georgia Southern, was named the new HC at Army on Christmas Eve. Hopefully, it will be a holiday gift for Army fans, who saw little-to-no progress in five seasons under Rich Ellerson. In his four years at the helm with the Eagles, Monken compiled an impressive 38-16 mark and took GSU to three straight semi-final appearances in the FCS playoffs. He will continue the option attack at Army along with his OC Brent Davis, who accompanies him to West Point, as nine starters return on the offensive side of the football.
Stat You Will Like: The Cadets are 3-23 SU and 6-20 ATS with rest vs. Air Force and Navy.
BYU (Offense - *8/5 Defense - 6/1)
TEAM THEME: WHITE BRONCO ON THE LOOSE
When Bronco Mendenhall took over at BYU in 2005 following three consecutive losing years, much was expected thanks to the strong tradition of the football program. Mendenhall has fulfilled those expectations by averaging 9.1 wins over the past nine years, taking the Cougars to a bowl game every season. He welcomes back exciting QB Taysom Hill, who accounted for 29 TD’s (19 passing and 10 rushing) while throwing for 2,938 yards and rushing for 1,344. The starting offensive line returns intact along with five other backups that saw a great deal of action, including several starts. Yes, Bronco’s on the loose again.
Stat You Will Like: The Cougars' 353 victories the past four decades trails only Nebraska, Oklahoma and Ohio State.
NAVY (Offense - *8/5 Defense - 7/2)
TEAM THEME: FULL SPEED AHEAD
After winning the Commander-in-Chief trophy for the ninth time in 11 years, Coach Ken Niumatalolo welcomes back 15 starters, including star QB Keenan Reynolds (15-6 as a starter). As might be expected from a disciplined military team, Navy led the nation in fewest penalties and penalty YPG (21.7), and finished tied with Louisville for the top spot in fewest turnovers (10). It all goes hand-in-hand with the Middies’ resurgence of late: after going 3-30 from 2000-02, they are 92-49 since – including 21-2 versus fellow military foes. And with it, Navy’s 21 wins versus BCS schools since 2003 are the most in the nation by a non-BCS team.
Stat You Will Like: Only Navy and Michigan have produced a Heisman Trophy winner, a Naismith winner and a President of the United States.
NOTRE DAME (Offense - 5/3 Defense - 5/1)
TEAM THEME: GANG GREEN
A tradition of success is the rule at Notre Dame: the Fighting Irish own the highest winning percentage (.733) in college football history. Brian Kelly will try to improve on that in 2014 with a team stripped of its star power. Kelly had won 10 straight games that were decided by 7 points or less since arriving in South Bend, a streak that was snapped last November by 7-point losses to Pitt and Stanford. The pain of rebuilding is eased somewhat by the return of QB Everett Golston, the 2012 starter who missed all of last season due to academic suspension. The defense lost two of its stars up front, Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt, plus three senior linebackers.
Stat You Will Like: Kelly is 20-5-1 ATS as a dog versus sub .900 opponents.
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